Arts and crafts: Made the old way
The arts and crafts Movement began in England in the 1860s as a reaction to the mass-production of machine-made items for the home. Artists and designers sought a return to hand craftsmanship and stressed high-quality, natural materials and simplicity of design. The decorative style of the Victorian era was suddenly seen as fussy and overdone.
A tiny silver evening purse, made about 100 years ago, carries the number 925, which indicates British sterling silver. It measures 9cm by 6.5cm and opens to reveal leather and silk compartments. It is $350 at Just Browsing, Blenheim, (03) 577 5402.
New Zealand was an importer of goods from Liberty of London, the department store that fostered work from the era. Several agents brought quantities of Arts and Crafts Movement household and decorative items to our shores in the early years of the 20th century.
The heyday of the era was the late 1800s to about 1910, although historians often consider that the influence of arts and crafts continued until the end of the 1930s, overlapping with other styles, particularly art nouveau, which has much in common with the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The British pioneer of arts and crafts was William Morris. His wooden reclining Morris chair is still made in various forms and William Morris wallpaper is reproduced by Sanderson. Morris railed against “soulless” machine-made items and urged his disciples to “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.
In architecture, arts and crafts principles are seen in wood panelling, ceiling beams, wide-hearth fireplaces with inglenooks, and stained-glass windows. Classic arts and crafts items to look for include timber furniture of quarter-sawn oak, perhaps with cut-outs of upside-down hearts; hand-hammered metal jugs and jewellery, often with enamelled detail; and anything with the Liberty trademark or name attached.
Story: Pam Neville
Photographs: Belinda Merrie
Stylist: Tracey Strange