Gustav Stickley & The Birth of American Arts and Crafts

Gustav Stickley, the father of the American Arts & Crafts style, produced furniture and inspired a lifestyle based on his philosophy.

First inspired by the British Arts & Crafts movement, Gustav wanted his furniture to embody what he thought was the ideal lifestyle - simple, unpretentious, functional, and a product of hard work.  He opposed industrialization and the sloppy workmanship that resulted from it.  Although his furniture was built by skilled craftsmen rather than machine, Gustav envisioned his wares in modest homes and, once more driven by his democratic ideals, wanted it to be accessible for everyone.

The Craftsman

Gustav didn't just stop at furniture - he had a vision for everything from the build of the home itself, to the landscaping, down to the floor tiles.  He marketed his products and lifestyle by creating his own magazine, The Craftsman, by putting his furniture into a context his readers could envision, and was sandwiched between articles touting socialist ideals.  He even attempted to open a school, but was unsuccessful.

Ultimately, Gustav did not see the fruits of his labor and was bankrupted by his efforts.  The style waned in popularity after the first World War.  He halted production of his magazine, sold his failing workshop, and moved in with his daughter.  His younger brothers, Leopold and John George, purchased his workshop and continued to produce furniture based on Gustav's designs, with little more success.  

While Gustav was not a financial success, the tenets of his lifestyle was simplicity and hard work, which were both well-achieved in his lifetime.  He shaped the future of the American Arts & Crafts movement and showed us that the style was just as much about the ideas as it was the furniture.  As was written in The Craftsman: "We are working for a definite and high purpose: that is, the improvement of the public taste; that we are putting forth our personal efforts to realize the meaning of an art developed by the people, for the people, as a reciprocal joy for the maker and the user."

 

Keep an eye out for further blogs and newsletters to learn more about your favorite craftsmen, artists & styles! 

 

If you would like to learn more about Stickley and Craftsman Farms, click the following links:
Museum Website

Circa 1917: Rediscovering Craftsman Farms Exhibition

 

To view this blog with photos of Craftsman Farms and a few Gustav Stickley pieces we have available click here.