Arts and Crafts Utopia

How we live, and how we might live.

Tag: craftsmanship

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Exhibition Ever!

Grayson Perry – Alan Measles and Claire Visit the Rust Belt (one side), 2017

The New York Review of Books has a nice review of a recent exhibition of work by English artist Grayson Perry at the Serpent Galleries — “Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Exhibition Ever!” Perry, an irreverent iconoclast of English art (he won the Turner Prize in 2003), is probably known as much for his cross-dressing and cheeky wit as for his clever ceramic vases. He belongs to the Arts and Crafts tradition of using decorative art as a subversive strategy; his vases, tapestries, woodcuts, and banners blur the lines between high and low culture, fine art and trade-union propaganda.

In an article for London Times back in 2006, “Let the Artisans Craft Our Future,” Perry made his commitment to an artisanal utopian vision clear: “Maybe I am being sentimental and nostalgic about horny-handed men in leather aprons wielding a spokeshave, but I think that there is a place for the commissioned one-off handmade object in our future because, as we know, the future has to be green…Handmade is often a byword for pricey, and local means unadventurous or lack of choice. But what about when the oil runs out and the forests are all cut down, when we can’t just drive to Furniture Barn and buy a table, designed in Scandinavia, made in China with wood from South America, for the price of a round of drinks?”

From the review:

“The deepest appeal [of Perry’s art] lies in the combination of original concepts and craftsmanship. Perry makes his own pots, but most of his art is collaborative and he’s the first to acknowledge the astounding skill of the foundry workers and tapestry weavers involved. He returns constantly, too, to the people’s art, the folk art of Africa, or of Ruritania and Lithuania, the junk creations of outsider artists—like a totemic Alan Measles made from pebbles and sea-shore debris—and to the banners, and the bikes and sheds and graffiti, of “ordinary people.” It’s here, in showing that craft is also “art,” and that it belongs to us all, even more than in his overt political statements, that Perry is truly democratic and profoundly “popular.”

Leo Tolstoy’s Secrets to Happiness

Tolstoy - slaveryThe BBC has shared a nice little article on “The secrets to a happy life — courtesy of Leo Tolstoy.” Many of the “secrets” will be familiar not only to readers of Tolstoy, but any of the progressive writers and thinkers of the late 19th century: Peter Kropotkin, William Morris, Henry George, et al. Tolstoy belonged to a generation of reformists and radicals committed to the total regeneration of society through a radical revaluation of our habits, lifestyles, and beliefs (an inner transformation) as well as an overthrow of existing and oppressive social-political-economic structures (the external transformation). Certain recommendations will be familiar to any Arts and Crafts adherents (e.g. “Master the art of simple living” and “Become a craftsman.”)

Here’s the list of “secrets,” expanded on in the article. 

1.  Keep an open mind.

2.  Practice empathy.

3.  Make a difference.

4.  Master the art of simple living.

5.  Beware your contradictions.

6.  Become a craftsman.

7.  Expand your social circle.