North America Arts and Crafts

North America 1000 to the 17th century
Around the year 1000, the Vikings reached the north of the American continent under their leader Leif Erikson. They established a branch in what is now Newfoundland, which they called Vinland. The Aztec culture in Mexico ended in 1521 when the last Aztec ruler Cuáutemoc (1495-1525) surrendered to the Spanish under Hernán Cortés (1485-1547). Before the “discovery” by the Europeans, there were numerous Indian tribes in North America. The Indian cultures in North America were completely destroyed by the white immigrants in the course of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and most of the native people were murdered.

The continent was discovered for Europe in 1492 by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) with the three sailing ships “Santa Maria”, “Nina” and “Pinta”. He mistakenly believed that he had found a new route to India. The term Indian for the residents of the continent goes back to Columbus’ mistake that he was in India. The subsequent occupation and economic development of the North American continent was marked by rivalries between the European trading powers Spain, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. In the middle of the 16th century, European immigrants began to settle in North America. In 1565, Spanish settlers founded the first European settlement on the continent in what is now St. Augustine in Florida.

  • Countryaah is a website offering country profiles and lists of of countries in the continent of North America.

The first English permanent settlement was founded in Jamestown on the James River in the US state of Virginia on May 13, 1607 by the Pilgrim Fathers from England. Jamestown is about 250 km south of Washington. The settlement was later named after King James I or Jacob (1566-1625), the successor to Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603).

In the 17th century, economic grievances in Europe with impoverishment of the rural population and high unemployment in the cities led to large flows of immigrants. Many of the immigrants were Puritans. The first English settlement in Virginia was Jamestown in 1606. A great wave of immigration followed in 1620 with the Mayflower in what is now Massachusetts by the so-called Pilgrim Fathers. They founded the Plymouth settlement. In 1630 a larger settlement emerged in the region of what is now Boston. As early as 1635, some of the settlers there also emigrated to the Connecticut area.

The English colonies developed three main regions on the American mainland: The south (Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia) was characterized by plantation economy (tobacco, rice) and slavery. In the New England colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire) trade, fishing and shipping flourished. The third region was the Central Atlantic colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware), where both trade and agriculture were carried out.

The number of indigenous people living in North America at the time of the arrival of Europeans is now estimated to be around three million. Many Indian tribes were already decimated at the beginning of the colonial period by infectious diseases (especially smallpox). In the 17th century the European colonialists began to displace and exterminate the Indians, the full extent of which is still unknown to the public. In order to make the murder of the aborigines appear as insignificant as possible, the population figures for the period before 1492 were downplayed by American authorities into the 20th century. In 1890, the US census registered just under 240,000 Native Americans living in the US. Today there are again about 1.5 million Indians living in the United States of America.

Crafts and industrial design in North America

In New England and along the east coast of North America, European colonial-style interior design was mirrored, primarily based on the English housing conditions of the 17th and 18th centuries. The simple shapes of the furniture retreated to the low-bourgeois cromwell style, but high-rise furniture also existed, especially in the southern colonies. At the same time as the tradition of tradition was great, new motifs were added and blended into the style, which gained a strong national character. Of individual furniture types, the English double agency highboy became especially popular; often it was performed in pairs with a lower variant, lowboy. Three-legged monks and armchairs of old-fashioned, almost medieval, character lived for a long time but were supplanted in the 18th century by the windsor chair, which also appeared in the form of rocking chair. During the second half of the century, the furniture carpenters received new style impulses from British furniture artists Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. The simple single bed (see bed), which sought the wall-fixed bed of the pioneer era, was at the same time replaced by a barbed bed with or without sky, so-called fourposts; the type is still very common in American homes. Significant was also the exquisite handicraft made by shakers, and where usability, simplicity and beauty were united in unmatched symbiosis. Adherence to the legacy of the 18th century and the early 19th century is in general an important factor in the North American furniture culture and is met through an extensive production of style furniture.

Among the other branches of the arts, the silversmith was the first to be established, with the New England Society as a strong customer base. Some of the immigrant goldsmiths who settled in New York were Huguenots, which led to some French features in the most elaborate English-embossed fabrication with the Georgian Baroque as the ruling style. The most famous of the goldsmiths of the time was Paul Revere.

The best period of pottery was around the mid-1800’s, when a company in Bennington, Vermont, developed a parian-like porcelain of high quality. The production, which followed British models, consisted of household utensils and decorative objects, often with relief decorations against blue foundations, as well as figurines, mainly children, birds and pets.

Also in the art of glass came the center of gravity in the 19th century. Machine pressing of glass, which is an American invention, was patented in the 1820’s and quickly gained worldwide reach. Except for glass presses, large quantities of mold-blown bottles were produced, most of them pocketpieces decorated with relief images of presidents, historical events, etc. One of the most well-known is the Jenny Lind bottle with portraits of the United States immensely celebrated singer.

By the turn of the 1900’s, the British Arts and Crafts movement received strong response in the United States. Exclusive craft furniture and furnishings, often Japanese inspired, were created by brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright. The most famous of the American artisans of the time was Louis Comfort Tiffany, who made exquisite iridescent art glass and lampshades with leaded glass inserts.

The United States is also the home country of mass production. The streamline form, borrowed from aircraft and racing cars and transmitted to every imaginable object, became a symbol of the dynamics of modern times. “The most beautiful curve is the growing sales curve,” said Raymond Loewy, one of the world’s leading industrial designers of all time; The American pioneer generation also included Harley Earl, Walter Dorwin Teague and Norman Bel Geddes.

Another, more “ethical” line in American design came from Bauhaus in Germany. Following Hitler’s takeover of power, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer over their operations to the United States. Around 1950, these European functionalists created several of the most significant works in international style.

During the 1950’s, the Cranbrook Academy of Art became a greenhouse for new design. The school’s artistic director Eero Saarinen, together with Charles Eames, developed organically shaped low-price furniture, advanced in both design and technical terms. The arts and crafts also experienced a new period of vitality during the 1960’s. When the industry took care of the commodities, the craft approached art and became experimental and cross-border. Among the newcomers were glass artist Harvey Littleton and ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos.

Crafts and industrial design in North America

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