The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, spanning the years from 1875-1930, saw its beginnings as a rebellion against the fussiness and excesses of the Victorian age and the terrible economic and environmental conditions fostered by the industrial revolution. It had its origins in expressing the ideas of the Movement as stated in this quote from an exhibition catalog published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:
“Convinced that industrialization had caused the degradation of work and the destruction of the environment, Arts and Crafts reformers created works with deliberate social messages. Their designs conveyed strong convictions about what was wrong with society and reflected prescriptions for living. The aim was to incorporate art into everyday activities and thus, to democratize it”.
Groups of like-minded artisans formed guilds and collectives to produce handcrafted wares including tall vases, tiles, utilitarian shapes for daily use, original designs with simplified shapes, experimental glazes and painting techniques, many with incised and raised decorations. From the 1880’s to post World War 1, highly decorated Japanese porcelain and artifacts inspired American pottery artists and designers.
Many pottery-making collectives sprang up across America during these years, and especially in California, incorporating new ideas about design, philanthropy, and social consciousness. The Arequipa Pottery located in Marin county in Northern California, was established as part of a tuberculosis sanatorium for young working-class women who were taught the craft as part of their recovery program and produced wares for sale in stores across the country, as well as being displayed at the Pan Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915.
The popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement began to decline after World War 1 as newer design forms began to evolve. The design aesthetic of the movement continued to influence modernism in the 1930’s and 1940’s and into the post-modernism period of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sunnylands, the Walter Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, is a fine example of post-modernism architecture as it echoes the idealism, beauty, grace, form in nature, and simplicity of the earlier movement.
There are a few Arts and Crafts potteries still producing today, but almost all of them were out of business by 1930. There was a resurgence of handcrafted pottery and objects late in the 20th century and there are many artisans producing fine handcrafted works today. American Art Pottery can be found in antique stores, auctions, and on line. There are collections in many museums around the country. There are walking and home tours in San Diego and Pasadena focusing on arts and crafts design and architecture at various times of the year and many websites, books, publications, organizations and dealers can be found on line relating to the Arts and Crafts movement and, specifically, art pottery.
A worthwhile show for those who are interested in handcrafted art pottery, old and new, is the upcoming Los Angeles Pottery Show at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 20-21, 2017. It is the largest pottery and tile show in America.
General Books on the Arts and Crafts Movement:
The Art That is Life – Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875-1920, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Wendy Kaplan 1987
The Arts and Crafts Companion, Pamela Todd, 2004, Bullfinch
The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World 1880-1920, Wendy Kaplan, 2005, Thames & Hudson
The Arts and Crafts Movement (World of Art), 1991, Thames & Hudson
Arts and Crafts in Britain and America, Isabel Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, 1978, Rizzoli
General Books on American Art Pottery and Tile:
American Art Tile 1876-1941, Norman Karlson, 1998, Rizzoli
American Art Pottery, David Rago , 1997, Knickerbocker Press
California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism, Book Published in Conjunction with Exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2003-2004
Journal of the American Pottery Association – bi-monthly magazine with fully researched and in-depth articles and information on all aspects of art pottery
justartpottery.com Newsletter and Blog
Oakland Museum Oakland, CA
Kirkland Museum Denver, Colorado
Everson Museum Syracuse, New York
American Arts and Crafts Collection of Alexander and Sidney Sheldon (exhibition publication)
Palm Springs Art Museum
Art Pottery collections displayed in many Museums around the US.
The Arts and Crafts Society – aggregate of resources, books, collections and museums worldwide