Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hand in Hand with Machines

An overload of Victorian ornate designs and a workforce in England being replaced by machines creating shoddy products sparked William Morris' movement in the mid 1800's. He wanted a return to quality handmade products using the nature around him for decorative themes. Well-known for his wallpapers, he took inspiration from his own garden for floral designs and made ink from vegetables. But by refusing to use machines, the time put into handmade pieces made them only affordable for the rich.

The American Arts & Crafts Movement took inspiration from the European movement and focused on clean simple design and quality workmanship but in contrast, did use machines for some production. That kept costs down to where the average person could afford to buy them. Two prominent figures were furniture maker Gustav Stickley and the Roycroft Community of artisans led by Elbert Hubbard.

I draw my inspiration from the Arts & Crafts ideals of simple beautiful designs with a little curvy Art Nouveau thrown in. Like Wm. Morris, I prefer to draw from native plants and flowers in the Midwest and try to grow my own when I can. My sister has contributed many wonderful perennials to my garden over the years, too. I gain more insight into the plant when I can look at it from all angles and it's a nice perk to have a vase of flowers in my studio.

Like the American Arts & Crafts Movement, I rely on today's technology to take my hand drawings and fill them in with color. I feel the computer is a tool that works much like silkscreening for building layers of flat rich colors. It offers flexibility to try different palettes like the earthy palettes used in the Arts & Crafts Movement and the versatility to transform the design into a repeating pattern for fabric and rugs.

Digital production also keeps costs down and allows artists like me to venture into the marketplace with my own cards, prints, fabric and rugs. But it all has to start with a handmade drawing first.

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