The Arts and Crafts Movement

By Chrissie Masters of The Design Gallery

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a social and moral campaign against the Industrial Revolution and a response to the lack of direction in much of Victorian design. Its founding father, back in the 1860s, was William Morris, and his influence is still with us today.

The movement was born when British designers and architects reacted vehemently against the mass produced factory goods, in a mishmash of revived styles, shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The result was a return to honest craftsmanship, meaningful design and a purity of line and form.

Simple and practical oak furniture, brass, pewter, silver and copper metalwork with motifs inspired by nature, hand-blown glass and hand-thrown ceramics are the hallmarks of the time. These are pieces with soul, imbued with the individual aesthetic tastes and philosophical ideals of both the artists and the craftsmen.

Arts and Crafts furniture and home accessories are some of the best value items of progressive design available. While prices for furniture by Morris & Co and ceramics by William De Morgan and Ruskin can fetch many thousands of pounds, you can find dining suites, sideboards, bookcases and bureaux by Liberty & Co, Shapland & Petter of Barnstaple and London makers Harris Lebus at prices that are often considerably less than the modern copies. Copper and brass work still sits, unrecognised, in charity shops and boot sales and if you are lucky, can be bought for as little as £10. Demand for British Arts and Crafts is growing worldwide.

William Morris decreed that you should have nothing in your home that you did not consider to be useful or beautiful and it was a belief that he lived by. The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath was commissioned by Morris as the new home for himself and his bride, Jane Burden, and was designed by his close friend Philip Webb in 1858-9. Morris and his artistic friends including the pre-Raphelite painter Edward Burne-Jones threw themselves into designing the furniture, stained glass and fabrics for the interior. The house itself is medieval in influence, but without the gothic detailing, while the interior is an ordered and harmonious example of the early days of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Over in West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead, Standen was also designed by Webb, for the Beale family in 1891. It was built between 1892 and 1894. Inside you will find lighting by WAS Benson – this was one of the first homes to pioneer electric light – copper work by the maestro of Arts & Crafts metal John Pearson, and ceramics by the great potter William De Morgan, amongst other designers. Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk for further details of Standen and The Red House.

William Morris’s childhood home is now the centre for the William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 which holds collections by important followers of the Morris style.

Buying Art Deco

By Chrissie Masters of The Design Gallery

  • Art Deco furniture is great value for money and often beautifully constructed with rare veneers such as Bird’s Eye Maple and Burr Walnut. “This was the last great age of cabinet making” says John Masters. The original furniture from the 1920s and 1930s is often much cheaper than modern reproductions.
  • Look out for skyscraper-style cocktail cabinets which light up when you open them, console tables with contrasting woods, and ‘Cloud’ dining and lounge suites which have curvaceous backs and sides. ‘Tank’ suites are also highly sought-after for their geometric shapes. Manufacturers to invest in include Epstein, Hille, Maurice Adams and Betty Joel.
  • Bronze, spelter, ceramic and terracotta sculpture makes a striking focal point in any contemporary interior scheme. Flapper girls, exotic dancers and leaping gazelles were just some of the subjects explored by Art Deco sculptors.
  • Art Deco was design for a modern world. The streamlined shapes were inspired by speed and travel and the styling was linear and graphic. Ceramics of the Jazz Age embody the Art Deco spirit perfectly, from Clarice Cliff’s vividly coloured tea services to Carlton Ware and Wedgwood’s gleaming glazes. Seek out John Skeaping’s animal sculptures, and the floral patterns of the Carter, Stabler & Adams factory which later became Poole Pottery.
  • Rene Lalique is hailed as the greatest glassmaker of the 20th century. His glowing, white and blue opalescent pieces were made with a secret recipe. Prices range from several hundred pounds to many thousands of pounds.
  • Art Deco clocks exemplify the look of the period, with Mayan temple shapes in a mixture of exquisite marbles. Egyptian Revival was a major influence following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Leading names include Cartier, Boucheron and Dunhill, while many affordable clocks by makes such as Elliott and Atto can still be found. French clocks often incorporate female or animal sculpture, with onyx or marble bases.
  • Women were enjoying their new-found freedom and danced the Charleston wearing long necklaces called ‘sautoirs’, armfuls of bracelets and bangles, and glittering headbands on their bobbed hair. Art Deco paste brooches and dress clips can be found for as little as £20, while glass necklaces range from £30 to £100. Bakelite and Galalith jewellery with modernist chrome elements was made in France, Germany and the USA and pieces by the German factory Jakob Bengal are highly collected.

A Guide to Gemstones

The beauty of stones

Amethyst

A type of quartz, the regal, purple colour of amethyst varies from location to location. Pale stones used to be foiled to enhance the colour, and deep colours are considered the most valuable. The colour is due to the presence of iron.

Amethyst also occurs with other crystals – when it is juxtaposed with a colourless crystal it is called ‘amethyst quartz’ and when it is banded with citrine, it is known as ‘ametrine.’
The word derives from the Greek word amethustos, which means sober, and it has the reputation of protecting the wearer from becoming drunk.

Beads can be tumbled, which gives them a lovely tactile quality, or cut to enhance the colour. Brilliant, baguette and mixed cuts are all popular.

Sources range from the amethyst of Jalgaon, Maharashtra in western India, which is considered to produce some of the best examples. Southern Brazil, Sri Lanka and Uruguay also produce lovely amethyst.

CITRINE

This is another variety of quartz, rarer than amethyst – which can be heat-treated to produce the yellow colour of natural citrine. In fact, most citrine today is artificially created from amethyst and it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, although heat treatment is said to produce a faint red tint. It takes its name from the French word for lemon, ‘citrin’.

Valued for its rarity, citrine was used by the Romans and Victorians especially. The darker the stone, the more valuable – the colour is due to the presence of ferrous oxide.

Citrine can be mistaken for topaz, which is much more expensive. Beware – stones called ‘topaz quartz’ or ‘citrine topaz’ are citrine that is being deliberately confused with the more valuable topaz!

More to be added soon