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Studio: international art — 12.1898

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A Visit to Essex House


HE GUILD OF HAND I- room and workshop combined, was inaugurated
CRAFT : A VISIT TO ESSEX about midsummer of 1888. For two years the
HOUSE. experiment was to be tried, a small subscribing

public supplying the funds. On its first anniver-
The Guild of Handicraft is an insti- sary the guildsmen numbered eight, while the
tution which owed its initiation wholly, and its school had increased to an average of seventy
continuance largely, to the enthusiastic energy of pupils. The scheme was now fairly under weigh.
Mr. C. R. Ashbee. It had its earliest beginnings There was the Guild or productive workshop, and
in a small Ruskin class of three pupils, which Mr. the school. The general intention was to attract
Ashbee conducted at Toynbee Hall while still him- young journeymen and give them some idea of
self in the office of Mr. Bodley, the well-known design in its application to the industry in which
architect. The study of Ruskin aroused the latent they were engaged. Three forms of work were
enthusiasms which struggled for expression in the undertaken by the Guild for public sale—wood
efforts of a class for the study of design. The class work, metal work, and decorative painting—while
grew to thirty men and boys, who came to feel that in the classes were men engaged in almost every
design without application was
as nothing. Fulfilment, there-
fore, was imperative, and a
piece of practical work which
involved modelling, plaster
casting, painting, gilding, and
the study of heraldic forms,
was by the corporate efforts of
the whole school at last pro-
duced. This effort was still of
its sort an academic one, but
a strong desire manifested itself
that the productions of the
class should find a use in the
world—in short, that the work
might be made to pay, or at
least to pay its way. The
teaching spirit was strong,
however, and continued during
a period of nine years, until in
fact its maintenance was ren-
dered impossible by the estab-
lishment of technical schools
by the County Council. The
idea of the Guild was that a
school should be carried on in
connection with a workshop,
that the craftsmen in the work-
shop should teach; that the
pupils should be drafted into
the workshop as work extended
or occasion arose. The classes
continued to increase till room
was needed for extension.
Toynbee Hall was therefore
abandoned, the Guild finding
itself a home at the top of a
large warehouse in Commercial
Street. This place, school- "wood-carving at essex house" drawn by george Thomson
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