Arts & Crafts Artisans Stick Together

Because so much of our furniture is known for its Arts & Crafts style, we like to complement that look with other objects of the same genre. Go into any of our showrooms, and you’ll find beautiful lamps by the William Morris Studio, framed decorative tiles by Motawi Tileworks, pottery by Ephraim Faience, and clocks and bookends by Schlabaugh & Sons.

Interestingly enough, all these companies were formed in the ’80s and ’90s, exactly one century after the movement that inspired them. Let’s learn more about each one:

William Morris Studio:

William Morris, an artisan in Benicia, Calif., makes Arts and Crafts lamps that would make the original William Morris, the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, proud. The contemporary Morris says the two share kindred spirits, but he has no idea whether they share any blood relation. “I’ve never been interested in figuring it out,” he says. Growing up, he adds, the connection “never even crossed my mind … It doesn’t matter. I have my own voice.”

And what a clear, bright voice it is:

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

William Morris lamp

Morris and his wife, Renee, debuted their collection of lamps at the Baltimore Craft Show in 1994. Before that, he had been a precision shop machinist for 17 years, and was looking to do something more artistic. He works with glassmakers and potters such as Ephraim Faience Pottery on lamp vessel designs; once they send him the vessel, he creates the wooden base and caps. Renee crafts the shades from translucent mica and parchment, using leaves from their own backyard.

Because of his background, Morris says, “I have that skilled eye” to create his varied designs. “There’s no formula. I just know — it’s one of my gifts.”

Ephraim Faience

Kevin Hicks, the president and founder of Ephraim Faience, describes himself as “a farm boy who likes to play with mud.” Ephraim is a reference to the town in Wisconsin where one of the original partners wanted to locate the business, which current resides in Lake Mills, Wisc. Faience is an antique term that refers to earthenware pottery.

After several years of working in production-line pottery, he branched out on his own in 1996, seeking more creative freedom. He was drawn to the Arts & Crafts style because its philosophy (traditional craftsmanship as a reaction to the machine-driven Industrial Age) and its aesthetic (organic forms and materials) appealed to him.

Take a look at his response:

Spirit of the Prairie by Ephraim Faience Pottery

Spirit of the Prairie by Ephraim Faience Pottery

Tree of Hope by Ephraim Faience

Tree of Hope by Ephraim Faience

Prairie Clover by Ephraim Faience

Prairie Clover by Ephraim Faience

Ephraim Faience Pottery

Ephraim Faience Pottery

Because not many of the original potting techniques were documented, Kevin writes on his Web site that he enjoys experimenting with his own methods to replicate the old sculptural forms on his pottery. “It’s exciting when I start thinking of different ways I can use them,” he says.

Motawi Tileworks

Nawal Motawi and her brother Karim started their pottery in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1992, after Nawal had been inspired by a visit to the Pewabic Pottery in her college ceramics class. The Pewabic Pottery and Museum www.pewabic.com was founded in Detroit in 1903, during the height of the Arts & Crafts movement.

“My professor had just completed a gigantic tile mural created with Pewabic Pottery, which he took us all to see,” Nawal writes on the Motawi Web site, “and I immediately began to fantasize about someday making tilework like that!”

Here is the result:

May Basket by Motawi Tileworks

May Basket by Motawi Tileworks

March Balloons by Motawi Tileworks

March Balloons by Motawi Tileworks

Pine Landscape by Motawi Tileworks

Pine Landscape by Motawi Tileworks

Floral Trio by Motawi Tileworks

Floral Trio by Motawi Tileworks

Motawi is now a go-to pottery for Arts & Crafts tilework, and it collaborates with companies such as Schlabaugh & Sons, providing decorative tile for its clocks and bookends.

Schlabaugh & Sons

The Schlabaugh line of handcrafted gifts originated with the Schlabaugh siblings’ father, who used to have a large home construction business. John and Mark Schlabaugh would use wood scraps from the construction sites to make cutting boards, serving trays, and the like.

By 1981, their side hobby had gotten so popular that the entire company shifted focus, and Arts & Crafts became the predominant style of their work. With their construction background, John and Mark Schlabaugh became particularly interested in the work of California architects Greene & Greene, and the tile on their clocks is inspired from the front window of the Greene brothers’ famous Gamble House www.gamblehouse.org in Pasadena:

Greene & Greene Tile Pendulum Clock by Schlabaugh & Sons

Greene & Greene Tile Pendulum Clock by Schlabaugh & Sons

Motawi is the exclusive provider of tile for their products, general manager Jane Schlabaugh says. Take a look:

Arts & Crafts Tile Bookend by Schlabaugh & Sons

Arts & Crafts Tile Bookend by Schlabaugh & Sons

Craftsman Wall and Mantel Tile Clock by Schlabaugh & Sons

Craftsman Wall and Mantel Tile Clock by Schlabaugh & Sons

Greene & Greene Pendulum Clock w/Tile by Schlabaugh & Sons

Greene & Greene Pendulum Clock w/Tile by Schlabaugh & Sons

The craftsmanship behind this family-owned company in Kalona, Iowa, comes in part from its Amish-Mennonite heritage, says Jane, whose father-in-law was Amish. (Kolona, by the way, is located in the heart of Iowa’s Amish Country.)

“My father-in-law’s background as a young Amish boy has an influence on the craftsmanship, and our expectations of what craftsmanship is,” Jane says. “It’s very high quality. We tell our artisans, ‘If you’re not going to make something you are proud enough to display in your own home, then don’t sell it to anyone else.’ “

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