More than just an aesthetic it's a way of life...
Most of us view the world we live in today through the seemingly limitless lenses of the screens that often occupy our hands, our homes and, subsequently, our minds. Yet, as many of us are beginning to realise, the endless capabilities of the vast, digital landscape we have at our fingertips can never truly make up for authentic inspiration derived from our surroundings; the beauty of the natural world within which we have all been gifted a place to live out our lives.
During an era in which most of our interactions are taking place online, it’s becoming more important than ever to relinquish our grips on the technology whose digital illusions we’ve come to rely on, and instead find the beauty in that which already surrounds us, that which already exists. Casting our gazes back over the aesthetic foundations we stand on as creatives, designers and even those simply wishing to align their personal space with their mind, body and soul is the first step of this process, and where better to start from than the ethos of the Arts and Crafts design movement?
With its origins as a socialist reaction against the late-Victorian, capitalist climate of industrialisation, the Arts and Crafts movement returned the attention of artists, poets, writers and philanthropists to the splendour of that which the natural world offers up to us for inspiration. Popularised by activists like William Morris, the artistic branch of the Arts and Crafts movement combined traditional, floral patterns and romantic styles with the work ethic of true craftsmanship.
Such practice eliminated the need for mass-production, allowing the life force of the natural world that has surrounded us for centuries to flow through every aspect of the design process, from initial inspiration and natural methods of crafting to resulting affinities with nature. Given the climate crisis we currently face all these decades later – a post-industrial crisis that the Arts and Crafts movement unknowingly but eerily attempted to prevent in the first place – it’s up to us to once again place the very same natural world at the centre of our discussions on sustainable design to ensure its life force goes on breathing and flourishing for even more centuries to come.
This isn’t to say that inspiration via Pinterest boards or an hourly scroll of Instagram aren’t valid ways of navigating our journeys with our own aesthetic desires; they’re certainly very efficient ways of exploring art and design we otherwise would never have known about. However, digital curation is ultimately confined by the four corners of our phones and tablets, so should not be the be-all and end-all of how we design the homely spaces that are vital to our prolonged health and happiness. This idea of prolonging should form the gentle thread that runs through all facets of Arts and Crafts-inspired design; preserving the natural world to which we owe so much by choosing to value the sustainability of old ways of reconnecting passion and nature.
Original archive piece.
Herein lie the foundations of environmentally conscious design, upon which we can understand the legacy of the Print Pattern Archive, the home of many timeless swatches of Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau textiles and patterns (see above). This abundant source of genuine, vintage prints derived from a diversity of eras continues to breathe new life into bespoke design practice, representing the longevity of craft-based textile and archival print design.
Seeing the impact of the Arts and Crafts movement on pieces in the archive fashioned as recently as the 1960s shows the potential of implementing a more natural aesthetic into the way we design the world around us, even as it modernises at a seemingly rapid pace. The nature deficit that plagues our society, especially its youngest members who have grown up with a tablet in their hands, is a problem that the legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement can approach with a warm embrace.
1960's Arts and Crafts revival wallpaper.
Inviting the patterns and prints that were born out of the mellow embers of Victorian-era resistance to industrial dominance into our modern, living spaces can help us all resist the urge to lean into the addictive, digital culture of today. Tracing the history of the value of nature in textile design through a resource like the Print Pattern Archive is a brilliant first step in the direction towards the windows of our safe havens that look out over the natural world from which we have so much to gain.
The Print Pattern Archive awaits your interest, ready to help you weave your own tales and experiences into the natural fabrics of the Arts and Crafts-inspired designs that have soothed the souls of people from all corners of modern society
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for bespoke commissions and print loans.