Celebrating a pioneer

48_oow_01The National Arts & Crafts Conference and Antiques Show, an annual three-day event held at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., celebrates a unique and historic style that has influenced American craftsmen since its revival in the 1960s.

This year’s conference paid tribute to Robert Judson Clark, the “pioneer” of the Arts and Crafts movement, who died in January at the age of 73.

Bruce Johnson, an Arts and Crafts revivalist who founded the conference in 1988 and also serves as its director, discussed Clark’s roll in revitalizing the movement. He says while many others, such as Gustav Stickley, also played important roles in the movement that started in the late 1800s, Clark’s initiative in creating an exhibition was particularly important.

48_oow_02“There’s no person that deserves the title of pioneer of the American Arts and Crafts revival more than Robert Judson Clark. He was among a handful of people who in the 1960s recognized the importance of the movement, but rather than just talking about how sad it was in that so much of the original artists’ work had been forgotten and neglected, he undertook the organizing of the first exhibition celebrating the movement.”

Clark, who taught modern architecture and American art at Princeton University, produced “The Arts and Crafts Movement in America: 1876-1916,” which opened in 1972 at the Princeton University Art Museum. Nicknamed the “Princeton exhibition” by Arts and Crafts collectors, it was accompanied by a catalog of the same name that Clark wrote and edited. The catalog created and influenced many Arts and Crafts enthusiasts of future generations, including Johnson, who continues the tradition with a catalog for each conference.

“One of the first books I ever bought was [Clark’s] catalog. He inspired me professionally and personally, and I’m one of tens of thousands of people who’ve been affected by him. He opened up a whole new world for me.”

Johnson created his conference, in part, to continue Clark’s legacy. It draws about 3,000 attendees every  year, including makers, dealers, authors and speakers.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is, in 1992, I had Robert speak at our fifth conference. He was retired then and shared photos on what was the 20th anniversary of his exhibition. It was a wonderful experience.”

Johnson’s 25th annual conference runs Feb. 17-19, 2012.

For information, call 828-628-1915 or visit www.artsandcraftscollector.com.