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Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

If you are interested in the Arts & Crafts Movement – a little or a lot – I heartily encourage you to give our small group tours a try. What makes a good trip? Lots of advance research. Unless you like to go to the same place over and over (I know many people who go to Paris every chance they get, for example), it’s disappointing to spend a lot of money and time visiting a new destination only to learn later that there were specific places you could have visited, but didn’t know about while you were there.

The truth about traveling is that it takes a lot of time and work to plan a trip to a new place. One can spend hours upon hours taking travel books out of the library, buying the ones you like best, talking with people who have been to the place(s) you’re going, reading comments on Trip Advisor, asking for advice from Trip Advisor contributors, making lists upon lists of things to do, and then finally making hotel and restaurant reservations. Private guides are wonderful but often expensive. Many people don’t have the time or don’t want to spend that much time planning their own trips.

Arts & Crafts Tours does all this advance planning for you and also gives you some free time for choosing your own restaurant for dinner or to go shopping if we are in towns or places big enough to make it worthwhile. Further, we never take more than 12 guests and sometimes our groups are smaller, so we can go places inaccessible to large bus groups.

Our tours are fun, well planned and you’ll learn something new almost every day.

Most of our advance planning work is done by Elaine with a lot of help from Peyton. Elaine has been offering these tours for more than 25 years. Over these years she has amassed an amazing network of contacts. These are people who are Arts & Crafts scholars, curators, authors and owners of private homes and art collections. We can therefore take you into places you would never be able to go on your own, and into public museums of all sizes in off-hours when the public is not admitted. You get to ask questions of people who really know the answers. We have also found that homeowners and curators are frequently so delighted to have knowledgeable people visiting, that they take the group into rooms not otherwise open to the public.

Elaine and Peyton have been friends for many years and as Peyton lives in London, and is a scholar and author of many books and articles related to the Arts & Crafts, he brings his own network of contacts to our planning. Together they select only guides who are knowledgeable and who are also engaging and fun to be with.

We don’t book hotels unless we have visited them, and usually have stayed in them. We reserve tables in restaurants we have visited before or have very positive references from people we trust. Further it is not unusual to have a reception, lunch or dinner in one or two of the private homes we visit. These experiences are a very special joy and are necessarily only available to small groups – we never take more than 12 guests.

It is our experience that people who come on our tours find our traveling pace not too slow and not too fast. We try to accommodate requests wherever possible. Often there is good collegial discussion on the coach rides as we travel to our next destination. After about the first day, we find that everyone is friendly and we often use place cards at dinner so that everyone gets to talk with new people and most people have an opportunity to talk with guides who are invited to have dinner with us. All our tours are escorted by at least two of us.

If you are an Arts & Crafts Movement enthusiast, or just curious about William Morris, C.F.A. Ashbee or Charles Rennie Macintosh, let us know. And please don‘t hesitate to come alone. As I said earlier, within hours you will have made new friends and as everyone has an interest in the Arts & Crafts, you will already have a lot to talk about. Our tours are fun, well planned and you’ll learn something new almost every day.

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William Morris and Edwin Lutyens in Normandy: “The Noblest Works of Human Invention”

William Morris and Edwin Lutyens in Normandy: “The Noblest Works of Human Invention”

William Morris and Edwin Lutyens in Normandy: “The Noblest Works of Human Invention”

As summer advances and turns into autumn a wide and impressive variety of tributes are being paid this year to the ten million soldiers who died during the First World War. The 8th of August marked the centenary of the Battle of Amiens, which, although not decisive in itself, is seen in the light of history as marking the beginning of the end of that war. The centenary was marked by a service in Amiens’ thirteenth century Cathedral attended by representatives of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United States, and the lead article in the London Times the following day commented that although the German generals did not lose the war at Amiens ‘they lost the will to win’. June next year will see another such landmark centenary, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, so what better moment to make a centennial visit to Normandy and Picardy?

We plan to follow in the footsteps of William Morris, who first visited Amiens with Edward Burne-Jones and Cormell Price in 1855; the cathedral inspired him to write ‘A Night in the Cathedral’, a short story which was published in the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine the following year. He later described the cathedrals of Amiens, Rouen and Beauvais as being among ‘the noblest works of human invention’, remarking of the latter that ‘seen by twilight its size gives one the impression almost of terror: one can scarcely believe it.’ William Burges was also an admirer, making four separate visits to Amiens and Rouen but, like Morris, he reserving his greatest admiration for Beauvais, which he visited no less than eleven times; on one of these occasions perching precariously on a scaffold the better to draw the cathedral’s mighty apse.

Claude Monet shared Morris’s love of Rouen with its craggy gothic facade, which he painted many times at different times of the day. Slightly north of Rouen and on the coast he also painted the church in the beautiful little village of Varengeville, where we will visit Le Bois des Moutiers, one of Sir Edwin Lutyens’s earliest and greatest country houses with gardens laid out by Gertrude Jeckyll. The house, built in 1898, was commissioned by Guillaume Mallet, who had purchased five hundred acres of virgin countryside falling away to the sea, where, in addition to the house, he created what are now world-renowned rhododendron and azalea gardens with the English Channel as a backdrop. The house is still in the possession of the family and we will be welcomed by the present occupant. In 1998, the centennial year of Le Bois des Moutiers, I had the good fortune to be Master of the Art Workers’ Guild (Lutyens had been Master in 1933) and organized an exhibition, encouraging members to produce work inspired by the house and gardens. For that summer the Guild lent to Le Bois des Moutiers the bust of William Morris, the portraits of Lutyens and Robert Anning Bell, whose polychrome plaster reliefs decorate the bedroom corridors, and the Master’s chair. The opening of the exhibition was celebrated with a concert of English music in the great, double-story music room, attended by the British ambassador and his wife, along with the préfet of the region and the mayor of Dieppe. That evening many speeches were made lauding l’esprit de Guillaume Morris.

Le Bois des Moutiers is the earliest but by no means the only building by Lutyens in Northern France as, in the wake of the First War, he became the principal architect for the British War Memorials, several of the most important of which, including the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, we will also be visiting. As Fiona MacCarthy so poignantly wrote in her 1994 biography of Morris ‘Those long straight roads of Northern France remained in Morris’s mind as they would remain in the memories of the English veterans of the First World War.’

Elaine and I will make a recce to Normandy and Picardy in October to scout out good hotels, plan our route and make further contacts with museum directors and others to ensure a very special tour for next June.

 

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The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

THE GOTHIC REVIVAL AND THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT
Peyton Skipwith

John Ruskin described Gothic as ‘not only the best but the only rational architecture… Undefined in its slope of the roof, height of shaft, breadth of the arch, or disposition of ground plan, it can shrink into a turret, expand into a hall, coil into a staircase, or spring into a spire, with undegraded grace and unexhausted energy.’ For many years I have described the Arts & Crafts Movement as being the secularisation of the Gothic Revival, while my old and much-lamented friend, Clive Wainwright, an inspired Keeper at the Victoria & Albert Museum, used to define it as ‘Gothic without the crockets’.

London's Houses of Parliament

Perhaps the most iconic British Gothic Revival building is the London’s Houses of Parliament.

During October I was lucky enough to be in Italy as well as Provence and Edinburgh, which set me musing. It was Ruskin’s love of Venetian and French Gothic that inspired Pugin and the Gothic Revival and it was the Gothic Revival in England that led, by evolution, to William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement – Scotland followed a little later, and for slightly different reasons.

Jessie King, who had been a fellow pupil with Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Glasgow School of Art, in her little book published by T.N. Foulis in 1910, dubbed Edinburgh The Grey City of the North. Why was it that it was in grey northern Europe rather than the sunny South that the seed of Gothic sprouted and blossomed into the Arts & Crafts? It can’t just have been the Protestant work ethic because the Cevennes, an hours drive from Uzés, a perfect Provençal medieval town, was a stronghold of Protestantism and, although it has a traditional pottery-making industry it has no vestiges of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Uzes, Old Town, Edinburgh

Uzés Old Town, Edinburgh

The old town of Edinburgh, like Uzés, is clustered around its castle which is perched on the summit of a grim volcanic outcrop rather than overlooking the lush vineyards of the Gard. As one climbs towards the Castle, with its lowering grey towers, turrets, spires and stairways one is as near being in a mediaeval city as the modern world allows, until one comes in sight of Ramsay Gardens, an extraordinary arts and crafts infil, or rather slum clearance and replacement, with its houses built in red ashlar with white harling, clinging to the hillside like birds’ nests on a cliff face.

Ramsay Gardens

Ramsay Gardens was the dreamchild of the visionary town planner, Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) and his wife. They were acutely aware that people, like bees, are social animals and, unlike most planners, were concerned with what he defined as ‘primary human needs’. To this end, rather than sweeping away the slums wholesale in the name of progress, he and his wife employed two little known local architects, Stewart Henbest Capper and Sydney Mitchell to create this imaginative scheme.

Geddes’ background and training was unusual. Although he never took a degree, he studied at the Royal College of Mines in London under T.H. Huxley in the 1870s, before moving on to University College as a demonstrator in the Department of Physiology, where he met Charles Darwin. At the end of the decade, he moved back to Scotland, first becoming Lecturer in Zoology at Edinburgh University, before being appointed to the Chair of Sociology at Dundee. A further Chair in Sociology was to follow when, in the wake of the First World War, he transferred for five years to the University of Bombay, before returning to Europe and founding Scots College at Montpelier.

His vision was always based on human values, in stark contrast to those of the next generation of planners inspired by Le Corbusier, whose Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, was built only fifteen years after Geddes’s death. Le Corbusier’s ideas, about buildings being machines for living in led inexorably, particularly in post-1945 Europe, to the creation of some of the most soulless cities ever built.

The Arts & Crafts Movement was always about human values rather than theories, whether in architecture, furniture design, textiles, metalware, pottery, printing or even garden design, which accounts for its enduring appeal. As D.H. Lawrence wrote:

‘Things men have made with wakened hands,
and put soft light into
Are awake through years with transferred touch,
and go on glowing
For long years.’

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The Influence of Architects on the Arts & Crafts Movement

The Influence of Architects on the Arts & Crafts Movement

Elaine’s and my recent research trip to Scotland started with a diversion to the heart of the Cotswolds where I was speaking in a symposium at Chipping Campden, one of England’s most beautiful and unspoilt small towns. Chipping Campden in its heyday in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries derived its wealth from the wool of the Cotswold sheep, which was exported all over Europe, but by the late nineteenth century this trade had declined and the great woollen mills were abandoned and empty.

It was these that attracted C.R. Ashbee and in 1902 he moved his Guild of Handicraft from London’s overcrowded East End, taking over the empty properties and establishing his various workshops, breathing new life into what was then an impoverished backwater. The silver workshop run by the Hart family, descendants of one of Ashbee’s original craftsmen, still continues to thrive in one of the mills, and two members of the Hart family also partook in the symposium, as did Ray Leigh, the Chairman of the Gordon Russell Museum at nearby Broadway who had given us such a marvelous talk and tour there for our May tour.

I first met Ray over forty years ago when he was Chairman of the Trustees of the Edward Barnsley Workshops at Froxfield in Hampshire. Edward was a scion of one of the great Arts and Crafts families; he had first come to Froxfield as a boy, but stayed on as foreman to oversee the building of the Gimson-designed Memorial Library at Bedales School. The work of Gimson and the Barnsleys – the ‘Cottswold banditti’, as they were described in another paper at the symposium – were at the very heart of the post-Morris generation of architects-cum-furniture designers.

Ray, a sprightly ninety-year-old, who could pass for a youthful seventy, could not stay for my talk as he had to chair another event, but afterwards when I sent him my text responded that he felt that I gone to the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement by including many of the key players. I had been talking about Ashbee and the London based Art Workers’ Guild, which some of you will have had the pleasure of visiting on one or another of Elaine’s Arts and Crafts Tours.

Like so much of the Arts and Crafts Movement, architecture was at the core of the Art Workers’ Guild, whose foundation was prompted by a group of young architects discontented with the official bodies whose responsibility should have been the fostering of unity within the arts – the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Academy particularly. That group of young architects – Mervyn Macartney, Gerald Horsley, Ernest Newton, E.S. Prior and W.R. Lethaby – approached Richard Norman Shaw for advice.

Norman Shaw (1831-1912) was an immensely respected and influential figure, architect of New Scotland Yard and Cragside, and, later, a large swathe of Piccadilly. Ernest Barnsley, Edward’s father, trained in his practice. Shaw pointed out that in France ‘Architects, Painters and Sculptors were trained in one common School of the Arts, and if Architecture in England was missing its way it was for the young men to bring her back from professionalism.’ By professionalism he meant the dead hand of conformity which stifled initiative. It was a call to arms and, as is recorded with exemplary precision in the Guild’s fiftieth anniversary volume: ‘On the evening of March 11th, 1884, between the hours of 8.00 and 9.00 the Art Workers’ Guild was given its name, its first rules, and its first members.’

Ashbee was not among the founders, but was elected later that year, proposed by Walter Crane and seconded by C.F.A. Voysey. Half-a-century later he recorded his memories of the first fifty Masters of the Guild, recalling William Morris reading a chapter of Brer Rabbit, Selwyn Image, whom he compared to Mr Pickwick, dispensing punch while wearing a lady’s flaxen wig, and William Blake Richmond modelling a mask and splashing about in liquid plaster at Toynbee Hall, where the Guild of Handicraft was founded. 

All these men – and later women – were doers. Sir Christopher Frayling, former Rector of London’s Royal College of Art, expounded a theory in a recent lecture at the Art Workers’ Guild that the original ‘three Rs’ were Reading, wRoughting and aRithmatic’, not ‘Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic’. Very possible as the act of making – wroughting – was more essential than the art of reading for a majority of the population before the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

One result of the symposium and talks by Mary Greensted and Annette Carruthers on Gimson and the Barnsleys was to get Elaine and me thinking we would offer a tour focusing on the work of Gimson and the Barnsleys for next year. And although the purpose of our trip to Scotland was to research sites and guides for our next year’s Private Presses and Private Libraries tour, we found there is much to see and discover about their work, not only in the Cotswolds but further north and as far as the Borders of Scotland. One of the places we visited, and stayed, was Marchmont House – and that is worthy of a separate blog, which will be upcoming soon.

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Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Arts & Crafts Homes - Cover - March Issue

I am so excited to announce that Arts & Crafts Tours has been featured in an upcoming article in the popular Arts & Crafts Homes and The Revival magazine!

Here is an excerpt of the article:

Organized in concert with historic houses, art museums, and preservation organizations, personalized tours normally are attended by just 12 people. A handful of tours each year are pre-planned; others are specially created for an individual or a group.”

Read the article titled Bespoke Tours for Serious Students in its entirety at the Arts & Crafts Homes website.

 

 

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What does a small group tour mean?

What does a small group tour mean?

What does a small group tour mean?

Lately I’ve been noticing a number of third-party tours being offered to the United Kingdom, all of them being promoted as “small” groups, where “small” seems to mean as many as 25 people! We thought you should know that with Arts & Crafts Tours we specialize in actual small groups. This means we never exceed more than 12 people in a group. That makes a big difference as you really get to know one another as well as the tour guides, lecturers, hosts and special guests who are at the very heart of our trips.

In 2017 we are offering several tours that we hope will appeal to a range of interests and passions. For those who love to see and learn about the incredible objects and ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement we have a unique tour planned in April 2017. The tour will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Court Barn museum, the work and ideals of Charles Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft along with works by several other Cotswold designers.

For those of you who would like to develop your embroidery skills we are offering our second tour with Elizabeth Elvin, the former Principal of the Royal School of Needlework, will be teaching new techniques, especially gold stitching. Nicola Jarvis will be working alongside Elizabeth on designing the embroidery. This tour in June 2017 will be based at Naworth Castle and there will be time for some local sightseeing.
If your passion rests more with architecture you may want to join us to explore some of the most exciting and innovative of the mid-19th century work in England’s second city – Liverpool. Home of many of the country’s leading industrialists, it and nearby Manchester, have a wealth of some of the work of the Pre-Raphaelite painters as well as the leading architects of the day. And you’ll also be able to spend time in Northern Wales seeing sites and collections that may be overlooked by most visitors.

In September, we will again be staying at Naworth Castle, as we are for Embroidery tour. This time you can explore your own design skills working with a variety of textiles and styles under the guidance of Malcolm Lochhead. We’ll have days out for inspiration and to view some of Malcolm’s own work in Bothwell and Durham. Be prepared to be inspired by the landscape and buildings and create your own marvelous textile.

Alas, we have not forgotten about Britain’s glorious gardens but that may have to wait until 2018. If there is anything else you’d like us to plan, just let us know. We hope one – or more – of these will entice you.

– Elaine

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