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Arts & Crafts Design Paperback – August 1, 1995
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Top Customer Reviews
There are many valid methods and formulas for unlocking the secrets of design, but their practical application can often be vague. This is where Varnum succeeds in a big way - his rules are simple and easy to apply in the real world. They lay down an essential foundation for the beginning designer.
As much as I like Varnum's book though, I must interject a word of warning here. The basic rules of design (such as Varnum's) cannot be ignored, but they cannot be adhered to as if set in stone either. If intuition is not allowed to play a part in the creative process, your designs will likely appear sterile and lifeless. Intuition that is not tempered with an understanding of the basic rules though will falter and fall short. The rules and intuition need one another, but in the end intuition must be allowed to rule the day.
Louis Sullivan (who was called "the Master" by Frank Lloyd Wright's) said:
"......formulas are dangerous things. They are apt to prove the undoing of a genuine art, however helpful they may be in the beginning to the individual. The formula of an art remains and becomes more and more rigid with time, while the spirit of that art escapes and vanishes forever.Read more ›
It is written to a hands-on audinece, for people interested in creating items with the distinctive Arts& Crafts design detail.
Ceramics, jewelry, metal-smithing (copper) etc, are also covered in a very complete review of the Craftsman style esthetic. To the point of including color formulas for wood stains, ceramic glazes and building instructions for simple woodworking and metal fabrication projects.
THIS IS THE REAL THING!, Not a modern review, or opinion.
If you want a coffee table book with big color pictures,and not too many words, then move on to another selection.
If you need a concise beginner/intermediate source for Arts & Crafts era design elements, give this one a try....
Just in case you want to know a bit of why I have such a strong approval of this book, I have a background in art/architecture/design which started as I grew up in the Belmont Shores burb of Long Beach, CA...in a Craftsman Bungalow home. I have worked in the design trade for 20 years, with 2 Bungalow restoration projects currently in progress in California... it's an educated, and more importantly, an experienced opinion.
If you are a student or a trades person interested in the Arts & Crafts style, you will probably keep this book in reach as sourcebook.
Crafters, woodworkers, metal smith-ey, potters...will enjoy making one or two of the projects detailed in the chapters!
I was looking forward to an Arts and Crafts treat but, alas, received a thoroughly boring textbook full of questionable design theories and rules that are largely the author's pontifications. I have a university degree in art and am no stranger to professors, textbooks, theories, and rules. A really good professor needs no text. Thank God I didn't have Varnum as a professor!
Understand that Varnum wrote this text in 1916 and Hansen merely wrote the short preface to its reprint in 1995. This is an Industrial Arts Design textbook and not an art book, per se.
From start to finish this book is loaded with theoretical design minutia, formulae, and "rules," many of which have little obvious relevance to aesthetics. The text even includes test questions.
Aesthetics involves feelings and emotions, not cook-book formulae and rules. I am convinced that this book is the result of Varnum's inner need to organize the subject matter in his own mind rather than to impart knowledge and a "feel" for design to the reader or student. As such, it is both tedious reading and boring. I would rather suffer through another graduate statistics text than wade through Varnum's self-proclaimed rules, many of which are just Varnum's personal opinions and make no sense to me.
I give it a generous two stars because of the small pictures of furniture and fittings of the period scattered throughout the text. Save your money and buy one of the many good books on Stickley, Morris, Mackintosh, or the wonderful eras of Arts and Crafts, Craftsman, or Mission.
Al Thompson, Brady, Texas