William Morris- criteria 1.2.3.

       Adamson. Glen – The Craft Reader (2010), London Berg

Chapter 20

William Morris, “The Revival of Handicraft” Originally published in the (Fortnightly Review – November 1888) excerpted

“Morris was an astonishing poly-math. He wrote some of the best-known prose and poetry of the Victorian era. Following his conversation to Socialism in 1883, he became an effective political operator and polemical essayist. above all, though, he was an artist-an identity that for him involved being a craftsman, designer and entrepreneur all at once.

And yet Morris was in some senses, and in his own estimation, a failure. He was unable to put into practice his key theoretical principle, the unity of aesthetic and political reform.

Despite his commitment to making art for the masses, his clients were almost invariably well-to-do people sympathetic with his aims.” 1.(Adamson.G. 2010 p146)

[His influences came from his contemporaries, and reading ,he states this by quoting Socialist literature], “Karl Marx’s” great work entitled “Capital”. and giving account of the three great epochs of production … 2.(Ibid p 149-150)  

“there was little if no division of labour…The workman worked for himself not for the Capitalistic employer, he was accordingly master of his own work and his time, this was a period of pure handicraft.” 3.(Ibid p 150)

[His confidence in the subject forced him to speak out about                            the production of all modern industrialism,]

He stated, “I need not argue it, as they are but too familiar with the fact that the produce of all modern industrialism is ugly, and that whenever anything of which is old disappears, its place is taken by something inferior to it in beauty…” 4.(Ibid p 151)

[I have to look back in history to understand the times in which this has   been written. At the beginning of his essay he tries to make a good            argument,]

“ Nay, it is not uncommon to hear regrets for the hand-labour in the        fields, now fast disappearing from even backward districts of civilised      countries The scythe,the sickle and even the flail are lamented over…”

5.(Adamson G. p 147)

[All work I imagine would have been extremely hard with very long working hours, and seasonal weather dependant. I can relate to this standard, and his deep desire as I admire his work very much, unfortunately I find too many confusing statements in his essay. He seems to be trying to work this out as he writes his essay.

Was he just interested in “machinery verses Handicraft”? or did he really feel for the worker and the conditions he was working under.

If the latter he had a perfect example of “actions speaking louder            than words, in the timeless example given by John Cadbury and his     family, who made it a priority to look after their workers (* www.history.co.uk/biographies/the-cadbury-family,) 20.11.14

[He does state,]

“Yes, we do sorely need a system of production which will give us beautiful surroundings and pleasant occupation…” 6.( Adamson G. p 153)

[With his retrospective views, I believe he fails to see the                       changing social economics. I believe as many do, that nothing is             evil in itself, but the way it is handled.]

He berates the general public for being ignorant of all the                        methods and processes of manufacture. 7.(Ibid p148)

[He seems to be a romantic in the area’s he is defending                        when he states;] “Will the period of machinery evolve itself into a fresh period of machinery more independent of human labour than anything we can conceive of, or will it develop it’s contradictory in the shape of a new and improved period by handicraft? “ 8.(ibid p150)

[But also angry, when he says ]“the aristocracy and cultivated middle classes were a class of slave holders, for creating this employment of slaves.

  1. (Ibid p 153)

[He is I believe questioning,]

“How can the change be made ?…” 10. (Ibid153) [without impacting our lives so much that we lose the contentment of happiness in our daily work and rest…

What an amazing time in history, I ask would we be here today, enjoying the life we have, without the innovations of the industrial age? e.g.replacing hand washing with a machine that takes out all the hard work. As an aspiring “Craftswoman” myself I can fully appreciate the process of change that has transpired over the past, and I agree that there really is no comparison between items machine made or that made by the “Craftsman” but as my dear Grandma always used to say, (* “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”), Literal meaning – the perception of beauty is subjective (*www.phrases.org.uk/meanings)20.11.14 I feel blessed to live in a country that at last recognises working conditions and equality in the workforce.]

Bibliography *

(* www.history.co.uk/biographies/the-cadbury-family,) 20.11.14

(* www.phrases.org.uk/meanings) 20.11.14


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