Edward Barnsley in his Workshop
Artist(s): Edward Barnsley
Author(s): Annette Caruthers
Year published: 1992
Publisher: White Cockade Publishing
Publisher Location: Wendlebury, Oxfordshire
Total Pages: 208
Illustrations: Illustrated in black and white throughout
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The life and work of Edward Barnsley (1900-1987) has carried through to the present day the Arts and Crafts tradition in which he grew up. His father, Sidney Barnsley, was one of the major figures of the movement, and directly influenced by William Morris. Edward continued his work as a furniture designer, struggling to earn a living as a craftsman and convince others of the value of such a life.
In the lean times of the Depression the workshop came near to closure, but it survived to adapt to a new age. Economic necessity forced the introduction of machine-tools alongside the old skills of handwork and the understanding that went with them. This was a difficult compromise for Barnsley, but helped to foster a new individuality and elegance in his designs of the post-war period.
From the war years to the 1960s Barnsley was active in campaigns to secure the future of the crafts through the formation of the Crafts Centre and later the Crafts Council of Great Britain. During this time he was also an influential teacher at Loughborough College. His copious correspondence casts new light on the history of the twentieth-century craft organizations and the debates around the tangled issues of the crafts, design, industry and education.
Barnsley lived to see personal recognition and the craft revival of recent decades. His workshop in rural Hampshire, from which he and his craftsmen sent out thousands of fine pieces to give daily pleasure to those who live with them, runs on as an Educational Trust, still passing on skills of the highest order to new generations of pupils and apprentices.
This authoritative and readable study continues the story of Morris, Gimson and the Barnsleys, Ashbee, and other Victorian pioneers, and complements recent publications on Leach, Cardew, Gill and Russell. It examines the difficulties, and the rewards, of pursuing the Arts and Crafts ideal in the twentieth century.