The Guild of Handicraft

The Guild of Handicraft
3 records
C. R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft represents the United Kingdom’s most ambitious and influential venture into the simple life. Established in 1888 in the slums of London’s East End, the Guild moved to Chipping Campden in 1902. In the heart of the English countryside, in a hilly region known as the Cotswolds, Ashbee continued to pursue the three objectives stated in the guild’s first company catalogue: “1) a fair rate of wages, 2) a co-operative system among its members, 3) good working conditions.”

Although Ashbee was the Arts and Crafts leader most emphatic about the need for craftspeople to take pleasure in their work, he largely controlled the design aspects of the guild’s production himself. For a few years before its demise in 1908, however, the Guild of Handicraft did approach the dream of a rural, self-sustaining utopia, where art and life were fully integrated and a band of craftsmen-comrades worked together joyfully. Organized as a limited company, the guild granted shares of the company to each member according to his length of service. Activities such as drama, music, and calisthenics were practiced and taught to the local population, along with crafts classes. The guild ran a limited-edition press and made furniture, silver, jewelry, wrought iron, and a wide range of other metalwork.

- Wendy Kaplan (2005)