Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement originated as a late 19th-century design reform and social movement principally in Europe, North America and Australia, and continues today. Its proponents are motivated by the ideals of movement founders such as William Morris and John Ruskin, who proposed that in pre-industrial societies, such as the European Middle Ages, people had achieved fulfillment through the creative process of handicrafts. This was held up in contrast to what was perceived to be the alienating effects of industrial labor.

These activities were called crafts because originally many of them were professions under the guild system. Adolescents were apprenticed to a master craftsman, and refined their skills over a period of years in exchange for low wages. By the time their training was complete, they were well equipped to set up in trade for themselves, earning their living with the skill that could be traded directly within the community, often for goods and services. The Industrial Revolution and the increasing mechanisation of production processes gradually reduced or eliminated many of the roles professional craftspeople played, and today many handicrafts are increasingly seen, especially when no longer the mainstay of a formal vocational trade, as a form of hobby, folk art and sometimes even fine art.

The term handicrafts can also refer to the products themselves of such artisanal efforts, that require specialized knowledge, may be highly technical in their execution, require specialized equipment and/or facilities to produce, involve manual labor or a blue-collar work ethic, are accessible to the general public, and are constructed from materials with histories that exceed the boundaries of Western "fine art" tradition, such as ceramics, glass, textiles, metal and wood. These products are produced within a specific community of practice, and while they mostly differ from the products produced within the communities of art and design, the boundaries often overlap, resulting in hybrid objects. Additionally, as the interpretation and validation of art is frequently a matter of context, an audience may perceive handicrafted objects as art objects when these objects are viewed within an art context, such as in a museum or in a position of prominence in one's home.

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