The Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College, dedicated to WNY art since 1966, is the home of a substantial collection of Roycroft objects, books and magazines which are often shown in specially curated exhibits in the gallery.
An object in the current exhibit had this quote from Roycroft founder Elbert Hubbard: “you cannot get joy from feeding things into a machine all day. You must let the man work with hand and brain, & out of the marriage of hand and brain beauty will be born.”
Recently, on Tom Ashbrook's NPR program, On Point, I heard discussion of a book, “The Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, which examines how digital technology will bring great change just as steam technology did for the Industrial Revolution. The authors warn that “there is never a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”
During the program’s discussion, several individuals called in who work with their hands making artisan goods and I was reminded of the Arts & Crafts Movement’s reaction against the Industrial Revolution which we are so familiar with at the Roycroft.
I think that we all must be as versatile and flexible as Elbert was in his day - learning, evolving with and using technology to our best advantage while continuing to pursue the satisfaction of creativity.
Elbert and Alice at work, probably reviewing a proof of the Fra together on the Roycroft Campus. Alice began working with Elbert, critiquing his writing, and serving as his muse, long before the Roycroft existed. She encouraged him to leave the Larkin Soap Company and go to Harvard to develop his writing.
Soon thousands of Arts & Crafts devotees will be making their way to Asheville, North Carolina for the February Arts & Crafts Conference (Feb. 20-23) at the Grove Park Inn, where the Roycrofters work can still be seen.
In 1912 the Roycrofters of East Aurora received a large commission for over 700 lighting and 700 furniture pieces for the Grove Park Inn. Fred Seely, one of the developers for the project, was a Roycroft fan, who personally owned Roycroft furniture and lobbied for purchasing all Roycroft furnishings for the Inn. The East Aurora shops could not handle such a large order, so they elected to do the public space furniture only.
Today, massive Roycroft grandfather clocks continue to stand guard in the main lobby and enormous Roycroft chandeliers hang overhead.
The Roycroft Campus Corporation always sends representatives to this annual event. Look for the RCC booth at the conference.