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Author: Zoë Thomas

Women Art Workers constitutes the first comprehensive history of the network of women who worked at the heart of the English Arts and Crafts movement from the 1870s to the 1930s. Challenging the long-standing assumption that the Arts and Crafts simply revolved around celebrated male designers like William Morris, this book instead offers a new social and cultural account of the movement, which simultaneously reveals the breadth of the imprint of women art workers upon the making of modern society. Thomas provides unprecedented insight into how women – working in fields such as woodwork, textiles, sculpture, painting, and metalwork – navigated new authoritative roles as ‘art workers’ by asserting expertise across a range of interconnected cultures so often considered in isolation: from the artistic to the professional, intellectual, entrepreneurial, and domestic. Through examination of newly discovered institutional archives and private papers, and a wide range of unstudied advertisements, letters, manuals, photographs, and calling cards, Women Art Workers elucidates the critical importance of the spaces around which women conceptualised alternative creative and professional lifestyles: guild halls, exhibitions, homes, studios, workshops, and the cityscape. Shattering the traditional periodisation of the movement as ‘Victorian’, this research reveals that the early twentieth century was a critical juncture at which women art workers became ever more confident in promoting their own vision of the Arts and Crafts. Shaped by their precarious gendered positions, they opened up the movement to a wider range of social backgrounds and interests, and redirected the movement’s radical potential into contemporary women-centred causes.

Brenda M. King

The Arts and Crafts Movement was originally a British response to the generally poor state of the decorative arts and the exploitative conditions that produced them. In the latter half of the nineteenth century a disparate group of artists and designers found a common aim in their belief in the equality of the fine and applied arts. The ‘Movement’ as

in Silk and empire
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Zoë Thomas

core network of women in the Arts and Crafts movement, she constructed a life filled with achievements. Her experiences as an artist are a reminder of the central role class privilege has consistently played in enabling certain women to conceptualise and pursue lives as artists. When the journalist at the Sphere visited Hassall’s studio on Kensington Park Road, he felt the need to tell readers how he had ‘discovered’ to his joy that their ‘early childhood memories coincided’ because they had lived close to each other in the same wealthy district of West London when

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Zoë Thomas

tempera painter Christiana Herringham gave speeches to the crowd of visitors alongside architects W. R. Lethaby and Halsey Ricardo, book illustrator Walter Crane, and portrait painter William Rothenstein.1 The evening, which united key participants of the Art Workers’ Guild with leading women in the Arts and Crafts movement, appeared to mark a move away from the formal model of single-sex organisational socialising which had dominated the Victorian era, ostensibly ushering in a new egalitarian mixed-sex artistic culture at the dawn of the twentieth century

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Zoë Thomas

. Lowndes was one of many women in the Arts and Crafts movement who sought to reshape England’s exhibition culture for their own creative and professional needs. The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society is today portrayed as having been the movement’s ‘public face’ and ‘coherent public identity’ – the natural counterpart to the reclusive Art Workers’ Guild, conceptualised as the private heart of the movement.7 Yet analysing the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society as the exclusive, sole site where Arts and Crafts practitioners displayed and sold work, and spread the ethos of

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Abstract only
Zoë Thomas

Introduction The Arts and Crafts movement, work cultures, and the politics of gender I n London today there survive countless buildings which function as important architectural symbols of late nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury artistic culture. There is the Art Workers’ Guild’s purpose-built Hall at 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, which, to this day, houses meetings for ‘craftspeople and architects working at the highest levels of excellence in their professions’.1 The Hall has a rich history: it is the place where the most prestigious men associated with the

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Zoë Thomas

tell the men what is to be done.1 The Woman’s Signal was a publication keen to promote the new opportunities available for middle-class women wishing to work in the 1890s and clearly hoped to align Newman’s business with this politicised objective. But the interview also provides a rare glimpse of an unexplored world of women’s entrepreneurship in the arts, which deviates greatly from the dominant narrative of the English Arts and Crafts movement as revolving around the workshops of a small cluster of male designers such as William Morris. Most importantly, Newman

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Zoë Thomas

contradicts both its institutional policy towards exhibitions, discussed in Chapter 2, and the personal views of many members who had sought to avoid overtly feminised modes of artistic expression.   182    OU T OF T HE G U IL D HAL L AN D IN T O T H E C I TY So far, Women Art Workers has surveyed the artistic, professional world these women constructed through strategies relating to the use of space and the built environment. This final chapter considers how women’s professional engagement in the Arts and Crafts movement was influenced by the changing context of

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
Zoë Thomas

negative experience of unmarried life.19 Many women in the Arts and Crafts movement did not marry, but there is little evidence suggesting they wanted to marry or felt pressure to do so. Remaining unmarried could be an effective option for those wanting to live with another woman (as friends or in intimate and sexual relationships) or those wanting to remain independent, particularly before the Married Women’s Property Acts, when a woman’s property legally became her husband’s upon marriage. Groups such as the Women’s Guild of Arts – where unmarried women outnumbered

in Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
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Author: Brenda M. King

The collections of Indian silks made in the nineteenth century reveal the overwhelming evidence for the positive and unbroken appreciation of India's silk textiles over centuries by industrialists, educators, designers, theorists, museum curators and consumers. This book challenges the notion that Britain always exploited its empire. Silk was a labour intensive, luxury commodity that provided livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of workers in Indian and England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship were all part of the Anglo-Indian silk trade and were nurtured in the era of empire through mutually beneficial collaboration. Many silk manufacturers and design theorists who were consistent in their thinking and who wanted to make beautiful things in an ethical manner followed the ethics of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1836 the Central School of Art and Design was founded, followed by a branch in Spitalfields, then the centre of English silk production. The strong links between Indian designs, the English silk industry and prominent members of the English the arts and crafts movement led to the production of beautiful and luxurious textiles. The trade operated within and without the empire, according to its own dictates and prospered in the face of increasing competition from China and Japan. The book demonstrates that Indian silks were admired by English textile manufacturers both for their technical and aesthetic attributes, and for their ability to help undermine French supremacy in European silk production.