Craft in the Industrial Age


The Arts & Crafts movement was a design movement that emerged in the late 19th century/early 20th century in response to the gaudy design coming out of new industrialized factories that featured fake joinery and Victorian Era ornament. Faced with the chaos of industrialization, the members of the Arts & Crafts movement aimed to find a new aesthetic, one that celebrated the authenticity of handcraft while embracing new techniques that would make craft affordable to everyday people. Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Roycrofters in East Aurora, NY are famous leaders of this movement.

Yesterday we visited the Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, NY. It’s housed in the old Stickley Factory that was opened in 1900 and operated til 1985 when they moved operations to a larger shop down the road in Manlius, NY.  Also housed in the old factory is the Fayetteville Public Library which is one of the first libraries to build a Fab Lab. This little spot a few miles east-southeast of Syracuse, NY is a magical place. You can feel the history, the sense of purpose, the carving out of a new voice in the face of dramatic technological change.

There are hints of a similar movement today. Artists & Inventors like Nervous System are exploring desktop fabrication in a way that embraces the unique qualities of it. Artists & Inventors like Lauren McCarthy are exploring sensors and machine learning in critical and thoughtful ways. When we look back 100 years from now, who will be the leaders of the “Arts and Crafts” movement of this time? And what legacy will they leave behind?