I recently took a trip to Buffalo, NY for my Great Aunt Alice’s 100th birthday. She’s incredible, still living in her own home, making her own meals, cleaning, gardening, grocery shopping, mending, even coming up with little inventions to help her deal with the physical annoyances of aging. She’s always been like a third grandma to me and I’m convinced that it was her influence on me as I was growing up that fostered a love of design and making. My mom organized a lovely surprise birthday brunch at the Roycroft Inn, in the town of East Aurora, where Alice was born on her family farm. I’d been there before, when I was much younger, but never fully appreciated the history or philosophy of the Roycrofters until now.
Basically, Roycroft was a handicraft community, filled with makers of hand-bound books, Mission-style furniture, lamps, metal-ware of black iron, copper and bronze, as well as glass, ceramics and leather. Formed in 1895, it was based on the Medieval Guild system adapted by William Morris & John Ruskin of the English Arts & Crafts Movement in response to the industrial revolution. The Roycroft Campus was a self-contained community, supporting hundreds of craftspeople that became the mecca for those interested in the Arts and Crafts movement.
I love the philosophy behind it and I certainly see a connection to the handmade community of today. Mass produced items lack soul and human connection. I personally need to make things. I get depressed if I never leave the computer. In a way, reMade USA is my response to over stimulation in a digital world. I love the process of making by hand and with heart. I need the balance of being able to slow down and focus on one task.
One beautiful feature at the Roycroft Inn is the quotes you see, surrounding you, carved into doors, on rafters, on walls by founder and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard.