Alan Crawford is a freelance writer. He is currently working on a history of the Arts & Crafts movement in England for Yale University Press, and on a new museum of twentieth-century crafts and design in the north Cotwolds.
Charles Ashbee believed that in a modern industrialized society every person must be an artist or else be reduced to a mechanical drudge. Guided by the Romantic ideals of Ruskin and Morris, he founded the Guild of Handicraft workshop in London in the 1880s; its crafts and plays, Wednesday suppers and river trips celebrated worker solidarity and the closeness of art to life. An architect, town planner, silversmith and social reformer, this Arts and Crafts pioneer created Chelsea townhouses with clever brick facades; he restored cottages, published fine editions of Erasmus and prayer books, and designed colorful necklaces modeled on Renaissance jewelry. While Ashbee's attempts to curtail the use of machinery and to promote craft guilds now seem quixotic, his versatile output was inspirational. In 1919 he traveled to Jerusalem at age 56 to repair the bazaars and build new city walls. More than 200 illustrations (20 in color) enliven a workmanlike biography. January 15