Reflections on the Arts and Crafts Conference
I have often said that one of the elements of the Arts and Crafts movement that distinguishes it from its chronological siblings — Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Mid-Century Modernism — is that it is built upon a foundation.
It is more than just a style.
It has a philosophy.
“Head, Heart, and Hand.”
The trio may have first been popularized by Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters, but it is a thread that ties each of us to every Arts and Crafts reformer who has come before, from the English philosophers Ruskin and Morris to publisher and furniture designer Gustav Stickley, the founders of Marblehead Pottery and Saturday Evening Girls Pottery, and countless others, known and unknown.
Each February’s three-day National Arts and Crafts Conference at the historic Grove Park Inn represents a microcosm of the Arts and Crafts movement’s philosophy of Head, Heart, and Hand, which helps to explain why it has not only lasted 28 years, but has continued to grow for 28 years.
Each day our Heads are stimulated by seven seminar speakers in the spacious Heritage Ballroom, nearly 30 Small Group Discussion leaders in various meeting rooms, volunteer curators of educational exhibits in the Great Hall, and the thousands of conversations and passionate discussions that spring up like dandelions after a summer shower.
Our Hearts beat at a faster pace every time we step into a booth, regardless whether it be in the Antiques Show or the Contemporary Craftsfirms Show, and see some of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts style: handcrafted furniture, hand-thrown art pottery, hammered metalware, hand-stitched textiles, hand-printed art, and hand-bound books. Some we bring home with us, displaying them proudly on our sideboards, bookcases, and mantles, not as trophies, but as works of art to be appreciated and admired each time we walk into the room.
Our Hands, however, sometimes are forgotten, and that is unfortunate. We must remember that Gustav Stickley offered plans for making simple woodworking projects, that embroidery kits were marketed for homemakers, and that manual arts classes offered people the opportunity to push their fingers into wet clay, to pick up a chasing hammer, or to carve a block of alder for printing.
At next year’s February 19-21 Arts and Crafts Conference we will again offer at least seven workshops and demonstrations where you can experience the sensation of having made something yourself, whether it be a pair of hammered silver earrings, a woodblock print, an embroidered textile, or even a landscape plan for your own yard.
As the year progresses, we will post information on these workshops at www.Arts-CraftsConference.com, and will then begin taking reservations for the dozen or so openings that we make available in each of them.
Along with this guarantee: you will never reach the highest level of appreciation of any Arts and Crafts item until you have made something yourself.
Until next Monday,
Head, Heart, and Hand!
Top: A hand-hammered plaque by Frank Glapa of FMG Design, an exhibitor at the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference.
Middle: One of our previous workshops.