Julie Leidel holding her Roycroft Artisan plaque at her home in Evergreen, Colorado.
I've known about the Roycroft Artisans for decades, and in the early 2000s, I told myself "One day, I hope to be one of them." That day came in 2016 when I was accepted by a jury of Master Roycroft Artisans to join this amazing organization. It will always be one of my happiest artistic moments. Becoming a Roycrofter meant the world to me as an artist. To me, it signified that I was truly part of the Arts & Crafts Revival and renaissance movement that has now been alive and strong for longer than the original Arts & Crafts Movement (1880-1920). Last month in April of 2021, I was accepted as a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan. Words can't express my gratitude adequately enough. I am proud to learn from my peers, to connect with so many amazing artists all over the U.S., and to carry on in the footsteps of the artisans that came before us.
WHAT IS THE ROYCROFT? At the turn of the century, the Roycroft Shops in East Aurora, New York (1895-1938), became one of the leading centers in the U.S. for the production of Arts and Crafts goods–books, leatherwork, metalwork, and furniture. The designs of the Roycrofters were influenced by a host of sources, including the work of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, the Wiener Werkstätte (notably in the graphic and metalwork designs of Karl Kipp and Dard Hunter), and French Art Nouveau.
The artistic appeal of Roycroft creations made them very popular, but it was also the business acumen and highly charismatic personality of its founder, Elbert Hubbard, which made Roycroft one of the most successful enterprises of the Arts and Crafts era. In the midst of a successful career with the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, in 1893 he abandoned his position to study at Harvard and dedicate himself to writing. In the following year he made a trip to England and Ireland during which Hubbard claimed to have met and been greatly influenced by William Morris, founder of the Kelmscott Press, and patriarch of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Inspired by the ideals of Morris and the beautifully crafted publications of Kelmscott, Hubbard returned to East Aurora where he established the Roycroft Printing Shop in 1895. With his extraordinary aptitude for marketing and self-promotion, the press began garnering national attention for its publications–The Philistine, The Fra, and series of illuminated books and pamphlets, including the politically charged “A Message to Garcia” (1899). Mounting success enabled him to extend the Roycroft campus to thirteen additional buildings over the next ten years, hosting a bindery, leather, furniture, and metalwork shops, and a stained-glass studio, as well as staff housing and an inn for an increasing number of personnel and visitors.
Hubbard’s inspirational leadership eventually attracted nearly 500 craftspeople to his utopian arts community. Roycroft itself became a critical gathering place for contemporary artists, craftsmen, authors, and philosophers of the time.
The original Roycroft mark (the Single R) was trademarked by Elbert Hubbard in 1906. It's inspiration came from a orb and line rising sky-wards, a symbol used in the middle ages by monks in their illuminated manuscripts meaning "The best I can do, dedicated to God" The R stood for Roycroft which symbolized "The Royal Craft" for their high-quality handcrafted works. Suddenly in 1915, Hubbard and his wife died in the sinking of the Lusitania, and the Roycroft Shops were carried on by their son Bert Hubbard, but it entered into a period of decline during the Great Depression, and finally closed in 1938.*
For further reading, this blog post by The Craftsman Bungalow has some great information, and wonderful video clips from a very well-done PBS documentary entitled, Elbert Hubbard: An American Original.
Almost 40 years passed, and the campus and Roycroft name lay in wait for a revival. The ROYCROFT RENAISSANCE In 1976 a group of East Aurora historians, artists and residents with a common interest in the Roycroft Campus and the philosophy of Elbert Hubbard set in motion a plan to preserve those ideals which had made the campus a center of the Arts and Crafts Movement. After several meetings and energetic discussion the Roycrofters-at-Large Association (RALA) was formed. Rixford Jennings innovated the design to incorporate two back-to-back R's signifying the Roycroft Renaissance for the Roycrofters-At-Large Association (shown to the left). When you see the RR mark on a piece of work, be assured it was made to the highest standards with the ideals of using “Head, Heart, and Hand” just as the original mark did.
To become a Roycroft Renaissance artisan, an artist must submit original artwork to a jury of Roycroft Master Artisans. Only artisans whose work exemplifies the following criteria are awarded the use of the RR mark:
- High quality hand-craftsmanship - Excellence in design - Continuing artistic growth - Originality of expression - Professional recognition
An artisan must be juried in annually to demonstrate continued excellence and growth. After five years, if the work is shown to be exceptional, the jury may elect to elevate the artist to Master Artisan status.
Today the non-profit organization is still actively working to keep alive the history and philosophy of Roycroft through special events centered on and around the Roycroft Artisans, the Roycroft Chamber Music Fest, and the Roycroft Campus. Through the efforts of Kitty Turgeon, Robert Rust and the RALA organization, the Roycroft Campus became a National Historic Landmark. If you make it to East Aurora, New York, a stay at the historic Roycroft Inn and a visit to The Copper Shop Gallery, and the Schoolhouse Gallery are a must! I was asked in December of 2020 to join the RALA board, and I am thrilled to be part of this organization not only as an artisan, but also as a board member, helping to serve our artists and communities.
LINKS TO THE LIVING ROYCROFT ARTISANS RALA includes over 70 artisans that are working today, so Elbert Hubbard's dream is alive and well in the 21st Century. Visit www.ralaweb.com to view links to each artisan and see thumbnails of their work. I also have a list of every artisan and their website (or email) listed under my Arts & Crafts Links page that includes over 450 links to everything Arts & Crafts from antiques & conferences, to contemporary artisans working in the style today.
Many of us Roycrofters have our artistic creations in the historic Schoolhouse Gallery - 1054 Olean Road, East Aurora, NY. Master Roycroft Artisans Ben Little and Thomas Pafk graciously run this gallery for the good of all of the artisans, collectively. Here's a great article that was published recently about the Schoolhouse Gallery.
RALA is always looking for more art lovers to join as a member-at-large, so if you love this movement and want to support our artisans, please learn more at www.ralaweb.com. For $50 a year, you can join at the Patron Level, where you will receive a hand-made limited-edition item from a Roycrofter each year when you renew your membership. In June 2021, Roycroft Renaissance Artisan John Monk will be making beautiful hand-hammered tree ornaments inspired by Dard Hunter’s rose motif as the patron gift.
*Adapted from the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) Website, Kevin Tucker, 2011.
Julie Leidel creates open edition, giclee print reproductions (fine art reproductions) of her original hand-painted gouache and acrylic artwork.
"What is a print?"
I get this question a lot at my art shows because it IS confusing! There are different answers that fall under the umbrella of the word "print" alone and I'd like to help clarify the term.
Merriam-Webster defines print in these three ways that help us in the art world: (a): a copy made by printing (b): a reproduction of an original work of art (such as a painting) made by a photomechanical process (c): an original work of art (such as a woodcut, etching, or lithograph) intended for graphic reproduction and produced by or under the supervision of the artist who designed it
So it's clear to me that there are three DIFFERENT meanings of the word "print" when in context to the art world. No wonder you are confused.
The term Fine Art Printreally needs to stay exclusively within the world of printmaking. An original print is a work of art on paper which has been conceived by the artist. Prints are produced by drawing or carving a composition on a carrier surface (know as the matrix) such as a wood block, metal plate or stone. This surface is then inked and the image is transferred to paper by the application of pressure, thus creating an impression or print. Unlike paintings or drawings, fine art prints usually exist in multiple impressions, each of which is pulled from the inked surface. The total number of impressions made is called an edition.* The matrix itself usually wears down through the printing and rubbing process. It's nearly impossible to make more than 100 prints of a copper plate in most cases. Linoleum blocks will deteriorate after a decade, or sooner if exposed to UV light, so the window to create prints from that block is limited. Depending on the matrix, creating multiple prints can destroy or wear down the original plate or block. The first print is better than the 100th because the matrix is sharp. But, there are well-cared for wood blocks that can last centuries, and a steel faced copper plate can run near-infinite amount of prints. So, as you can see, the world of printmaking is vast and there's not really a one-size-fits-all approach when describing the work. Here's a list of terms that help define Fine Art Print.
Relief Techniques: woodcut, linocut
Intaglio Techniques: engraving, dry point, mezzotint, etching, aquatint, photogravure
Stencil Techniques: screen print, pochoir
Other Techniques: monoprint, monotype, lithography, collagraph __________________________
The term "Fine Art Print" or it's argued even the term "Art Print" has been adopted by many a photographer, painter, and digital artist, BUT what they are really producing is a Giclée Print Reproduction or a Fine Art Reproduction. The photographers, painters, and digital artists are not trying to trick you with this terminology, far from it. They are trying to illustrate the difference between their print and a cheap reproduction.
Giclée (pronounced zhee'clay) is an art print made with an ink jet printer using the highest archival-quality inks and surfaces. The word comes from French, meaning to spray, which is exactly what an ink jet printer does. The quality of a Giclée print is far superior to all other forms of reproduction printing.
A reproduction is a commercial copy of an original work of art, digitally stored, so that the 1st and the 500th reproduction print look exactly the same, there is no degradation of the print quality. Giclée Print Reproductions can be printed in limited edition, or what's known as open edition, meaning that the number of prints is not defined. Print reproductions can be printed on paper, canvas, wood, metal, stone, ceramic... almost any surface. Unlike printmaking, the only reason to run a limited edition of a print reproduction would be to try to create more economical supply and demand - a higher price point for sale and resale of a print through the years.
The term "reproduction" alone could mean a photocopy, or a digital photo of a Giclée print that's been reproduced on a laser printer. Basically any old copy. The word "reproduction" alone can have a negative connotation and photographers, painters and digital artists steer clear of this word on it's own because it doesn't speak to the high quality of their print.
So yes, the word "print" or event "art print" isn't really enough to fully describe to the public what it is they are buying. Ask more questions if you can of the artist selling their work. They will be happy to go into detail about their process and what it is that you are buying from them. If they use Fine Art Print incorrectly, mention the world of printmaking, and reputable artists will quickly differentiate themselves from that art form.
February is Arts & Crafts Month, and to celebrate I will be running 3-day auctions all month long on ebay. To learn more about the 34th Annual Arts & Crafts Conference, go to: https://arts-craftsconference.com/
This year as many of you know, the 34th Annual Arts and Crafts Conference will be happening virtually, but what you may not know is that it will run for the ENTIRE MONTH OF FEBRUARY! This year's show is bigger than ever before.
There's a full schedule of events each and every day - seminars, small group discussions, live chats with artists, video presentations, and *free* access to ALL the vendors you love - both working contemporary artists of the Arts & Crafts Revival, and antique dealers with original treasures from the turn of century. For a small conference fee of only $100, you will have access to all the expanded education and knowledge that the conference is bringing together, from around the globe. This is the big show everyone! Even though we wish we could all gather in person for this amazing event, this year gives us the opportunity to grow and expand to ALL those Arts & Crafts enthusiasts out there, no matter where you are. It also gives us the opportunity to expand the conference and offer so much interaction, education, and inspiration.
Mountain Lakes are some of my favorite landscapes to paint. The peaks rise up out of the water, and the evening sky is changing by the second. Those summer evenings when the sky calls out it's brilliance for just a moment, yes they are magical.
Introducing "Vignette Mountain Lake" gouache on illustration board. Prints are available in 6 sizes, as matted prints, metal, or canvas. I really love it with a double matting, white and black.
This painting is part of a bigger whole. This original painting was a commission and featured her grandchildren roasting marshmallows on their property on Lake Chelan in Washington. The photo showcased the most beautiful sunset, and creating this sky is one of my top 10 favorite moments while painting. Where pink meets orange, that's the stuff of magic in my book.
By not adding text to this painting it can become any mountain lake around the nation. Notable Colorado lakes that this could represent are: Lake City, Lake Loveland, Lake Dillon, Chatfield Reservoir, Lake Granby, Horsetooth Reservoir, Lake San Cristobal, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Boulder Reservoir, Boyd Lake, Sloans Lake, Bear Creek Lake
Concerning Scorpio Ten Billion Years B.C. by Vance Kirkland
Commemorative 2017 poster for the Kirkland Museum created by Julie Leidel
The night sky is so full of possibilities, energy and light.
In 1925, Edwin Hubble had a theory that the universe was growing. Scientists have been able to prove that the universe is expanding in all directions, and has been since the beginning, or the Big Bang.
"Something" doesn't come from "nothing". Everything has a source, just as our planet and each of us has an origin story. So does the universe, even if we don't know exactly how to quantify that in scientific terms today. The creator can't be "in" the creation, they have to be separate from it.
For me personally, science is the vehicle for ever-growing understanding of God's creation. Like little puzzle pieces that are being revealed along the way, science sheds light on the Devine.
For believers like me, God (or your personal Higher Power) brings hope and light to a sometimes extremely hard world. I have found that this saying is one of my favorites, especially in difficult times. "God's Promises are Like the Stars; The Darker The Night, The Brighter They Shine."
You can't see the stars when the sun is out. You can't know what light is unless you have experienced darkness. We can learn so much from the difficult times in our lives. Suffering can lead to great discovery, if we are open to it. That's part of my faith, which is at the core of who I am.
This painting has a familiar feel to some of my work, but it is a departure in the sense that so much of the story is told through dots. I didn't set out to with this goal in mind per say, but upon finishing it, the resemblance to some of Vance Kirkland's paintings is striking to me. He used acrylic, and had a lift that would hover him over his canvas laid flat beneath him in his Colorado art studio. Kirkland would use a variety of dowels to dip into his paint to get perfect circles. I used the end of a few different paint brushes to get a similar feel.
Vance Kirkland (1904-1981) is a nationally renowned artist and if you are heading through Denver, Colorado you really shouldn't miss the Kirkland Museum. It's got a remarkable collection of Vance's work and his original art studio. The curator, Hugh Grant has amassed an incredible world-class collection of international decorative artwork from the 1870s through the 1960s. Kirkland Museum is in the top 5 museums around the world for decorative art, especially intriguing for me are the salon style rooms of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Aesthetic, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Glasgow Style, and Wiener Werkstatte.
I was honored to be chosen as the artist for the commemorative grand opening poster for the Kirkland Museum in 2017. I recognize that my art is inspired by so many facets of my personal experiences. Each puzzle of our own lives comes together to be recalled at a later date, and with new perspective. This human experience sometimes feels like the garden hose is turned on full blast. There are so many things to learn, so many ways to expand who we are, and so many connections we can make to one another.
We most certainly won't see the puzzle completed before our time on earth is complete, but I'll be trying to grab as many pieces as I can, and I hope to enjoy the experience with a full heart along the way.
Bookplate by C.F.A. Voysey, 1917. This was designed for prominent lawyer and Voysey’s emphasis on symbolism was of upmost importance to his design. Voysey himself published an article in 1918 and again in 1928 entitled “Modern Symbolism” in The Builder.
Bookplate by Glasgow artist and designer Jessie M. King, 1906. King designed at least 30 bookplates between 1902 and 1910. Many were showcased at the Arts and Crafts Society’s exhibitions in London. The Studio hosted student competitions and bookplates were an appropriate graphic art form within the art school system of the period.
Bookplate by Walter Crane. Even for private use, Crane’s design philosophy combined socialist aesthetics and symbols with conventions of children’s literature. The plate refers to its creator (and the book’s owner) in three different registers. The first showing “Walter Crane” printed across the top of the image. The leading “W” appears in two forms; first, roughly formed by four paintbrushes and then below on the artist’s palette from which the brushes emerge. The central illustration, depicts Crane as his animal alter-ego; a crane. His socialistic philosophy of integrating art and life and of creating work that is consistent with one’s identity is well defined in his bookplate.
Bookplate by Aubrey Beardsley (left). Beardsley was an English illustrator, author, and a leading figure of the Aesthetic movement. He was influenced by Japanese Woodcuts and emphasized the erotic, grotesque, and the decadent in his work. Beardsley’s contributions to the development of Art Nouveau and the posters styles of the time were significant. Bookplates by Gordon Craig (three on the right). Craig was an English actor, director, theatre scenic designer and writer. In 1904 he wrote is most famous work, the essay The Art of the Theatre. He also was well known for his patented movable screens and set design for the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet in 1911.
Every book lover knows that a book loaned often becomes a book lost. Sharing your treasured books can often be a losing business. So, how can you gently remind the borrower it’s your property, with hope to see it once again? Enter center stage, the innovation of the bookplate.
A bookplate is also known as an ex libris in reference to the Latin inscription meaning “from the books of…” The earliest known example dates back to 1450, the same year as the birth of printing from movable type. Many early bookplates were designed to safeguard the books of barons and nobles. Because of this they were adorned with coats of arms and other indicators of inherited prestige. This was the case through the 18th century. The Victorians with their love of gathering “beautiful things” realized as early as 1875 that bookplates were collectable. In his 1880 publication on bookplate collecting, John Byrne Leicester Warren recognized four distinct styles in early British bookplate design: early armorial, Jacobean (including Restoration, Queen Anne, and early Georgian), Chippendale (rococo), and wreath and ribbon (Victorian).
The 19th century saw the rise of the middle class. Scholars, professionals, and other educated individuals became interested in bookplates and commissioned works in a pictorial vein. These drew from classical and symbolist iconography and were heavily influenced by The Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1891 a few British bookplate collectors met in London to establish the Ex Libris Society and by the end of that first year, it had grown to more than 300 members. The Society began publishing the Journal of the Ex Libris Society and it was published through 1909 with 18 volumes in all. As the collecting of bookplates from previous generations was gaining popularity, the demand for new bookplates also grew. Interest in bookplates reached its peak around the turn of the century but began to decline with the onset of the First World War. Over the next 100 years, interest has come and gone, but for me at least, the height of the art of the bookplate is directly linked to the European Arts & Crafts era. Today there are some 50 ‘national’ bookplate societies that gather world-wide every two years.
Celebrated artists like Walter Crane, Aubrey Beardsley, Robert Anning Bell, Jesse M. King, Gordon Craig, and C.F.A. Voysey created beautiful works of art, knowing that they would only be seen by a select few. It the bookplate is one of the most intimate forms of personal art during this era. Art for Art’s sake, a treasure to be hidden away in a book somehow becomes more romantic to me, than art meant to be on display for all. Personal art, originally meant only for high society, now acknowledged the social principles put forth by John Ruskin and William Morris; no matter your station in life, you deserve to enjoy refinement and objects of beauty.
Many of the artists of the time saw bookplate design as a new artistic challenge. To reduce the artwork to such a small size and to create with only a limited color palate, or even just in black and white, gave way to graphic design. Simple line contour had to speak volumes. Shape had to be distinct enough to allow instant recognition. In response to these artistic challenges we can see the birthplace of the modern logo. And art wasn’t just made from oil or egg tempura anymore. Ink was king! Early innovation in the artistic printing press was akin to adding a snare drum to the band for the first time. Such rich and bold notes had not previously been heard, and could be shocking to the ears. Even today, there is fine art--leave room for the Grand Canyon--and then illustration, including typography. In the 1990s, I received Cs in some of my painting classes at Colorado State University because I wasn’t “painterly” enough. One memorable professor said my work just wasn’t “cooked in” yet. I’ve always been drawn to sharp, defined line work and expressively bold shape. Creating a visual gut-punch of emotion with fewer details always wins in my book. Simplicity of design can be seen as the very foundation of refinement. Oh how I would love to transport back in time to dine with the bookplate artists of the Arts & Crafts Era and hear if they too experienced the inferred or even at times outright scowl from the fine art world. Art should always be personal. These artisans took the time to create small, concentrated drawings that delight to this day like humble lyrics to a whispered song. Next time you are shopping for old books, take the time to open their front covers. You never know what delicious details may be in store for you there. You may even feel the previous owner looking on, hoping to get their beloved book back. They took the time to mark it, after all.
Bookplate by Robert Anning Bell. Bell was a fine artist painting in oil and gouache. He designed stained glass windows and mosaics for many churches and from 1895 to 1899 Bell was an instructor at the Liverpool University school of architecture. In 1911 he was appointed chief of the design section at the Glasgow School of Art.
I had been wanting to create a painting featuring a dove for quite awhile. As tensions have been rising over the course of this year, it was on my heart more and more. Here's a bit of why I created the artwork I did, and the symbolism that it holds for me.
Peace - it's something that takes a great amount of effort, time, commitment, and redirection. It doesn't come naturally to most of us, it needs to be taught - to our children and to ourselves. The idea that peace isn't something that just lands upon us is important to remember. It's a beautiful idea that needs ACTION, not inaction.
"Teach Peace" is inscribed at the top of my Art Nouveau dove as a reminder to find and seek out peace in our own hearts. Others may see our searching and be inspired. The actionable quest to attain peace is also hinted at in my painting. My deconstructed peace sign is in two parts: the circle held within the dove's wings, and the vertical "fork" is being grasped in the dove's hold as a sprig of lavender. Lavender is believed to bring peace and harmony and is regarded as a symbol of love, happiness, devotion and protection by many cultures.
Peace takes work. Breath... stepping back and letting cooler heads prevail. It's never fully constructed, it's always a work in progress. "An eye for an eye makes the world blind." These words are inspired by Gandhi, but not directly attributed to him. All forms of spirituality and religion hold peace on high as a refinement of what we can strive to attain as humans with enlightened spirits and hearts. My art nouveau take on this concept had a perfect home within the theme and feeling of stained glass.
Below is a picture of an Art Nouveau stained glass window from the early 1900s. I stumbled upon in on Pintrest, but sadly there were no identifying marks or information for me to learn more about the artist or the artwork. I loved the light and flow of this design, and you can see my inspiration starting point from this piece.