Date Made/Found: around 1920
Material and Medium: silver, enamel
Department: Decorative Art
This object is a membership badge for the Sheffield Artcrafts Guild. It is made from silver and enamel. The reverse of the badge is marked with maker's name 'R.S. DOUGLAS FECIT' ('fecit' broadly translates from Latin as 'made this'). The badge was probably made around 1920.
This badge was owned by Joseph Beeston Himsworth, whose name is inscribed on the back. It also lists the years he was Deputy Master of the Sheffield Artcrafts Guild (1926-1920, 1930-1931) and those he was Guild Master (1932-1934).
The Sheffield Artcrafts Guild was founded in 1894 by the architectural designer, Charles Green. The Guild brought together artists and craftsmen for meetings, discussions and exhibitions of work. Their aims are described in the Annual Report (1932) as "The encouragement of skilled artistic handicrafts, promoting fellowship between artist craftworkers, disseminating information by means of demonstrations, exhibitions and lectures". Similar Guilds were set up in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other major cities to celebrate and promote traditional handcraft skills.
In his unpublished biographical account of the Guild, Himsworth highlights that it was not restricted to independent craftsman, but that many members were involved in the manufacturing industry. Better known members included Sydney Wilkinson, John Beresford Walker and Joyce Himsworth.
"Over a long period all the chief designers in the Sheffield stove-grate firms, as well as in the silver and plate trade, were members. There were also a number of independent free-lance men who testified to that independent spirit always so marked among those who disliked the restraint of factory life…There was, at times, a Bohemian element in strong measure among the members, but it was largely kept in control by industrial demands with which they were in daily contact".
The Guild was not limited to metalworkers, but embraced a wide range of artistic endeavours such as leatherwork, textile design, architectural design, ceramics and sculpture. In the early years, membership was restricted to men, though later women were able to join. Both Joseph Beeston and his daughter, Joyce, were active members. They exhibited work, attended visits and supported the Guild memberships of a large number of local craftsmen. R S Douglas, the maker of this badge, was a Fellow of the Artcrafts Guild.
Makers interested in joining had to apply formally to the Guild and their application had to be supported by two existing members. Examples of work were submitted for consideration by the membership panel to ensure it was of sufficient quality. It was also possible to apply for an Associate Membership if you could demonstrate an active interest in arts and crafts but were not a maker. The partners of a number of Guild members seem to have joined in this way.
The older generation of members of the Sheffield Artcrafts Guild were quite traditional in their approach to design. They tended to take their inspiration from Classical art and architecture.
During the 1920s and 1930s there was an influx of young designers joining the Guild. They were working with new materials and techniques in a distinctly 'modernist' style. This appears to have created discontent among some of the older members of the Guild.
Himsworth elaborated on this issue in his biography of the Guild:
"The chance [to pursue modernist design] began about 1930 and was soon in full swing…[newer members of the Guild] had by this time been joined by my daughter, Joyce R. Himsworth and Bernard Harrington - a silver smith and designer. All of them were doing good technical work and at the same time exhibiting this new element in design". Himsworth also states that John Beresford Walker had encouraged this change during his time as master (1926-1927).
In 1953 the Guild was renamed Contemporary Craftsmen Incorporated (CCI). The CCI continued to adhere to the original values of the Guild, promoting craftsmanship and exhibiting members' work into the 1960s.
Find out more…
Himsworth, J.B. 1964 Biographical account of Members or Associates of the original City of Sheffield Artcrafts Guild and their associates, with Photographs. Unpublished monograph. Sheffield University Library, B 709.42741 (H).