Craft Horizons Digitization

Craft Horizons Digitization

Craft Horizons, February 1946

“Crafts in a German P.O.W. Camp,” Craft Horizons February 1946

Here in the American Craft Council Library, work continues on our digitization project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Treasures abound, including our newly added and highly anticipated selection of Craft Horizons (now American Craft). Twenty-five years of articles by and about the most notable artists in contemporary craft history are now yours for the reading. Here are a few of our favorites:

Originally, Craft Horizons was a teaching publication written primarily for artists. In the 1940s, there was a series of articles titled “Suggestions: A Department Devoted to True Craftsmanship and Design.” Ceramists, metalworkers, woodworkers, and weavers each got a two-page spread that included photographs or sample instructions, such as Linn L. Phelan, member of the ceramic faculty for the School for American Craftsmen, providing an outline on preparing freshly dug clay.

Craft Horizons was in step with the times. The February 1946 issue had an article about crafts in a German prisoner of war camp. Colonel C. Ross Greening organized crafts in Stalag Luft #1, which included building miniatures, painting, sketching, and knitting. Also, “much ingenuity and many hours of labor went into the manufacture of a twelve-way mousetrap.” Most POW camps included creative activities, and as far back as July 1944, Greening conceived the idea of an exposition at home of the mens’ work. The exhibition opened that year at the Museum of Science & Industry at Radio City, New York, and then toured the country.

It’s enjoyable and instructional to see the evolution of taste and preference. For example, David Campbell wrote an article in February 1957 on the “National Jewelry Show at Rochester.” Campbell was one of the jurors and wrote “the desire for directness has led to the elimination of decoration, as can be witnessed in contemporary architecture and much of the industrial arts. This has become a real challenge for the contemporary jeweler. He must create a style of jewelry true to contemporary esthetic needs without sacrificing good craftsmanship to the esthetic spur.” Many of the photographed entries would be at home in today’s jewelry box, with a predominance of simplified organic forms in silver. However, the balance of projects is different than is typical today; there was one pin, one pair of earrings, three bracelets, six necklaces, and three sets of cufflinks pictured – and no rings.

As always, the intersection of art and craft is a topic of interest. Alexander Calder’s kitchen collection was the cover article for the Sept./Oct. 1962 issue. Best known for his highly collectible mobiles, Calder also designed dozens of serviceable gadgets of wit and ingenuity to meet the needs and tastes of his household. In the article, a beer can and olive oil can were refashioned into a candle holder that served as a “birthday cake” for his mother’s 90th birthday.

The World Crafts Council was started in 1964 by Aileen Osborn Webb, the founder of the ACC, and the last issues of this digitization project contain information about the WCC. The first World Congress of Craftsmen had a 12-page report in the Sept./Oct. 1964 issue of Craft Horizons, which documented attendance of nearly 1,000 with people from 47 countries (and 41 states). This global interest of the magazine has been prevalent from the beginning, with reports of crafts found throughout the world.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of the magazine and the ACC, a timeline of ACC’s history is available online. With this introduction, please enjoy our collection of Craft Horizons. The full text is searchable, and you can read the PDF of each issue from 1941-1965 page-by-page. Zoom in on items of interest or print out pages for your personal use. Stay tuned for more from our digitization project.

The American Craft Council Library Digital Collections is an open-access online compendium containing more than 3,000 unique images, documents, and media detailing the history of contemporary craft in America. From ACC newsletters and photographs to firsthand documentation of major national craft exhibitions, the digital collections offer makers, scholars, and craft appreciators a glimpse at some of the ACC Library's most invaluable resources.