2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Table of Contents Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Selected Bibliography

Mary Given Sheerer initiated a new craft program at the College when she was unable to find acceptable commercial lampshades for the ceramic bases produced at the Pottery. Recalling the 1861 actions of William Morris, Sheerer found no alternative but to fabricate the shades herself. The first pierced brass lampshade was made by Sheerer in the early 1900's, the jewelry program initiated in 1909. (Sheerer also conducted courses in beading and leaded glass for the fabrication of lampshades, although little of this fragile work was done or survived.) The instant success of the jewelry program, accompanied by numerous orders, prompted Ellsworth Woodward to lament that "... it should have been introduced long ago."

Metal wares were made simply at the College, fashioned by cutting and polishing sheet brass or silver. According to a 1910 Ellsworth Woodward Womans Era article, "Girls become excellent silversmiths in the interests of personal adornment." It is entirely possible, however, that the more dangerous or technically demanding tasks, soldering for instance, were performed by local professional smiths. The theory makes sense since art school administrators were inclined to hire men to perform tasks deemed too risky or dirty for the female students. Equipment required for more sophisticated fabrication might also have been prohibitably expensive for the College.

There is also evidence to support that students manipulated ready-made items in the metal shop. It is unlikely that pieces requiring special equipment and techniques to fabricate, such as flatware and hollowware, were made at the College. Commercially-made spoons exist, however, that indicate the coeds hand-hammered them in the art school metal shop.

Although the needlework process had remained pre-industrial, needle arts were exceedingly popular during the Arts and Crafts revival. Traditionally a female skill, the work required little equipment and could be done anywhere. William Morris incorporated many textile arts into his home furnishings company including embroidery, fabric dyeing, and tapestry and rug-knotting. Morris taught his wife, Jane, medieval embroidery techniques. At the turn of the century, Morris’ daughter, May, herself an accomplished needlewoman, toured the United States to lecture on Arts and Crafts ideals, and in particular, embroidery.

The needleart program was begun at Newcomb in 1902 by the art department’s first instructor, Gertrude Roberts Smith. Like the pottery, both the materials and the underlying principles of fabrication remained well within the Arts and Crafts realm. Designs were inspired by natural, local motifs such as camellias, poinsettias and roses. And, as Gustav Stickley recommended in his Arts and Crafts publications, Newcomb used woven unbleached flax or linen to support silk floss worked in darning, satin and buttonhole stitches. Emphasizing simplicity and restraint, Stickley remarked that the embroidery of scarfs, table squares, luncheon and dinner sets, "is the kind of needlework that any woman can do."

The Newcomb embroideries were exquisitely and expertly executed. In 1910, Ellsworth Woodward boasted of their success, stating that "...the Art of Embroidery... is rapidly gaining in volume and popularity upon the pottery. Newcomb Embroidery has made for itself a leading position among the needle crafts of the land." Embroidered pieces were displayed with Newcomb pottery as early as the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Newcomb needlework was judged by jury, as the other crafts, before being sold in the art department sales room, or exhibited or retailed through arts and crafts societies and stores. Sadly, few of the surviving examples bear the embroidered signatures of the needleworker.

Drawstring Bag
Unidentified embroiderer

As literacy increased in the 19th century, the demand for more and cheaper books was met by mass-production, industrial printing techniques.

The art of making fine hand-crafted books was revived during the Arts and Crafts movement. William Morris founded his Kelmscott Press in 1890 and the following year in London published his first book, The Story of the Glittering Plain. Published the same year in Boston, Morris’ book inspired a new generation of private American printing houses, primarily in the Northeast and Midwest. The revival of fine printing came to be known as the "Kelmscott revival." The Roycroft Press in East Aurora, New York, brought more Arts and Crafts books to American households than any other press.

Although bookbinding was an early and successful Arts and Crafts industry, it was not added to the Newcomb crafts program until the fall of 1913. The bindery was under the direction of Lota Lee Troy, who studied at Columbia University not only with Arthur Wesley Dow, but also two well-known English book makers, Walter Roach and William Mason.

Like other revival art printers, Newcomb emulated the Gothic book style by using thick laid paper with deckle edges, heavily inked in medieval typeset and with woodcuts or engravings for illustrations. Students made their own decorative end papers, meticulously sewed the spines and hand-tooled the leather book covers.

Leather bound and tooled by Eunice Bassich
c. 1935

Leather bound and tooled by Lilian Rogers
c. 1935