Book Reviews

The Arts & Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest
by Lawrence Kreisman and Glenn Mason

The history of the Arts & Crafts Movement has engaged the interest of many people for more than 100 years. The scope of the Movement is so broad and diverse that it can be challenging to define what is Arts and Crafts. How does a writer/researcher select the correct range of topics to create a complete and accurate picture of the whole?

Kreisman and Mason attempt to solve that dilemma by biting off only a small geographical chunk of the Arts & Crafts Movement and focusing their longstanding professional experience and personal interest on the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington and Oregon. With the help of many experts in both states, and particularly those in Seattle, Spokane, and Portland, they produce a compelling narrative that is particularly interesting to residents of the Pacific NW, and fills in a gap for the rest of us.

The book is organized into four sections. The first section concerns setting the stage for the Movement. The ideas and ideals espoused by the English Movement, which were then carried to the U.S., fell on fertile ground in Oregon and Washington. Close to the wilderness, but growing rapidly after the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905 and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909, it was a region ripe for the ideas encapsulated in the "simplicity" movement of the early years of the 20th century. As a result of the Northwest's proximity to California, well developed sea lanes on the West Coast, and exploding trade on the Pacific Rim, the flow of creativity in design, particularly the crafts and architecture, was significant. Modern communications, including magazines delivered by the US Postal Service, played a huge role in the diffusion of information from within the US and from abroad. As in other parts of the US, various Arts & Crafts societies were formed in the urban centers to encourage the development of craftsmanship, especially among the young. Kreisman and Mason do an excellent job of describing the range of societies and schools with programs that facilitated or produced high quality furniture, pottery, and metalwork. Many of the major players in the Pacific NW Movement are detailed.

In the second section, the focus is on architecture, which goes into detail regarding the design and construction of some of the finest houses and public buildings in the Northwest. Because the Northwest is relatively young architecturally, "old" houses are frequently bungalows from the first part of the 20th century. Furthermore, the natural world so treasured by the idealists of the Movement was literally just outside the front door in the Pacific Northwest. Kreisman and Mason discuss public buildings and residential architecture in great detail offering many beautiful photographs not published elsewhere to illustrate the breadth of design and craftsmanship found from architect-designed buildings to the kit homes of the regional as well as national manufacturers.

In section three, the authors shift their focus to the interior crafts of furniture, metalware, pottery, and textiles. The well-developed content on the handicrafts of the Northwest is particularly valuable because it exists nowhere else in the body of work on the Arts & Crafts Movement. Especially useful is the exploration of the contributions made by Pacific NW Native American tribes drawing on their own rich design heritage.

Section four covers the two-dimensional arts of painting, printmaking, and photography. Rather than relegating the painters and printmakers to an afterthought, Kreisman and Mason pay them appropriate homage. Beautifully illustrated examples from Glenn Mason's collection (which are used throughout the book) as well as photographs of some fine art paintings and photographs contributed by regional galleries and museums serve to underscore the high level of artistic achievement reached by Northwesterners.

Overall, the book is well designed and organized, profusely illustrated, and supported by a weighty bibliography of sources both primary and secondary. Any criticism of the volume derives only from the authors' primary focus on Seattle and Spokane with less focus on Oregon, particularly Portland and the Willamette Valley. (We readily admit our Willamette Valley bias.) Nevertheless, the range and depth of information will be valuable to anyone with an interest in the Arts & Crafts Movement and would be a wonderful addition to any collection on the subject.

Buy The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest.

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