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Craftsmanship and Influence of Industrial Revolution

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Craftsmanship and Influence of Industrial Revolution Essay

Table of contents

  1. Past
  2. The Industrial Revolution
  3. Arts and Crafts Movement
  4. WA-SABI


Crafts were around since the beginning of time or at least since the beginning of human. It was simply a way of surviving whether knapping flint into an arrow head to improve on hunting or stitching animal fur to battle the cold. Sennett claims in his book that the brain of human ancestors became larger after using their hand for other reasons than steadying of the moving body and that lead to humans using tools and developing a culture. (2008, p. 150). Handmaking was an essential part of human evolution that aloud humanity to be where we are right now.

Not only crafts helped humans to survive but also let then advance in education since sculpting and drawing was the only way of documenting any events and passing knowledge to next generations. For example, Venus of Willendorf (Figure 1) is an 4,5-inch figure of Venus estimated to be carved out of limestone between about 28,000 and 25,000 B.C. way before any written language existed. Some scientists hypothesize that the figurines may have been created as self-portraits by women and the complete lack of face explained simply by non-existence of mirrors.

Relationship between craft and technology was never as close as it was in ancient times. It went side by side because of what technology meant back then. For example, attaching stick to a stone made a hammer which was a huge technological upgrade from just a stone allowing person to hit an object with more force. Next step chipping side of a hammer and here is first axe – a piece of technology that opens the doors in a whole woodworking world. Separation began when technology got so advanced that it made some crafts not needed anymore. Like mid-5th millennium B.C. metal casting technology suppressed knapping flint and became craft itself.

A good craftsman was well respected occupation and it wasn’t so easy to become one. Firstly, tools ware not so easily accessible to practice specific crafts. Furthermore, you needed a teacher, master of a craft to share his knowledge what might be kept in his family for generations. Or travel the world to learn different techniques and expand your skill set. Like an education it was a big privilege. Today people can access almost unlimited information on any subject, share their knowledge with the world without even leaving the house. Antonio Stradivari

The Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution was an increase in production brought about by the use of machines and was characterized by the use of new energy sources that took place between 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going hand craft methods to new manufacturing processes using steam powered machines and the rise of factory system. Although, revolution was happening almost everywhere in the world, it started in Europe and especially Britain. (Britannica Academic 2008)

In pre-industrial world, there was a strong correlation between objects price and value. It wasn’t possible for something high quality to be cheap, simply because of highly priced artisan labour, expensive material transportation etc. Industrialisation made production, material transportation, coal mining etc. cheaper and faster, therefore more accessible to middle class people. Invention of a steam engine had such a huge impact on the world that even today we still use it. For example, most of electricity around the world whether it’s from coal or nuclear power is obtained just using steam engine technology.

Before that around 80% of all population was engaged in farming and lived in areas that were beneficial to agriculture. Increased used of machines over human or animal power in farming meant that less farm workers were needed and they could leave the land to industrial towns. However, cities became horrible place to live in because of air pollutions and dangerous work conditions in factories. Despite that percentage of people living in a city in Britain jumped from 15% in 1750 to 50% in 1850 and by 1900 it was over 85%. (Britannica Academic 2017)

In general, industrial revolution had a substantial positive influence towards technological progress, education, transportation and decrease in starvation however, it was also a beginning of consumerism, overcrowding in cities and poverty.

Since the industrial revolution?

Arts and Crafts Movement

Arts and Crafts movement was one of the most important and influential movement in design world and its values are still very applicable to this day. It started around 1870’s but quickly spread across Europe and America. Movement was aimed at the industrial revolution and consumerism that demoted craftsmanship. Two most associated figures were British designer, poet and entrepreneur William Morris and John Ruskin.

Morris saw himself as an artist and a poet. He was simply interested into making things for his own satisfaction or enjoyment of his friends. After his marriage Morris became obsess with a project of building and furnishing a family home in south east London called the Red House. Almost every piece of furniture in that house was designed and made by ether William himself or by his close friend the architect Philip Webb. The experience of building and fitting out (Britannica Academic 2016) John Ruskin


Perfection is usually associated with symmetry, precision, taut, harmonious shapes and western world often is looking for this in objects. Japanese have completely different view and it is called wabi-sabi. Imperfections, impermanence and modesty are valued in wabi-sabi. This idea comes from Buddhism and teaches to find beauty and piece in surrounding world (English 2016). However notion like this is impossible in today’s industrial world with mass produced object which are identical to one another. People are losing difference and diversity in products (McFarren 2015). „Traveling in was so more exciting in the past because anywhere you go everything is different.” Max Lamb

Wabi-Sabi becomes popular again in western world since the ideology shares same values as Makers movement.

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