Makers: A History of American Studio Craft

Makers: A History of American Studio Craft

Makers: A History of American Studio Craft

Makers: A History of American Studio Craft

Synopsis

Here is the first comprehensive survey of modern craft in the United States. Makers follows the development of studio craft--objects in fiber, clay, glass, wood, and metal--from its roots in nineteenth-century reform movements to the rich diversity of expression at the end of the twentieth century.
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More than four hundred illustrations complement this chronological exploration of the American craft tradition. Keeping as their main focus the objects and the makers, Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf offer a detailed analysis of seminal works and discussions of education, institutional support, and the philosophical underpinnings of craft. In a vivid and accessible narrative, they highlight the value of physical skill, examine craft as a force for moral reform, and consider the role of craft as an aesthetic alternative.

Exploring craft's relationship to fine arts and design, Koplos and Metcalf foster a critical understanding of the field and help explain craft's place in contemporary culture. Makers will be an indispensable volume for craftspeople, curators, collectors, critics, historians, students, and anyone who is interested in American craft.
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Exploring craft's relationship to fine arts and design, Koplos and Metcalf foster a critical understanding of the field and help explain craft's place in contemporary culture. Makers will be an indispensable volume for craftspeople, curators, collectors, critics, historians, students, and anyone who is interested in American craft.

Excerpt

Studio craft is a recent invention. It was shaped by a few English gentlemen as a protest against their own times. It is not a direct continuation of the old forms of craft, in which artisans supplied necessities for everyone, but began as a concerted effort to put pleasure back into work and to wrest making from the grip of the machine and reinvest it with humanity.

Such ideas were a consequence of industrialization and urbanization in Victorian England during a century of tremendous upheaval. The modernization of manufacturing, with steam-powered factories set up wherever coal could be provided, began in the late eighteenth century. Machines were designed to reproduce—and replace—the motions of hands. What was left to workers was the task of attending the machines, which was far less demanding of skilled techniques than individual craft work had been. Work, once a source of pride and personal identity, was reduced to dull and meaningless repetition.

These changes had enormous social consequences, and nineteenth-century England experienced them first. Families migrated to cities in search of paid work, so cities grew exponentially. In the factories, men, women and children as young as six labored up to sixty hours a week, often for pennies a day. Moreover, the benevolent institutions of rural life (neighbors, guilds, the church) broke down in the cities. There was no public education, no public health care, no pensions. The lack of public water supplies or sewer systems resulted in periodic outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. Rivers were little more than open sewers. Coal smoke was filthy, like smog but worse. There was no zoning: factories and housing occupied the same neighborhoods.

The responses to these appalling conditions took many forms. Novelists such as Sir Walter Scott found refuge in romantic fantasies about medieval Merrie England. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx saw private ownership of the factories as the problem and called for the reordering of society under the principles of socialism. On the positive side, the Industrial Revolution made England the workshop of the world for much of the nineteenth century. The standard of living rose, even for the very poor, and the middle classes prospered.

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