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Trades-Unionism



It must be obvious, too, that " Trades Unionism" of the present day cannot but be, in many of its effects, prejudicial to the industrial Arts. A movement which aims at reducing men of different intelligence and ability to a common standard, and which controls the amount of work done, and the price paid for it, whatever are its social or economical advantages, must have a deleterious influence upon the Art products of our time.

Writers on Art and manufactures, of varying eminence and opinion, are unanimous in pointing out the serious drawbacks to progress which will exist, so long as there is a demand for cheap and meretricious imitations of old furniture, as opposed to more simply made articles, designed in accordance with the purposes for which they are intended. Within the past few years a great many well directed endeavours have been made in England to improve design in furniture, and to revive something of the feeling of pride and ambition in his craft, which, in the old days of the Trade Guilds, animated our Jacobean joiner. One of the best directed of these enterprises is that of the " Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society," of which Mr. Walter Crane, A.R.W.S., is president, and which includes, in its committee and supporters, a great many influential names. As suggested on the " cover " of their Exhibition Catalogue, designed by the President, one chief aim of the Society is to link arm and arm " Design and Handicraft" by exhibiting only such articles as bear the names of individuals who, respectively, drew the design and carried it out: each craftsman has thus the credit and responsibility of his own part of the work, instead of the whole appearing as the production of Messrs. A. B. or C. D., who may have known nothing personally of the matter beyond generally directing the affairs of a large manufacturing or furnishing business.

In the catalogue published by this Society there are several .short and useful essays in which furniture is treated, generally and specifically, by capable writers, amongst whom are Mr. Walter Crane, Mr. Edward Prior, Mr. Halsey Ricardo, Mr. Reginald T. Blomfield, Mr. W. R. Letharby, Mr. J. H. Pollen, Mr. Stephen Webb, and Mr. T. G. Jackson, R.A., the order of names being that in which the several essays are arranged. This small but valuable contribution to the subject of design and manufacture of furniture, is full of interest, and points out the defects of our present system. Amongst other regrets, one of the writers (Mr. Halsey Ricardo) complains that the "transient tenure that most of us have in our dwellings, and the absorbing nature of the struggle that most of us have to make to win the necessary provisions of life, prevent our encouraging the manufacture of well wrought furniture. We mean to outgrow our houses - our lease expires after so many years, and then we shall want an entirely different class of furniture - consequently we purchase articles that have only sufficient life in them to last the brief period of our occupation, and are content to abide by the want of appropriateness or beauty, in the clear intention of some day surrounding ourselves with objects that shall be joys to us for the remainder of our life."



















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