Revolution, renderings of artisanal crafts were newer, cheaper

Revolution, in late 19th
century Victorian England. It was greater than simply a nouveau style in the
decorative arts of. It commended the idea of the hand made and craftmanship in
response to the increase in industrial manufacturing, mechanization and the mass
production of items of a lower standard of quality. The movement was ingrained with
the principles of pre-industrial life, resulting in a reaction to the anxieties
that surrounded not only the aesthetically aspects to craft, but also the underlying
social issues such as; capitalism, labour and estrangement of practitioners
from their work. Being one of the first art movements to truly question the boundaries
separating fine arts and crafts, it re-envisioned the conventional art hierarchy
and encouraged the increase of involvement of female practitioners.

The involvement of female
artists in the Arts and Crafts movement birthed the entryways for other art
movements, such as Second Wave Feminism and Craftivism, and in this essay, we
will explore their paradoxical position within the movement. In this essay I
aim to examine the borders in which craft and art have been historically divided
by, with a more specific focus on the process in how female domestic craft became
recognised with a particular assortment of gender biased characteristics. By acknowledging
the relationship between the history of domestic craft and the idea of what
establishes gendered behaviours, we can decipher how these stereotypes have been
approached in contemporary art practice; challenging the shifting notation of
what constitutes as art. I will inspect the context and qualities of craft
processes and materials, considering the impressions they leave upon not only
the practice of feminist art and the wider practice of contemporary art.

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Chapter One –
The birth of the movement and historical context

The Arts and Crafts
movement was active between the years of 1880 and 1910, given the time, there
was a strong influence of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of craftsmanship which inspired
the movement as it became assigned as a style in both the decorative and fine
arts. The movement spread internationally, stretching from Great Britain and
other parts of Europe, eventually reaching North America, Australia and parts
of South East Asia in the 1920’s (specifically Japan because of the heavy Dutch
influence and trade.). During the beginning of the movement Britain has a fin-de-siecle captivation with new technologies,
being heavily influenced by the Industry Revolution as previously mentioned.
This fascination brought about the ‘commercialization of craftsmanship’.1 Industrially made patterns,
objects, craft items, interior elements and simplified renderings of artisanal
crafts were newer, cheaper and widely available as they overflowed markets, the
art world and society overall. The need to rediscover the beauty of  hand-made craftmanship in the production of
arts and crafts was unearthed after contemporary critics detected that this new
development jeopardised the art environment, so they set to reinstall these
values alongside re-establishing a humanistic approach to labour like seen the
pre-industrial society.

A major event happened at
the end of the 19th century that was pinnacle for the commencement of
the Arts and Crafts movement was the Great Exhibition held in Crystal Palace,
1851. The even took place in Hyde Park in London for the duration of the months
May through until mid-October of that year with critics quick to describe the
items on show as vulgarly artificial, mass produced and claiming that they completely
discarded the abilities and potentials of the materials used. While the idea of
the ‘ornament’ was the centre for much disagreement between craftsman, architects
and industrials; Influential epoch authors agreed in this thesis that the
ornament should remain in secondary importance to the decorated object, believing
in the principle that is it more imperative to be conceptually connected and derivative
from the material qualities in ensuring the final piece is indivisible from the
design vision. They perceived recommendations about the impending future of the
design industry to be a direct revival of craftsmanship and the (re)humanization
of the design process.