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Arts and Craftsman: Simplicity, Honesty, and Truth to Materials

At the Farm House Museum
January 31 - October 2022



In the busy years after the American Industrial Revolution (1880-1920), household goods, furniture, and decorative arts were easily replicated, mass produced, and sold to consumers. Gone was the added benefit that a product was handmade or created in a shop by skilled artisans. This marks the dawn of machine-fabricated goods, often economically made and of a far lesser quality, to meet the continuously growing demand. As a result, there was a desire to break free from this new mold of inexpensively made products in an effort to bring back the handcrafted quality of decades previous, to return to the aesthetic honesty of pre-Industrial design. Backed by a new philosophy and simplified designs, these artisans, studios, and companies used a new Modern Style embracing a type of renaissance with inspirations from medieval, romantic, and folk-art styles of decoration. Prominent thinkers, artists, craftsman and companies included: theorist John Ruskin, designers William Morris and Charles Eastlake; architect Frank Lloyd Wright, furniture designer Gustav Stickley; Tiffany Studios; the ceramic studios of Pewabic, Rookwood, Newcomb and Weller; and the Roycrofter reformist community of craft workers and artists based in East Aurora, New York.

Flourishing in Europe by the 1860s, and reaching international popularity in the decades that followed, the first official American Arts and Crafts Exhibition took place on April 5, 1897. Held in Boston, it ignited the passions of others in this country to embrace these new styles and wares. In this seminal exhibition of the Arts and Crafts style, over half of the objects were made and designed by women, united in a male-dominated field by the joy of craftsmanship. This exhibition led to the founding of The Society of Arts and Crafts (SAC) on June 28, 1897, with a mission to “develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts.” In the Midwest, Chicago’s Arts and Crafts Society began at Hull House in October 1897, followed by the establishment of societies in Minneapolis, MN and other urban cities and rural towns. From coast to coast, examples of the American Arts and Crafts Movement can be found in architecture, works of art, literature, furniture, glass, ceramics, wallpapers, metalwork, textiles and other handcrafted wares.

Experience the Arts and Crafts Movement through a selection of furniture and decorative arts at the Farm House Museum appropriate to the Dean Charles Curtiss years of residence (1897-1947). The exhibition includes examples of lighting, pottery, furniture, glass, metalwork and books that highlight the craftsmanship and dedication to simplicity and materials that the movement is most celebrated for. 


TOP IMAGE: Dressing Table, 1900 by Roycroft. Wood. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Wallace Wright. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

SECOND IMAGE: Magazine Pedestal Stand, c. 1908-15 by Roycroft. White oak wood. Gift of David L. Shugart. In the permanent collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames Iowa.

THIRD IMAGE: Sideboard c.1915. On loan from a private collection.

FOURTH IMAGE: Vase, 1852-1947 by Johann Loetz Witwe. Glass and copper. Gift of the Robert A. Wright Estate, Carroll, Iowa. In memory of Robert A. Wright, Estyl M. Wright, Mrs. A.L. Wright and Mrs. Ella M. Burke. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa.

BELOW IMAGE: Dressing Table and Chair, c. 1900 by Roycroft. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Wallace Wright. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.




Exhibition Programs

Find full descriptions of programs on the University Museums Calendar. All programs are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required. Events listed below will be at the Farm House Museum unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. Check the University Museums Calendar and Facebook page for the latest events information.


Royal Craft: The History of the Roycroft through the Lens of Six Artworks
with Alan Nowicki, Roycroft Campus Program Director

Thursday, February 10, 5:30-6:30 pm

Elbert Hubbard was a Gilded Age businessman who left his industrial life to create the Roycroft, one of the first Arts and Crafts communities in America. A brief history of the site will be told through historical photographs and the examination of six works of art housed on the Campus. The story behind each of these unique artifacts is the tale of the Roycroft itself; from the philosophy of Hubbard, the ideals of the movement, the artists who created these objects, and its widespread appeal at the beginning of the 20th century. In conjunction with the exhibition Arts & Craftsman: Simplicity, honesty, and truth to materials in the Farm House Museum.

Click here to watch on YouTube

Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement
with Judith B. Tankard; Landscape Historian, Author, & Preservation Consultant

Sunday, March 6, 2:00-3:00 pm

The rich legacy of the Arts and Crafts Movement is most known for its influence on architecture and art; however, the movement also played an important role in the garden world by defining the garden as a harmonious component of the home. In Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Judith B. Tankard will survey the inspirations, characteristics, and development of garden design during the Arts and Crafts Movement. Tankard presents a selection of houses and gardens from the era, with an emphasis on the diversity of designers who helped forge a special approach to garden design. In conjunction with the exhibition Arts & Craftsman: Simplicity, honesty, and truth to materials in the Farm House Museum.

Click here to watch on YouTube


Open House Weekend

Saturday & Sunday, April 2 & 3, 1:00-4:00 pm

Having trouble getting to the museum during the week? Enjoy the Museums central campus locations and spring exhibitions during an open house weekend. At the Christian Petersen Art Museum see Julie Chang and All the Evils: Christian Petersen and the Art of War. At the Farm House Museum, the exhibition Arts & Craftsman: Simplicity, Honesty, and Truth to Materials will be open.


Reflections on Preservation from a Queer Public Historian
with Franklin Vagnone, President of Twisted Preservation Cultural Consulting

Thursday, April 14, 6:30-7:30 pm

Practicing both at the center of Preservation as well as in the margins, Vagnone will illustrate his experimental Public History work that often questions accepted professional best practices. PRESERVATION, CONSERVATION, PUBLIC HISTORY, SCULPTURE, CONTEMPORARY ART HAPPENINGS, and QUEER & MARGINAL NARRATIVES all are a part of Twisted Preservation's Practice. In conjunction with the Farm House Museum, Iowa State’s National Historic Landmark.

Click here to watch on YouTube

Visit the Farm House Museum

Hours: Monday-Friday, noon - 4:00 pm
Closed weekends and University Holidays
Address: 601 Farm House Lane, Ames
Admission: The cost is free, however there is a suggested donation of $8.

Exhibition and programs support provided by Carol Pletcher.

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