The Arts and Crafts Movement in the U.S.

The topic of this month’s ArtSmart Roundtable is art movement or period, and instead of trying to cover the complexity of an entire period, I’ve chosen to give you a look at a modern art movement that I’m very fond of, the Arts and Crafts movement in the U.S. This movement combines two of my interests–architecture and design–and has given me the chance to research the topic from a traveler’s point of view, i.e. where we can see Arts and Crafts in the U.S. and even in California. As it turns out, there are many more examples of this movement in California than I had realized; in fact, I am now putting some on my itinerary for my big California trip this winter.

The Arts and Crafts Movement

Organic wallpaper and tapestry designs are one of the trademarks of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Arts and Crafts Movement came out of Great Britain in the late 19th century. At that time, it was the most industrialized country in the world, and this art and design movement was a direct response to that industrialization. The movement promoted the craftsman, quality design, fine decorative arts, and a rejection of machines from the industrial age. William Morris is possibly the best known leader of the movement, and his anti-industrialization stance solidified the movement’s preference for the expression of labor and the handmade in the decorative arts. This period combined so many aspects of art, including design and architecture, especially as they are expressed in the elements of a home. Therefore, people actually lived among the movement’s art.

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Window at the Thorsen House in Berkeley

The Arts and Crafts Movement soon came to the United States, where it diversified more. In the U.S., the movement included decorative arts such as furniture, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, metalwork, and textiles. Because the movement spread out so much over the large geographical area of the U.S., different styles emerged, leading to regional differences that can now be seen when comparing Arts and Crafts design on the East and West coasts as well as the Midwest.

Two offshoot movements also emerged–Craftsman design, particularly Stickley furniture, became a very popular expression of the original movement’s design ideals, and the Prairie School movement of design and architecture, with Frank Lloyd Wright as its leader, took the original ideals a few steps further, resulting in a unique design aesthetic that can be seen around the U.S.

So, what does Arts and Crafts look like? This can be a little tricky because the movement did not promote one particular style; however, its focus on craftsmanship and a move away from the modern industrial trends led to the following elements:

  • low pitched roofs
  • exposed beams and a traditional, possibly rustic look
  • simplicity in form and a focus on handmade
  • an emphasis on nature, such as flower or garden motifs as in the wallpaper above
  • lots of wood
  • in the U.S., an interest in Native American designs
  • simple geometric lines sometimes in combination with flowing lines of flowers, plants, or trees
Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Detail at the Gamble House, Pasadena, CA. Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian on Flickr.

Fortunately, there are many places where we can see the Arts and Crafts Movement. I highly recommend looking for these or other places on your U.S. travels because seeing the style in person, with its style all around in both the architecture and design of decoration and furniture, is a much more powerful experience than seeing photos on a computer screen. In addition, look for Frank Lloyd Wright and other Prairie School examples in the Midwest, California, and the East Coast. I am not covering those in this post, but they are definitely worth seeing!

All of the places below are open to the public! Berkeley, just about 80 minutes from here, has a lot of Arts and Crafts examples, some of which are open to visitors:

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

First Church of Christ Scientist in Berkeley, California

The Thorsen House is one of the best examples of Arts and Crafts architecture and design in Berkeley. I have not been there, but it seems like it is a fraternity house…however, the website mentions the possibility of scheduling a tour and the need for funds to restore the house, especially to get the house safe in case of an earthquake. Find out more about this historic home here.

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Thorsen House in Berkeley, California

One of the best known examples of the movement is the Gamble House in Pasadena, California. The house was designed by Gamble & Gamble in 1908. You can visit Thursday-Sunday; tours occur every 20 or 30 minutes from 12:00 to 3:00, but advance reservations are recommended since the tours often sell out. Tuesdays are a day of Brown Bag lunches on the lawn with a mini-tour. Tours run between $7 and $14, but kids under 12 are free. Find out more about visiting this landmark homeĀ here.

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.
Gamble House in Pasadena, California
Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Detail at the Gamble House, Pasadena, CA. Photo credit: ercwttmn

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Detail at the Gamble House, Pasadena, CA. Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian on Flickr.

One of my favorite places in California is Pacific Grove, and Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is one of my favorite places in that town. The Arts and Crafts design of the conference center buildings adds to the outdoorsy feel of the places, where deer wander winding paths past dunes and cypress trees. The center’s website has a wonderful description of the Arts and Crafts architecture; the place is beautiful and worth a stop even if you can’t go inside the buildings.

Where to See Arts and Crafts in the U.S.

Merrill Hall at Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California

Balboa Park in San Diego is also home to a fine Arts and Crafts house, the George W. Marston House. This home shows us an example of the movement’s rustic look combined with an emphasis on nature (with the home’s large garden), plus both geometric lines and flowing organic motifs in the decoration. The house is open for tours Thursday-Monday but only Friday-Monday in the winter; tours take about 45 minutes and cost $10 for adults. Find out more here about this grand Arts and Crafts mansion.

Where to see Arts and Crafts Movement  in the U.S.

George W. Marston House in Balboa Park, San Diego. Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian on Flickr.

Where to see Arts and Crafts Movement  in the U.S.

Details at the George W. Marston House in Balboa Park, San Diego. Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian on Flickr.

In Detroit, an Arts and Crafts pottery shop still exists. Pewabic Pottery made vases and other examples of Arts and Crafts pottery (which was an important part of the movement), as well as decorative mosaics as seen below. Pewabic Pottery is free and open to the public most days of the year. Find out more here.

Where to see Arts and Crafts Movement  in the U.S.

Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit: russteaches on Flickr.

Where to see Arts and Crafts Movement  in the U.S.

Entrance to the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery in Detroit, Michigan, made by Pewabic Pottery. Photo credit: Maia C on Flickr.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the Arts and Crafts Movement in the U.S. While there are many more places where you can see Arts and Crafts aesthetic, I hope that this introduction inspires you to visit one of their landmark homes. Now that I know that there are so many examples in California, I hope to visit some next year.

For more about art, travel, and “art movement,” check out my ArtSmart colleagues’ posts from this month:

Erin of A Sense of Place: “The Bauhaus School

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: “My Futurist Milan

Christina of Daydream Tourist: “Spanish Baroque

Murissa of Wanderfull Traveler: “7 Winter Scenes Across Canada by the Group of Seven

And our new member (exciting!): Alexandra of ArtTrav: “A brief history of art for visitors to Tuscany

Have you seen the Arts and Crafts Movement in the U.S. or elsewhere? What do you think of the style?

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6 Responses to The Arts and Crafts Movement in the U.S.

  1. ehalvey 12/04/2013 at 6:53 am #

    Sigh. A&C homes are just so darn pretty!

    Nashville has a neighborhood of little A&C-style bungalows that I loved driving through.

    And those stained glass details! I want stained glass in my dream house.
    ehalvey recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: The Bauhaus SchoolMy Profile

  2. Lance | Trips By Lance 12/04/2013 at 11:48 am #

    My wife is an architecture and design fanatic, so I’ve been along for the ride to witness some of this. I unfortunately don’t really pay attention when she’s talking about the specific design styles, but I’ve heard arts and crafts mentioned a lot. We’ve toured a really cool Frank Lloyd Wright home in Springfield, Ill., and I’d like to plan a FLW tour in Chicago for her.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..How to Experience Santa Fe ArtMy Profile

    • Jenna 12/06/2013 at 10:29 am #

      How fun! I hope to do a similar tour of California coming up soon.

  3. Ashley at No Onions Extra Pickles 12/04/2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Arts and Crafts was the first movement that I really fell for. I was taking an architectural history class my very first semester of college, and being in the Bay Area we spent a lot of time talking about Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan…and I was like “what, I can just take BART across the bay and check these out?!” It was great to learn about something that was so accessible.

    I visited the Gamble House in Pasadena a couple years ago – fantastic! I normally cringe when I can only visit a place on a guided tour, but it was a really great visit. The house is amazing…though we were the last tour of the day and they were setting up for a party that night. It didn’t interfere with the tour at all, but I was a bit jealous ;-)
    Ashley at No Onions Extra Pickles recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: My Futurist MilanMy Profile

    • Jenna 12/06/2013 at 10:22 am #

      I know that feeling of thinking back to something from a first art history class. I fell in love with Arts and Crafts when I was interning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and we had an exhibition of the movement when I was there. I also toured some of the Prairie School houses in the Twin Cities–such amazing spaces!

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