Furniture and the free economy

I have been admiring the superbly crafted furniture of Thomas Moser while in Maine this week. March and April are commonly hot periods for the furniture (and interior design) industry, and Moser is particularly hot this year.On April 2 he goes on tour to promote his fifth book, Legacy in Wood, and until May 22 the Mattatuck Museum in Connecticut is running a unique exposition “recognizing 44 years of Thomas Moser’s contributions to art, craft, design and entrepreneurism.” Those three elements celebrated in Moser’s career offer particularly fertile ground to explore the relationship between commerce and the arts, and the much derided influence of capitalism on the creation of beautiful and useful objects.One of the most impassioned and sustained attacks on capitalism came out of the 19th century arts and crafts movement, which emphasized simplicity, organicism and traditional technique (especially in architecture, interior design and furniture production).William Morris, John Ruskin and others associated with the movement were highly critical of the way that machines were replacing individual craftsmanship. Morris felt that the reliance on automation was severing the link between designer and producer in the textile industry. Ruskin also wrote extensively about this division of labour, and in a pointed jab at Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) argued that we may have learned how to produce many pins, but the division of labour results in “divided men” who are “broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in…Read more at