The Beauty of English Arts & Crafts
I feel so lucky to be part of the team putting out Nancy Hiller’s new book English Arts & Crafts Furniture: Projects & Techniques for the Modern Maker. The physical copy of the book is precisely the kind of book that I love. It’s a gorgeous package, beautifully laid out. It’s the kind of book that calls out to be picked up and poured over again and again. And that’s exactly what I did as soon as I could get my hands on the finished copy.
Not only does Nancy walk you through building three incredible pieces of furniture (in much more detail than we have space to do in the magazine), but she gets in to the English Arts & Crafts movement in a way that’s about much more than aesthetics. She focuses on two important aspects of the movement: the conviction that things of beauty should be available to everyone and that good work should be its own reward. The objects that are commonly associated with the Arts & Crafts movement are just the beginning.
This is an era that yielded all kinds of designs from Stickley’s practical adjustable-back chair with lots of straight lines and very little ornamentation to works by names you may not know, such as Gimson, Voysey and Mackintosh, that used intricate hardware, inlay and (gasp) ornate carvings. And the movement goes well beyond furniture – wallpaper, ceramics, glass, fabric and even architecture were all vehicles for expressing ideas about beauty and good work. As beautiful as all these objects are, it’s ideals behind their designers and creators that are truly fascinating. The stories behind the three pieces she reproduces in the text, and their place in the greater context of the English Arts & Crafts movement, really gave me a deeper understanding of why they were important then, and why they’re still so vital today.
Make sure to pick up a copy – it’s the perfect combination of “how-to” and “why.”
– Andrew Zoellner
English Arts & Crafts Furniture
Projects & Techniques for the Modern Maker
By Nancy R. Hiller
English Arts & Crafts Furniture explores the Arts & Crafts movement with a unique focus on English designers. Through examination of details, techniques, and historical context, as well as projects, you’ll discover what sets these designers and their work apart from those that came before and after, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the Arts & Crafts movement and its influence.
Three complete furniture builds provide a glimpse into the breadth of ideals encompassed by Arts & Crafts:
- Voysey’s two heart chair, with its woven seat and sharp finials, combines simplicity of form with an elegant uprightness
- A striking sideboard design from Harris Lebus, one of England’s largest furniture manufacturers at the turn of the century, was not just imposing, but affordable for a middle-class market
- Gimson’s hayrake table marries rural allusions, challenging joinery, and exuberant hand-carving in a project that is a joy to build
More an expression of social and economic ideals than any specific design aesthetic, the Arts & Crafts movement encompassed a staggering variety of work. This book for woodworkers and furniture aficionado provides fresh perspective into an exciting moment in design history.