What exactly are arts and crafts? Arts and crafts, in its most simple form, is any form of human creation wherein an artist applies human creative energy towards the development and creation of objects, whether these objects actually have any functional purpose or not. In more refined terms, arts and crafts are an object that is useful to someone, but which has not been specifically created for that particular use. In this way, the term “arts and crafts” can be used to refer to a range of human endeavors, from the production of artistic works to the provision of useful objects or services.
Although the arts and crafts have a long history going back at least as far as early civilization, their heyday largely came during the period of Renaissance human history, when many artists and craftsmen were able to profit from the sale of their works to fellow craftsmen. At this time, craftsmen were particularly focused on attaining aesthetic beauty in the form of art, and they took great pains to beautify their objects with fine woodwork, elaborate paintings, metalwork, and other natural materials. A craftsman’s ability to create beauty and aesthetic value was closely tied to his ability to produce a practical item that could serve a functional purpose.
The craftsmen of this era were particularly prized because, unlike the wealthy and powerful aristocrats who were the main patrons of arts and crafts, the commoners, the plebeian craftsmen, did not have very high-ranking positions in society. Commoners would usually create simple items such as jewelry and pottery for personal use. These items were quite often simple because most people didn’t have access to highly developed technology or complex machines that were once owned and used by the wealthy. As such, craftsmen were highly valued for their fine artistic creations because their skills were applied to the creation of objects that, in some ways, were as “crafty” as they were functional. This created a level of respect that was highly appreciated by the people who appreciated craftsmanship in its most refined form.
As time passed, the arts and crafts movement began to merge with another more “fashionable” movement that had been gaining momentum over the previous centuries. This movement, known as the movement toward “efficiency” or “means” was strongly influenced by the Industrial Revolution and the mechanized production line. The craftsmen of the day took great pains to produce durable and practical items because they realized that these would be useful items that would be enjoyed and even required by many of their contemporaries.
One of the key elements of the industrial revolution that directly contributed to the birth of the arts and crafts movement was the mass production of many items that previously had only been available to the wealthy. Items such as televisions, cars, and clothing came into widespread use thanks to the increased efficiency of the assembly line. As well, the mass production resulted in many people being able to acquire the decorative arts that they craved. The industrial revolution gave craftspersons an opportunity to express themselves creatively in ways that they never could before. This ultimately impacted the way that they perceived the world around them and how they saw themselves and their place in it.
One of the most significant aspects of the arts and crafts movement was the rejection of the concept of the “craft”. Although the craftsmen did not feel that they were craftsmen, they certainly were artists and creators. The rejection of the idea of the crafts movement gave craftspersons room to explore their creative side and to use their imagination. In fact, many contemporary artists and craftsman consider their work to be an expression of their craftsmanship. This exploration of the artist’s craft has continued on into the modern era and is still a major part of the arts and crafts movement today.