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Edition 19: Outside The Obvious

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Page 276 of 282

he Shakers' motto, "hands to work, hearts to God" invokes explicitly a spiritual dimension to the act of making, in that utopian sect's celebrated case, the making of beautifully plain furniture notable for its "perfection" of form and craftsmanship. Arts & Crafts architect and furniture designer C.F.A. Voysey spoke of furniture a different way: "Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences." If that sentence sounds slightly flippant, like something from Oscar Wilde, think again. Voysey, son of the founder of the Theistic Church, was no stranger to the spirit; he once created a brass plate engraved around the rim with the motto "Head Hand Heart," in a strong, if perhaps unintentional echo of the Shakers. In any case, these three little words became the motto, in England, for the Society of Designers in 1896. They point to the Arts & Crafts movement's mission of unifying the things with which we live with certain noble, immaterial aspirations. The special devotion of the Arts & Crafts movement to the elevation of the applied arts speaks to the importance of the material companions—tables, chairs, lamps, rugs— that populate our lives. Such objects, inanimate as they may be, are not neutral; they breathe influence, good or ill, as Voysey noted. The task of the designer—handicraft or industrial—surpasses naked function. It is to surround us T Cover: a chair at Lismore Castle, Ireland HYLAND

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