Crafting a New Age: A. R. Orage and the Politics of Craft

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A. R. Orage was an important Edwardian theorist of craft, developing the nineteenth-century writings of Ruskin, Morris, and Carpenter into a discussion of craft's radical political possibilities as the editor of The New Age . Recent criticism on Orage has described him as either an innovative socialist or a proto-fascist, while often neglecting his philosophical ideas and political context. From 1893 to 1907, Orage's experiences as a teacher and union member, Independent Labour Party writer, Theosophical Society lecturer, and founder of the Leeds Arts Club helped shape his theory of craft. During this time he also formulated a unique moral, aesthetic, and ontological philosophy, influenced by Plato and Nietzsche, that informed his political writings. For Orage, guilds were a radical alternative to industrial capitalism, restoring ownership, spiritual independence, and artistic freedom to workers. Society would also benefit with better quality goods, connection to a living aesthetic tradition, and a greater sense of community. These socialist proposals distinguished Orage from other groups on the left like the Fabian Society, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party, and Marxians, shaping twentieth-century notions of artistic craft.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Modern Craft is the first peer-reviewed academic journal to provide an interdisciplinary and international forum on the subject of craft. It addresses all forms of making that self-consciously set themselves apart from mass production— whether in the making of designed objects, artworks, buildings, or other artifacts.

    The journal covers craft in all its historical and contemporary manifestations. This ranges from the mid-nineteenth century, when handwork was first consciously framed in opposition to industrialization, through to the present time, when ideas once confined to the “applied arts” have come to seem vital across a huge range of cultural activities. Special emphasis is placed on studio practice, and on the transformations of indigenous forms of craft activity throughout the world. The journal also reviews and analyzes the relevance of craft within new media, folk art, architecture, design, contemporary art, and other fields.

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