Dresdener Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst

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(Dresden Workshops for Arts and Crafts, established 1898)

The aim of this design reform organization was to produce well‐made German domestic furniture, building on the Arts and Crafts Movement ideals of respect for materials and appropriate methods of construction. An important difference from its British precedent was the higher profile accorded to the role of the machine as a means of production. Karl Schmidt, a trained carpenter, founded the Dresdener Werkstätten at Hellerau, near Dresden, after a year spent in England. The Workshops began with Schmidt and two assistants but grew rapidly in size, reaching eighteen employees within a year and more than 200 within five years. New technologies were deployed in the production of goods in order to make them accessible to a wider public through reasonable prices. Unlike many of the Arts and Crafts precedents in Britain machinery was seen as an additional aid for production rather than a threat to craft skills. Many leading designers were associated with the Dresdener Werkstätten, most notably Richard Riemerschmid and Bruno Paul. Women designers were also active in the enterprise, including Margarete Junge and Gertrude Kleinhempel. Amongst its more ambitious projects was the Werkstätten's involvement in the design of ships' furniture following a visit from Schmidt to the Kiel shipyards in 1903. This resulted in Riemerschmid being commissioned to design a number of interiors for the SMS Danzig. They were carried out by the Werkstätten in 1905. Bruno Paul also won a number of ship design commissions for the North German Line, including interiors for the George Washinton and Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm liners, both completed in 1908. Five years earlier Riemerschmid had been involved in the serial production of machine‐made furniture for the Werkstätten, including kitchen, living room, dining room, study, and bedroom ensembles. A number of them were produced in ‘knockdown’ format as a means of reducing transportation costs. Building on such progressive initiatives, the Third German Applied Arts Exhibition was mounted. Held in Dresden in 1906, it marked a wider shift in the attitudes of German design reformers as a Selection Committee was established to ensure that the exhibition was restricted to modernizing products that embodied the spirit of social, cultural, and economic reform. Almost inevitably the Dresdener Werkstätten were well represented with their own pavilion containing seventeen rooms by Riemerschmid. The politician Friedrich Naumann and design reformer Hermann Muthesius made keynote speeches. In 1907 the Dresdener Werkstätten and the Munich Werkstätten für Wohnungs‐Einrichtung (Workshops for Domestic Furnishings) combined to become the Deutsche Werkstätten. However, major initiatives in terms of design reform in Germany shifted to the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), which was established in 1907.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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