The Arts and Crafts Tradition in a God-Centered Universe


Useful in the everyday, beautiful in the homemade way, America in the period of Arts & Crafts continued the traditions of mothers and fathers before.  We were then a self-reliant people because secure in a God-centered universe, at home in a world where all things had their place.  Then, unlike now, there was one glorious universe whose purpose was the test of souls in the struggle between Good and Evil.

Six Light Electric Lamp No. 755 c. 1910

Six Light Electric Lamp No. 755, c. 1910, Gustav Stickley.  credit:  David Rago

You will notice at the beginning of the past century, the dusty old XX Century, a seriousness in the design of all things made of the mind of man, and the craft of hand.  You will notice solidity and surety, a beauty that elevated handicrafts.  These days, the handicrafts tend to sincere simplicities or to absurd complexities, much alike current political pluralities.  There are the lovely sentiments of the hobbyist, those sweetnesses of the housewife or homemaker in decoration of holidays inherited, and there is Kwanzaa and Pride Month, compulsory holidays, innovations politically motivated, insinuated into the house-life’s sweetness.

Christmas*, paper trees, cloth wreaths, ornaments of every description; July 4th, flag streamers and firework headbands; Thanksgiving, gobblers and pumpkins of all sorts, basketed, popsicled, and hand-pressed, each holiday a grand tradition made quaint, hollow where once full of national identity.  And there is Pride Month, an invention that has robbed little girls of rainbows, sunshine and flowers, and there is Kwanzaa of the appropriated menorah and the crayon box, each a holiday identified by separateness.

And then there are the crafts of absurdity, the craft of universities where children are Woke to crooked glasses and awkward plates, to statements of chairs uncomfortable to both eye and behind, things composed to challenge surety by imposing absurdity.  Perhaps you have noticed that the Arts are no longer Fine, that craft serves neither comfort in body nor health mind.  But why.

Arts and Crafts Tradition Chair

Armchair, c. 1903, Gustav Stickley. credit: Metropolitain Museum of Art.

The multiverse and the transhuman.  As likely you know, the notion of the multiverse is common in most every, under-30 mind, the idea that there is more than one universe, more than one reality, that each potential universe has its own realities and rules, has its stream of being without beginning or end or maker.  The transhuman is the notion of being beyond necessity, a fluidity of flesh facilitated by technology, pharmaceuticals and scalpels.  Expect you have met these transhumans.  If not, you will recognize them by the blue hair, belligerent attitude, and aggressive costume.

There is the craft of the lovely sentimentalist, and the craft of the antagonistic belligerent, and nothing between.  The one, a hollowed tradition of God, country, community, of a slight universe, sweet and simple.  The other, a hollering into vacuous darkness, Godless, everywhere placeless, a newness purposed of anger and scolding.

All architectural styles are ideas made real.  You recognize the sentimental, suburban house style, the family house that looks like some something, yet nothing in particular.  And you recognize the steel-and-glass stacked-box statement style, cold square cells for soulless bodies.  And filling these house styles, you recognize the loving refrigerator crafts of the one, the assertive pedestal crafts of the other.  These crafts too are ideas made real, especially the chair, a little building for a body’s rest, portrait of man in the universe, each chair offering an answer to the question, “What is Man?” … something alike Plato’s “theory of ideas”, the One chair and the infinity of other chairs.

chair in fumed oak at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farm

Chair in fumed oak at the Stickley Museum, Craftsman Farm.

Unlike sentiment and statement, the Arts & Crafts style is self-assured, hand-made, a house sturdy and strong.  The Arts & Crafts lamp, pot, plate, chair, pillow were without sentiment, without statement, they were crafted for noble beings who were created by God, they were designed for use and fashioned in beauty … as would be done for neighbor and friend.  You recognize in Arts & Crafts the objects of a world where identity is not disputed, where the existence of God is certain, and where the wisdom of tradition brings forth respectful children generation after generation.

You will see in the Arts & Crafts a virile, fertile generation in each ascending lamp, pot, plate, chair, pillow, families of objects that have learned from millennia of lessons, lessons of how best to suit the body and please the mind.   You will notice that the arts and crafts of the Arts & Crafts are made for persons of a kind, God trusting, self-reliant, fellow souls who seek by daily test the ultimate reward.

Intended to describe how to create a Craftsman picture frame.  Yet, in first phrases thought better to frame the history of ideas this past hundred years, so that you might picture where we were, to recognize where we are, and then to see where we shall go.  This, the purpose of history, from Herodotus to The Beautiful Home.


Arts and Crafts Tradition Family Photograph

Arts & Crafts picture frame. credit: Tredway Gallery


*Christmas, celebrated by 95% of Americans; July 4th, celebrated by 80%; Thanksgiving, celebrated by 90%.

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Featured image: 1915 Foursquare house with early pieces by Stickley; reproduction rug by Voysey. credit: Edward Addeo

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