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Arts & Crafts Philosophy

As has been ably expressed by those more interested in the philosophy than its application, the Arts & Crafts movement was perceived as a reaction to the excessively complex and superficial life of the Victorian era. In our context, the reaction was against the fussy over-the-top interior decoration and the machine production that made it possible.

Leaders of the movement, including John Ruskin, William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, among others, used a spectacularly romanticized version of the English Middle Ages as a starting point from which to set right these excesses. The fact that the era they admired was one of superstition, ignorance, abject poverty, disease, and early death seems to have been ignored.

But from this flawed basis they were able to structure an aesthetic system which led to artifacts which are timeless in their appeal, at least from the perspective of more than a century. The essence of their system is profound: Simplicity equals integrity. While that isn't strictly true, simplicity does make it very difficult indeed to counterfeit integrity. It was this simplicity with which Ruskin, Morris, and the rest set out to supplant the cheap, shoddy, mass produced, ‘we-make-it-frilly-because-the-machines- let-us' mentality of the age.

The First Do-It-Yourself Movement

Before the Victorian Age, Do-It-Yourself was practically all there was. In large measure, if you needed it you grew it or made it, or did without. Commerce depends on ready cash, and there was very little of it in circulation. So the majority of Commerce was limited to the wants of the cream of Society. But with Victoria came the Industrial Revolution and working for wages. Soon, people did nothing but work for wages and bought what they had to have. The products they were offered became progressively gaudier and progressively cheaper, both in price and quality. (Does any of this sound familiar?)

The "Craft" part of the Arts & Crafts movement stated that if you wanted high quality things you could have them by returning to the old ways and making them yourself. Rather than buying furniture, for example, you could get some tools, learn to use them well, and make your own furniture. That way, if the workmanship was shoddy, or if the furniture wasn't exactly what you wanted, you had nobody to blame but yourself.

You can still do that. And, in fact, plans are available from us for all our designs, past, present and future.

It's finding the time to do the work that seems to be the question. And that's why Desert Craftsmen came into being. We really do make the Arts & Crafts furniture and accessories you'd make if you took the time to get good at it.

In the judgment of some, we're in a similar age, an age where image is everything; where there is no connection between quality, cost, and price; where ‘spin doctors’ control the political life of the nation; and where the appearance of profit in this quarter is all that has meaning.

The Desert Craftsmen believe that's not the way it should be. We believe that a thing should appear to be what is actually is. We believe that real materials and real craftsmanship are better than the slickest finish in the world on an inferior product. We believe in simplicity and honesty. And we believe that there are enough people who agree with us that we'll be able to support a number of families making things for those people.

So far, we've been right.

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