Is the time right for another Arts & Crafts Revolution? Or are we seeing the shoots of new growth in distinctive unquestionably handmade objects and a return of appreciation for skilled creative workmanship.
Most people in the UK will have heard of Drew Pritchard in ‘Salvage Hunters’ and his quest to open peoples minds to salvage and antiques in general but over in the United States there are others such as ‘Salvage Dawgs’ and ‘American Pickers’ who likewise champion the quality and beauty of old things that have been underrated by the untrained eye for some time.
Add in a twist of traditional skills that enhance or re-purpose those pieces and a new industry is born as these products cannot be replicated on a mass scale.
At the start of the 21st century less was more and minimalist was the big thing, however this had a serious knock on affect with antique furniture and collectables which soon became known as clutter. I wasn’t a fan of minimalism I have to confess and the thought of living in a home that resembled the interior of a spaceship did little to excite me or the wife. However what was good about it was the fact it created a fresh start and a new mentality for the less is more theory and objects and furniture should rightfully take pride of place.
Current trends in interior design for 2018 looks to have developed from shabby chic to the more natural Wasi Sabi feel with stronger pastel shades and a wider mix of materials. It’s well worth making a search on Google for these trends as fashion really dictates what the skilled craftsman should be making to meet this demand. Creating your own twist on your interpretation of these trends offers an opportunity for those skilled people who should embrace promoting their wares as ‘handmade’ and ‘unique’ in the fight against corporate marketing deception.
The thing with trends is that they change with the seasons and eventually they ultimately go out of fashion but this provides opportunities to those who stay switched on to them. However unique items and quality are rarely affected and generally stand the test of time if presented correctly.
The Industrial revolution.
The fact of the matter is, ever since the mid 19th century the industrial revelation never stopped and mass production has become even less labour intensive with the advances made in machines and computer aided programmes. Whilst mass production is good for practicality and advancement in human time efficiency and well being there has to be more emphasis and appreciation by society for practical skills in the same way as athletes, surgeons or academics are revered. In some way this is already happening with programmes such as ‘Forged in Fire’ for Blacksmiths and Paul Sellers for woodworking who help to create a real passion for learning these crafts. There is a real desire for new experiences and the internet provides easier access to specific information in which to do this. They say the new pop stars of the future will be those who have practical skills and it’s already happening with the rise in interest in skills and where this is now becoming true.
So how can mass produced with their heartless furniture etc, from those gigantic corporate companies with a stack high, sell cheap mentality sold on sale after sale meet the demands of ‘Pride of place’ artifacts and furniture in the home? Especially when their products do little to create a sense of wonder or individuality. Will people keep falling for the fake imitations of the real thing or will their desire for mastering crafts actually make them appreciate what’s really involved with real craftsmanship.
These corporate companies have provided Cheap, fashion, cheap furniture, cheap tools etc, etc, etc, and these products all have the same common comparisons, they are all designed to trick people they are getting more for their money when in reality the savings are an illusion. Marketing words such a ‘no veneer in ere’ and ‘solid hardwood’ used by one of the larger furniture makers are just twisting the truth. Veneering in their statement is deemed as poor quality but actual fact veneer by mass production is usually poor quality compared to handmade furniture made by a craftsman, likewise can the term ‘solid hardwood’ be really true when bits of solid wood are jointed and glued together to make a single plank, whereas large planks of solid hardwood are far more expensive. Another term being battered around by these companies is ‘craftsmanship’ loosely used but indicating a completely different thing to making the majority of components by machine in bulk in a factory, this essentially compares man against machine, even Usain Bolt couldn’t beat an old 1959 mini when running at full speed let alone something quicker like a F1 racing car. The people they target are becoming wise to their slick marketing campaigns and big budgets, simply laughing at the 12th sale of the year. ‘It’s like buying Gold for the price of silver’ as one company claims, this as idiotic as selling gold for the price of silver but when in reality was just Pyrite (fools gold) they were selling.
The mid 19th Century saw the industrial revolution and by the 1860’s the Arts and Crafts movement was born from the rejection of mass production to the celebration of craftsmen and their hand crafting skills, this was predominantly architect design and craftsmen led. The inspiration and leaders for the movement came from those such as Charles Mackintosh, William Morris, Christopher Dresser to name but a few but the mass unemployment and bypassing of man was the precursor to the movement. They say history has a tendency of repeating itself and likewise the tell tale signs are now here and are very much the same as before but with resources dwindling as populations grow the importance of preservation, conservation and recycling will grow stronger, as will be the need to make the most from them.
I truly believe the Arts and crafts period was much more important than history currently gives it credit for, as for the reasons of Real Quality and the importance for things to last beyond a trend will become far more important as time passes. Quality has an Eco edge that creates the antiques of the future whereas cheap mass production simply cannot produce that same desirability and longevity that something important created by hand has.
Get ready for the revolution it just might be the making of you, as will be the tools you acquire along the way, as they don’t make them like they used to and there is a limited supply that perform like once did, other than those old tools bought from here. Hint!