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properly called, "a sculptor" and his fellow-craftsman who is called "a
carver." In these days the "sculptor" is but too often a man who would
think it a condescension to execute what, for want of a better name, we
must call decorative work. In truth, the sculptor is the outcome of
that entire separation which has come about between the love of beauty,
once common in everyday life, and art, as it is now called - a thing
degraded to the purposes of a toy, a mere ornament for the rich. The
sculptor is trained to make these ornaments, things which have no
relation to their surroundings, but which may be placed now in a
drawing-room, now in a conservatory or a public square, alone and
unsheltered. He is a child of the studio.

The result of this training is, he has lost all knowledge how to produce
work of a decorative character. He understands nothing of design in a
wide sense, but being able to model a figure with tolerable success he
rests therewith content. Being designed, as it is, in the studio, his
work is wanting in sympathy with its surroundings; it does not fall into
its place, it is not a part of a complete conception.

Things were not so when sculpture and what, for want of a better term,
we have called "stone and wood carving" were at their prime.

The Greek craftsman could produce both the great figure of the god,
which stood alone as the central object in the temple, and (working in
thorough sympathy with the architect) the decorative sculpture of less
importance which was attached to the building round about, and without
which the beauty of the fabric was incomplete.

So also the great Florentine sculptors spent themselves with equal zeal
on a door, the enclosure of a choir, a pulpit, or a tomb, which in those
days meant not merely the effigy of the departed, but a complete design
of many parts all full of beauty and skill.

In the great days of Mediæval Art sculpture played a part of the highest
importance. The works then produced are not only excellent in
themselves, but are so designed as to form a part of the building they
adorn. How thoroughly unfinished would be the west front of the
Cathedral at Wells, or the portals of Amiens or Reims, without their
sculpture.

How rarely can we feel this sense of satisfaction, of unity of result,
between the work of the sculptor and the architect in our buildings of
to-day. The figures are "stood about" like ornaments on the mantelpiece.
The architect seems as unable to prepare for them as the sculptor to
make them. We seldom see congruity even between the figure and the
pedestal on which it stands.

The want of this extended sympathy leads to another ill result. Wood,
stone, and metal, different as they are, are treated by the artist in
much the same fashion. The original model in clay seems to stand behind
everything. The "artist" makes the clay model; his subordinates work it
out in one or another material. The result can only be unsatisfactory
because the natural limitations fixed by the qualities of the different
materials have been neglected, whereas they should stand forth
prominently in the mind of the artist from the moment he first conceives
his design.

Marble, stones - some hard, some soft, - terra cotta, metals, or wood,
each demand a difference of treatment. For example, the fibrous nature
of wood enables the craftsman to produce work which would fall to pieces
at the first blow if executed in stone. The polished and varied surface
of marble demands a treatment of surface and section of mouldings which
in stone would seem tame and poor. Again, it must not be forgotten that
most works in stone or marble are built up. They are composed of many
blocks standing one on the other. With wood it is quite different. Used
in thick pieces it splits; good wood-work is therefore framed together,
the framing and intermediate panelling lending itself to the richest
decoration; but anything in the design which suggests stone construction
is obviously wrong. In short, wood must be treated as a material that is
fibrous and tenacious, and in planks or slabs; stone or marble as of
close, even texture, brittle and in blocks.

Consequent on these differences of texture, we find that the tools and
method of handling them used by the wood-carver differ in many respects
from those used by the worker in stone or marble. One material is
scooped and cut out, the other is attacked by a constant repetition of
blows.

In the history of Mediæval Art we find that the craft of the
stone-carver was perfectly understood long before that of his brother
craftsman in wood. Whilst the first had all through Europe attained
great perfection in the thirteenth century, the second did not reach the
same standard till the fifteenth, and with the classic revival it died
out. Nothing displays more fully the adaptation of design and decoration
to the material than much of the fifteenth-century stall-work in our
English cathedrals. These could only be executed in wood; the design is
suited to that material only; but when the Italian influence creeps in,
the designs adopted are in fact suited to fine stone, marble, or
alabaster, and not to wood.

Until the craftsman in stone and wood is more of an architect, and the
architect more of a craftsman, we cannot hope for improvement.

SOMERS CLARKE.




FURNITURE


The institution of schools of art and design, and the efforts of serials
and magazines devoted to artistic matters, have had their proper effect
in the creation of a pretty general distaste for the clumsy and
inartistic forms which characterised cabinets and furniture generally
some years back. Unfortunately for the movement, some manufacturers saw
their opportunity in the demand thus created for better and more
artistic shapes to produce bad and ill-made copies of good designs,
which undermined the self-respect of the unfortunate man (frequently a
good and sufficient craftsman) whose ill hap it was to be obliged to
make them, and vexed the soul of the equally unfortunate purchaser.

The introduction of machinery for moulding, which left only the fitting
and polishing to be done by the craftsman, and which enabled
manufacturers to produce two or three cabinets in the time formerly
occupied in the making of one, was all against the quality and stability
of the work. No good work was ever done in a hurry: the craftsman may be
rapid, but his rapidity is the result of very deliberate thought, and
not of hurry. Good furniture, however, cannot be made rapidly. All wood,
no matter how long it is kept, nor how dry it may be superficially, will
always shrink again when cut into.

It follows that the longer the interval between the cutting up of the
wood, and its fitting together, the better for the work. In the old
times the parts of a cabinet lay about in the workman's benchway for
weeks, and even months, and were continually turned over and handled by
him while he was engaged on the mouldings and other details. The wood
thus became really dry, and no further shrinkage could take place after
it was put together.

A word here about the designing of cabinets.

Modern furniture designers are far too much influenced by considerations
of style, and sacrifice a good deal that is valuable in order to conform
to certain rules which, though sound enough in their relation to
architecture, do not really apply to furniture at all. Much more
pleasing, and not necessarily less artistic work would be produced,
were designers, and handicraftsmen too, encouraged to allow their
imagination more scope, and to get more of their own individuality into
their work, instead of being the slaves of styles invented by people who
lived under quite different conditions from those now prevailing.

Mouldings as applied to cabinets are nearly always too coarse, and
project too much. This applies equally to the carvings, which should
always be quite subordinate to the general design and mouldings, and (in
its application to surfaces) should be in low relief. This is quite
compatible with all necessary vigour as well as refinement. The idea
that boldness - viz. high projection of parts in carving - has anything to
do with vigour is a common one, but is quite erroneous. All the power
and vigour which he is capable of putting into anything, the clever
carver can put into a piece of ornament which shall not project more
than a quarter of an inch from the ground in any part. Indeed, I have
known good carvers who did their best work within those limits.

Knowledge of line, of the management of planes, with dexterity in the
handling of surfaces, is all he requires. Another common mistake is to
suppose that smoothness of surface has anything to do with finish
properly so called. If only half the time which is commonly spent in
smoothing and polishing carved surfaces was devoted to the more thorough
study and development of the various parts of the design, and the
correction of the outlines, the surface might very well be left to take
care of itself, and the work would be the better for it.

There is not space in this paper to do more than glance at a few other
methods in ordinary use for cabinet decoration. Marquetry, inlays of
ivory, and various other materials have always been extensively used,
and sometimes with excellent effect. In many old examples the surface of
the solid wood was cut away to the pattern, and various other kinds of
wood pressed into the lines so sunk. The method more generally adopted
now is to insert the pattern into veneer which has been prepared to
receive it, and mount the whole on a solid panel or shape with glue.

The besetting sin of the modern designer or maker of marquetry is a
tendency to "loud" colour and violent contrasts of both colour and
grain. It is common to see as many as a dozen different kinds of wood
used in the decoration of a modern cabinet - some of them stained woods,
and the colours of no two of them in harmony.

The best work in this kind depends for its effect on a rich, though it
may be low tone of colour. It is seldom that more than two or three
different kinds of wood are used, but each kind is so carefully selected
for the purpose of the design, and is used in so many different ways,
that, while the all-important "tone" is kept throughout, the variety of
surface is almost infinite. For this reason, though it is not necessary
that the designer should actually cut the work himself, it is most
essential that he should always be within call of the cutter, and should
himself select every piece of wood which is introduced into the design.
This kind of work is sometimes shaded with hot sand; at other times a
darker wood is introduced into the pattern for the shadows. The latter
is the better way; the former is the cheaper.

The polishing of cabinet work. I have so strong an objection in this
connection to the French polisher and all his works and ways, that,
notwithstanding the popular prejudice in favour of brilliant surfaces, I
would have none of him. Formerly the cabinetmaker was accustomed to
polish his own work, sometimes by exposing the finished surfaces to the
light for a few weeks in order to darken them, and then applying beeswax
with plentiful rubbing. This was the earliest and the best method, but
in later times a polish composed of naphtha and shellac was used. The
latter polish, though open to many of the objections which may be urged
against that now in use, was at least hard and lasting, which can hardly
be said of its modern substitute.

The action of the more reputable cabinetmaking firms has been, of late,
almost wholly in the direction of better design and construction; but a
still better guarantee of progress in the future of the craft is found
in the fact that the craftsman who takes an artistic and intelligent,
and not a merely mechanical interest in his work, is now often to be
met. To such men greater individual freedom is alone wanting.

STEPHEN WEBB.




STAINED GLASS


In these days there is a tendency to judge the merits of stained glass
from the standpoint of the archæologist. It is good or bad in so far as
it is directly imitative of work of the fourteenth or fifteenth century.
The art had reached to a surprising degree of beauty and perfection in
the fifteenth century, and although under the influence of the
Renaissance some good work was done, it rapidly declined only to lift
its head once more with the revived study of the architecture of the
Middle Ages.

The burning energy of Pugin, which nothing could escape, was directed
towards this end, but the attainment of a mere archæological correctness
was the chief aim in view. The crude draughtsmanship of the ancient
craftsman was diligently imitated, but the spirit and charm of the
original was lost, as, in a mere imitation, it must be. In the revival
of the art, whilst there was an attempt to imitate the drawing, there
was no attempt to reproduce the quality of the ancient glass. Thus,
brilliant, transparent, and unbroken tints were used, lacking all the
richness and splendour of colour so characteristic of the originals.
Under these conditions of blind imitation the modern worker in stained
glass produced things probably more hideous than the world ever saw
before.

Departing altogether from the traditions of the mediæval schools,
whether ancient or modern, there has arisen another school which has
found its chief exponents at Munich. The object of these people has
been, ignoring the condition under which they must necessarily work, to
produce an ordinary picture in enamelled colours upon sheets of glass.
The result has been the production of mere transparencies no better than
painted blinds.

What then, it may be asked, are the limiting conditions, imposed upon
him by the nature of the materials, within which the craftsman must work
to produce a satisfactory result?

In the first place, a stained glass window is not an easel picture. It
does not stand within a frame, as does the easel picture, in isolation
from the objects surrounding it; it is not even an object to be looked
at by itself; its duty is, not only to be beautiful, but to play its
part in the adornment of the building in which it is placed, being
subordinated to the effect the interior is intended to produce as a
whole. It is, in fact, but one of many parts that go to _produce a
complete result_. A visit to one of our mediæval churches, such as York
Minster, Gloucester Cathedral, or Malvern Priory, church buildings,
which still retain much of their ancient glass, and a comparison of the
unity of effect there experienced with the internecine struggle
exhibited in most buildings furnished by the glass painters of to-day,
will surely convince the most indifferent that there is yet much to be
learned.

Secondly, the great difference between coloured glass and painted glass
must be kept in view. A coloured glass window is in the nature of a
mosaic. Not only are no large pieces of glass used, but each piece is
separated from and at the same time joined to its neighbour by a thin
grooved strip of lead which holds the two. "_Coloured glass_ is obtained
by a mixture of metallic oxides whilst in a state of fusion. This
colouring pervades the substance of the glass and becomes incorporated
with it."[1] It is termed "pot-metal." An examination of such a piece of
glass will show it to be full of varieties of a given colour, uneven in
thickness, full of little air-bubbles and other accidents which cause
the rays of light to play in and through it with endless variety of
effect. It is the exact opposite to the clear sheet of ordinary
window-glass.

To build up a decorative work (and such a form of expression may be
found very appropriate in this craft) in coloured glass, the pieces
must be carefully selected, the gradations of tint in a given piece
being made use of to gain the result aimed at. The leaded "canes" by
which the whole is held together are made use of to aid the effect. Fine
lines and hatchings are painted as with "silver stain," and in this
respect only is there any approach to enamelling in the making of a
coloured glass window. The glass mosaic as above described is held in
its place in the window by horizontal iron bars, and the position of
these is a matter of some importance, and is by no means overlooked by
the artist in considering the effect of his finished work. A
well-designed coloured glass window is, in fact, like nothing else in
the world but itself. It is not only a mosaic; it is not merely a
picture. It is the honest outcome of the use of glass for making a
beautiful window which shall transmit light and not look like anything
but what it is. The effect of the work is obtained by the contrast of
the rich colours of the pot-metal with the pearly tones of the clear
glass.

We must now describe a _painted_ window, so that the distinction between
a coloured and a painted window may be clearly made out. Quoting from
the same book as before - "To paint glass the artist uses a plate of
translucent glass, and applies the design and colouring with vitrifiable
colours. These colours, true enamels, are the product of metallic oxides
combined with vitreous compounds called fluxes. Through the medium of
these, assisted by a strong heat, the colouring matters are fixed upon
the plate of glass." In the painted window we are invited to forget that
glass is being used. Shadows are obtained by loading the surface with
enamel colours; the fullest rotundity of modelling is aimed at; the lead
and iron so essentially necessary to the construction and safety of the
window are concealed with extraordinary skill and ingenuity. The
spectator perceives a hole in the wall with a very indifferent picture
in it - overdone in the high lights, smoky and unpleasant in the shadows,
in no sense decorative. We need concern ourselves no more with painted
windows; they are thoroughly false and unworthy of consideration.

Of coloured or stained windows, as they are more commonly called, many
are made, mostly bad, but there are amongst us a few who know how to
make them well, and these are better than any made elsewhere in Europe
at this time.

SOMERS CLARKE.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] _Industrial Arts_, "Historical Sketches," p. 195, published for the
Committee of Council on Education. Chapman and Hall.




TABLE GLASS


Few materials lend themselves more readily to the skill of the craftsman
than glass. The fluid or viscous condition of the "metal" as it comes
from the "pot," the way in which it is shaped by the breath of the
craftsman, and by his skill in making use of centrifugal force, these
and many other things too numerous to mention are all manifested in the
triumphs of the Venetian glass-blower. At the first glance we see that
the vessel he has made is of a material once liquid. He takes the
fullest advantage of the conditions under which he works, and the
result is a beautiful thing which can be produced in but one way.

For many centuries the old methods were followed, but with the power to
produce the "metal," or glass of extreme purity and transparency, came
the desire to leave the old paths, and produce work in imitation of
crystal. The wheel came into play, and cut and engraved glass became
general. At first there was nothing but a genuine advance or variation
on the old modes.

The specimens of clear glass made at the end of the seventeenth and
beginning of the eighteenth centuries are well designed to suit the
capabilities of the material. The form given to the liquid metal by the
craftsman's skill is still manifest, its delicate transparency
accentuated here and there by cutting the surface into small facets, or
engraving upon it graceful designs; but as skill increased so taste
degraded. The graceful outlines and natural curves of the old workers
gave place to distortions of line but too common in all decorative works
of the period. A little later and the material was produced in mere
lumps, cut and tormented into a thousand surfaces, suggesting that the
work was made from the solid, as, in part, it was. This miserable stuff
reached its climax in the early years of the present reign.

Since then a great reaction has taken place. For example, the old
decanter, a massive lump of misshapen material better suited to the
purpose of braining a burglar than decorating a table, has given place
to a light and gracefully formed vessel, covered in many cases with
well-designed surface engraving, and thoroughly suited both to the uses
it is intended to fulfil and the material of which it is made. And not
only so, but a distinct variation and development upon the old types has
been made. The works produced have not been merely copies, but they have
their own character. It is not necessary to describe the craft of the
glass-blower. It is sufficient to say that he deals with a material
which, when it comes to his hands, is a liquid, solidifying rapidly on
exposure to the air; that there is hardly a limit to the delicacy of the
film that can be made; and, in addition to using a material of one
colour, different colours can be laid one over the other, the outer ones
being afterwards cut through by the wheel, leaving a pattern in one
colour on a ground of another.

There has developed itself of late an unfortunate tendency to stray from
the path of improvement,[1] but a due consideration on the part both of
the purchaser and of the craftsman of how the material should be used
will result, it may be hoped, in farther advances on the right road.

SOMERS CLARKE.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Novelty rather than improvement is the rock on which our craftsmen
are but too often wrecked.




PRINTING


Printing, in the only sense with which we are at present concerned,
differs from most if not from all the arts and crafts represented in the
Exhibition in being comparatively modern. For although the Chinese took
impressions from wood blocks engraved in relief for centuries before the
wood-cutters of the Netherlands, by a similar process, produced the
block books, which were the immediate predecessors of the true printed
book, the invention of movable metal letters in the middle of the
fifteenth century may justly be considered as the invention of the art
of printing. And it is worth mention in passing that, as an example of
fine typography, the earliest book printed with movable types, the
Gutenberg, or "forty-two line Bible" of about 1455, has never been
surpassed.

Printing, then, for our purpose, may be considered as the art of making
books by means of movable types. Now, as all books not primarily
intended as picture-books consist principally of types composed to form
letterpress, it is of the first importance that the letter used should
be fine in form; especially as no more time is occupied, or cost
incurred, in casting, setting, or printing beautiful letters than in the
same operations with ugly ones. And it was a matter of course that in
the Middle Ages, when the craftsmen took care that beautiful form should
always be a part of their productions whatever they were, the forms of
printed letters should be beautiful, and that their arrangement on the
page should be reasonable and a help to the shapeliness of the letters
themselves. The Middle Ages brought caligraphy to perfection, and it was
natural therefore that the forms of printed letters should follow more
or less closely those of the written character, and they followed them
very closely. The first books were printed in black letter, _i.e._ the
letter which was a Gothic development of the ancient Roman character,
and which developed more completely and satisfactorily on the side of
the "lower-case" than the capital letters; the "lower-case" being in
fact invented in the _early_ Middle Ages. The earliest book printed with
movable type, the aforesaid Gutenberg Bible, is printed in letters which
are an exact imitation of the more formal ecclesiastical writing which
obtained at that time; this has since been called "missal type," and was
in fact the kind of letter used in the many splendid missals, psalters,
etc., produced by printing in the fifteenth century. But the first Bible
actually dated (which also was printed at Maintz by Peter Schoeffer in
the year 1462) imitates a much freer hand, simpler, rounder, and less
_spiky_, and therefore far pleasanter and easier to read. On the whole
the type of this book may be considered the _ne-plus-ultra_ of Gothic
type, especially as regards the lower-case letters; and type very
similar was used during the next fifteen or twenty years not only by
Schoeffer, but by printers in Strasburg, Basle, Paris, Lubeck, and


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