Edward Barnsley Biography

Edward Barnsley: A Pillar of the 20th Century British Craft Movement

Edward Barnsley, born into a family of furniture makers, is esteemed as a key British maker and teacher at Loughborough College during the 20th Century British Craft Movement. The son of Sidney Barnsley, partner of Ernest Gimson, the trio was deeply inspired by William Morris, the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Embracing Morris's philosophy that one should cherish their craft and that art should be accessible to all, they built their houses with locally sourced materials and traditional methods. This approach was evident in their practice, particularly in the use of exposed tenons and dovetails.

Early Education and Development of Craftsmanship

Barnsley's education at Bedales School in Petersfield in 1910 emphasized practical skills and craftwork. In 1920, he collaborated with Geoffrey Lupton in Froxfield on constructing a new library. By 1923, he took over the workshop to continue furniture making in the Cotswold Style. Under his leadership, the business thrived, producing around seven thousand pieces with a team of craftsmen and apprentices.

Adaptation to Modernity and Preservation of Craftsmanship

The introduction of electricity to the workshops in 1955 brought mixed feelings. Barnsley, much like Morris, believed in the value of craftsmanship and handwork in giving each piece its uniqueness. Despite the efficiency brought by machines, the skill and dedication of the craftsmen remained integral to the quality of their work.

Barnsley's Style and Honors

Barnsley's style, influenced by his father and 18th-century makers, was characterized by elegant curves and fine inlay lines, often using exotic timbers like blackbean and rosewood. In recognition of his services to design, Barnsley was awarded a CBE in 1945 and played a significant role in forming the Crafts Council.

Researched and written by Tony Geering & Kristy Campbell.

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