The riot of human imaginings

Something that always interests me is the riot of production of crafts that must have happened in the Victorian period.  We are used to seeing the Victorian period through the lens of movies, and it looks so wonderful, but I think that if actually confronted with real Victoriana that many of us would think it was not in the best of taste.

If you don’t believe me, please walk through an antique store and really look at what was in people’s houses.  The thing that comes to my mind is a red and dark wood upright couch and chair set in an antique store close to my house that is really and truly hideous.  Mass production takes some of the variety out of choice in what to have, and crafting puts it back — you can really make anything you want within the limits of your imagination, available supplies, and skill.  Some of the things people come up with may not be as well conceived as others.  Mass production is mediated through professional designers of various sorts.

There is of course no reason for anyone to go around being the crafting police and making people feel bad.  Everyone should get to make anything that makes them happy, but I think there is a reason that William Morris said “Have nothing in your house you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — It’s because there were so many ugly things in people’s houses — like crochet/beer can hats.

There was such variety in crafting then — embroidery, knitting, crochet, hairpin lace, other laces or various ilks, sewing, rug hooking, patchwork, and many others that don’t immediately come to mind.  All  those women without jobs (though I would hazard that jobs overall may be somewhat overrated), all producing as much as un-idle hands could day in and day out.

Consider for a moment that the Victorian period saw the invention of artificial dyes, perhaps most notably mauve.  It is no wonder that people got a little over excited.

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