Last PM I attended a wonderful lecture (the first in a series of 6) at The Textile Museum in DC. The lecture topic was "Textiles of Klimt's Vienna" and there is currently a corresponding exhibit of textiles at the Museum. The lecture was given by Angela Volker of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts. It was spectacular. Even with a degree in textiles I must admit I didn't know much about this era's textiles. I bought her book on the subject titled "Textiles of the Wiener Werkstatte". The book does a fabulous job of showing designs and their end applications (either carpets, upholstery or fashion fabrics).
I was struck by how innovative this period was in textiles as well as other applied arts. These artists wanted to break away from the traditional and popular art/style of the period. The succedded in creating quite a unique asthetic of work which was well received by a rather small but supportive group in society. The best way I can describe this group is as a guild or workshop of artists and apprentices. It evolved over the years to be more of a corporation with a specific "brand identity". They were relatively successful but never reached main stream with their works and this was not their intent. There was also the usual controversy with the artists that founded the group as they grew and evolved their mission became "more mainstream". But they continued to put out unique and identifiable work under their own rights. I'm amazed at how things change but never change, a few artists produced designs for them under their own names but the majority of the designs were done by unknown artists. I was reminded of Martha Stewart as I sat listening to this lecture, because of her far reaching products (from utensils to houses) and her strong corporate identity and her ability to reach markets at different price points. I'm sure that their is not a direct parallel but there are some resemblances to today's market place even though MSL has become available and acceptable to the masses. The Wiener Werkstatte came to a rather abrupt end (in the 30's) as the market for their works seemed to have exhaused itself or evolved into something different but history has been left with a well documented period of works wich leave much to be studied and learned from.