Sunday, 20 February 2011

Godfrey Blount's vision in 1898

I have found an article that nicely sums up Godfrey Blount's vision for the Haslemere Peasant Arts movement (I have, no doubt somewhat later than most people, just discovered that old newspapers back to 1800 can be browsed by your local library website!).
from Blount, Godfrey, Arbor Vitae, Fifield, 1899

The Standard wrote an article 'Reviving Village Industries' in 11th October 1898 that commented "the movement has already gone farther than many who have not watched it had any reason to suppose.  North, south and west remunerative work is being found for villagers in or near their homes, and the welfare of these little communities is thereby being greatly enhanced....In many instances, the village products have a character of their own, whether of design or material, and here factory competition is not feared.  As an example, we may mention the weaving industry at Haslemere, where Mr Godfrey Blount, the artist, with the co-operation of his artistic wife, designs the patterns, and these are woven into linens of all shades of colour by the village girls, who display much pride and pleasure in the results."

In response, Blount wrote a letter to The Standard which was published on 14th October, 1898, it was published with the title 'Rural Industries':

"To the Editor of the Standard

I have just read an Article in The Standard of Tuesday on the revival of village industries, in which my name occurs somewhat prominently.  Will you allow my modesty an opportunity of disclaiming any prominence in the practical conduct of this movement, and let me further add that the success it has achieved is entirely due to the disinterested energy of those “very well-meaning but inexperienced amateurs” who, all over the country, have felt inspired by the very uprofessional motive of sympathy with their poorer brethren, to try and make their lives happier?  We who recognise that this movement has more in it than the manufacture of knick-knacks, or the relief of temporary agricultural depression, believe that the altruistic spontaneity which dares to cope with economic problems has probably, in the long run, a better chance of solving them than the scientifically commercial business man would have.
from Blount, Godfrey, Arbor Vitae, Fifield, 1899

Indeed, the heart of the movement means in a great degree a revolution against professionalism in Art and in business, an assertion that the amateur is the only artist and the only merchant.  Its gospel is probably a strange one to these statistic-ridden days, though familiar enough in places and times when people who made things cared first to make them well.  It believes that commercial success is undesirable if it does not bring happiness with it, and that happiness does not depend so much on wages, as on the enthusiasm we should all have for our work.  That enthusiasm can only be permanently regained by employing a man’s imagination as well as his hands – in other words, by the substitution of hand crafts for steam crafts.

The subject is, of course, one that is capable of infinite discussion.  We do not pretend to prove our case to the satisfaction of the statistical economist because it is somewhat difficult to collect statistics about such an incalculable factor as happiness.  We do not pretend to have found a remedy for all the diseases of the Nineteenth Century, but we are certain that our motives are stronger than statistics, and our vision deeper, and we are content to leave the test of them to time.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Godfrey Blount
Haslemere, October 12 "


  1. I'm so happy to have found your blog, Kate, via John Hopper's Textile Blog. The letter above resonates so much with me today, as I start a handcrafts workshop in Turkey. My 'village' is Sultanahmet, in the center of megacity Istanbul, but the idea is the give local women the opportunity to work with their imagination and hands, not just for commerce but for "the enthusiasm we should all have for our work". Looking forward to reading more here!

  2. Delighted to be able to give you some 'village industry' inspiration!


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