Craftsman, Mission, Arts and Crafts – Whats the difference?

24 Jan

People use the terms “Craftsman”, “Arts and Crafts” and “Mission” interchangeably to describe a popular style of the early 1900s; but what is the real difference amongst them? In this short article, I hope to spell out those distincitions.

arts and crafts chairArts and Crafts.

The Arts and Crafts style is the earliest of the three. This style began in England, Australia, America and Canada between 1880 and 1910 as a backlash response to the industrial revolution of the time. It was instigated in the 1860s by artist/write William Morris, who created the “Morris Chair” we still have with us today. The backlash was by artisans fighting back against “soul-less” mass-produced items from large factories. Also, it was a backlash against lavish ornamentation of the Victorian age. They were in favor of the master craftsman, who created all the parts of an item and assembled and finished it, with help from apprentices. This is in contrast to manufacturing plants, whose goal it was to turn out the most pieces possible.

The hallmarks of this movement was simplicity of form, to the point of exposed joinery, while emphasising the beauty of the material being used, primarily wood. They also brought in elements they found in British textiles that featured flora and fauna. Usually, they employed carvings, inlays, curvature and other ornamentation.

Machinery was not all together rejected by the craftsman; generally, they used it to lessen the mindless repetitive tasks at hand, such as sanding. Use of machines was generally kept to a minimum though.

In this photo, you can see the typyical hallmarks of an Arts and Crafts piece – the straight and curved lines, simpleness of form and intricate carving.

Mission ChairCraftsman.

In America, homes were built that tried to incorporate the stylings of the Arts and Crafts movement, with a modified interpretation, and it was called theCraftsman style; it is an American domestic architectural, interior design, and decorative arts style popular from the last years of the 19th century through the early years of the 20th century. The name comes from a popular magazine published in the early 1900s by furniture maker Gustav Stickley called The Craftsman. It was a great marketing term, as it evoked the image of the piece being made by hand by an artisian, which was exactly the case.

The design lines of the Craftsman style are generally thicker and larger than those of the Arts and Crafts style. Craftsman pieces typically did NOT use carving, inlay, curved boards, and other “decorations,” all of which Stickley was opposed to in his early years of production; however, Stickley’s designs evolved as well, and so it is hard to define a certain piece of furniture as “Stickley” over his 15-20 years of work, as it began to look more like Arts and Crafts in his later designs.

In this photo of a Morris Chair, you can see an example of the simple design, using straight lines and expose joinery with little embellishment that is so typical of the Craftsman movement.


Mission styling is the same as Craftsman. But how did this happen? A salesman of Stickley’s was travelling around, trying to sell some items out of Stickley’s catalog. Interviewed by a reporter, this salesman stated that there was a table like “that one” (pointing to a drawing in the catalog) ,  in a “Spanish Mission in southern California.” The newspaper had printed the story with the word “Mission” in the heading and sidebar, and it stuck.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 24, 2012 in BlogNotes, The Craftsman Style


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One response to “Craftsman, Mission, Arts and Crafts – Whats the difference?

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