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Art and Craft


…and the Craft of Art

“I am thinking of architecture all the time I am awake.” — Ernest Gimson

The evolving story of architect and native son Anson Tennant has made him more than a “one-hit wonder”: He gained a backstory and found a future, for which I am grateful to Dr Bob. The good doctor’s query, “Does he have to die?”, rescued Anson from the Lusitania and gave him a family of his own — a wife, children, a trade. His architectural practice began officially in 1912, in office space bartered in the Wasserman Block for professional services. And that space, with its Dutch door and stained glass window — his window on the world — served another related purpose when his family thought he’d gone down with the ship.

The psychology behind that choice — what to do with a substantial physical artifact that would remind his family every day of their loss — presented three options: #1) preserve Anson’s office as a mausoleum, filled with “him” but not himself; #2) retrieve and few special objects, meaningful to the office, and have a garage sale, neither of which were particularly attractive. Option #3 developed from a suggestion outside the family: Anson “died” on his way to England (with shipmates Mr and Mrs Elbert Hubbard, who were lost at sea) to meet figures of the Arts & Crafts movement and see firsthand some of their product, and bring that philosophy home. So, Martha and Jim and some of their friends established an Arts & Crafts Society and endowed it with the office-apartment Anson had created as studio; a place to meet, to present lectures and exhibits (albeit for small audiences); and to offer a place for visiting craftspeople to stay during their time in Agincourt.

As with so many other aspects of community development — people, places, things, events, rumors, love and death — it put our minds in motion. How would this infant institution function? Who would become its operatives? What would be its/their program(me, for British readers)? I have some notions.

Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect

A very recent book on Ernest Gimson by Annette Carruthers and two co-authors is one of the most comprehensive treatments of any character of the British A&C movement, save William Morris himself. Gimson may not have been a household word here in the U.S. but his case is a persuasive one, crammed with ideas to harvest and transplant in Midwestern soil — with apologies for the agricultural metaphor.

There are some characters already present to be involved with this. Others will emerge as the writing progresses. Feel free to share your own ideas. [I make that offer often but few take me up on it.]

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