things were made and consumed had arisen in a period

The machine, of course, was to win. Technological imperatives and the drive for profit, rather than the human needs of workers determined production processes. In 1908, during an economic downturn, Ashbee's Guild was forced to close, though individual craft workers stayed on in Chipping Campden. With hindsight it is evident that the economic odds were stacked against the Guild of Handicraft; indeed it is a tribute to Ashbee and the Guild members that it survived so long.


Arts and Crafts' protest against how things were made and consumed had arisen in a period when the capitalist tiffany seemed to be stagnating. In the years of the Great Depression an excess of competition was reducing the profitability of commodities. However, from the mid 1890s, capital was finding ways of increasing productivity through technological innovation and new kinds of organization of the labour process. A 'second Industrial Revolution' was underway and nowhere was it more evident than in the United States, able to attract wave upon wave of young eager immigrant labour and able to rely on a vast internal market. By 1920 the vibrant, if brutal, American economy had overtaken Britain to become the main global power. Against the mighty Massachusetts mills, arts and crafts workshops looked puny indeed.


The social vision of Ashbee's Guild of Handicraft, with its emphasis on every worker as an individual with creative tiffany bangle came to seem irrelevant in the era between the wars when scientific management ruled supreme. The argument over the relation of craft skill to the machine was increasingly fought out on the sidelines of the productive system in craft workshops which were divorced from production. Henceforth modernity belonged to the machine, rather than the establishment of new patterns of work for all workers. Over time Ashbee would move closer towards Walter Gropius' early vision of the Bauhaus - the designer-craft worker in close connection to modern industry, attuned to, rather than subordinated by, technology. Mass production had become an established fact which might be modified but was not going to be transformed.


Towards the end of the 1930s in Britain and in North America, clashes between labour and capital eventually forced big employers to concede higher wages and shorter hours. This new working class, having learned the rules of the game, knew how to bargain for cash and time through increasing productivity. They were not out to make labour more tiffany ring, they were after monetary rewards and leisure.The Arts and Crafts Movement, along with the simple life associated with it, came to seem cranky and backward-looking.


In recent decades however the social wing of the Movement that Ashbee represented can be seen as containing a critique of production for production's sake. Modern capitalism has proved adept at generating things and devising new types of technology, yet the escalation of productive capacity has not been accompanied by a corresponding enhancement in the quality of human relationships and daily life. New technology determines the patterns of work in more and more kinds of jobs, including the professions. Instead of enabling human control and creativity, it increasingly tiffany bracelet how employees' activities are structured and how both public and private services are provided. Dissatisfaction with work and stress in the workplace are pervasive and go too deep to be wafted away by aromatherapy.


Hence the questions Ashbee posed about the purposes of production, about the workers' relation to technology, about the creative expression of skill and about the human relations of the work place are not of purely historical interest. Though the circumstances of the early twenty-first century differ, his preoccupations are still relevant. The arts and crafts effort to connect art, labour and living may have vanished into an underground stream for several decades, but it contains insights much needed today.

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