Iconic Visionary, Self-Made Entrepreneur, Furniture Designer
Editorial Note: Any book or magazine that gives info on woodworking, whether how-to-do-it -- "processes" -- or projects to build -- "products" -- is, in my rubric, a woodworker's manual. Thus while it is readily agreed that Gustav Stickley's oeuvre decidely falls outside this rough definition of a "woodworker's manual", it is undeniable -- especially today, with a revival of the public's interest in Arts and Crafts that is lasting longer than the initial movement, and shows no signs of abating -- that his ideas about designs for furniture possess a lasting impact. In that light, his contributions to woodworking deserve to be celebrated.
Table of Contents1. Ruskin and Morris as Guiding Lights 2. Impact of Britain's Books and Magazines: Access for Americans to Leading Architect-Designers:-- Arthur H. Mackmurdo, Charles F. A. Voysey, M H Baillie Scott, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Gimson and the Barnsleys 3. Impact of Arts and Crafts Exhibitions 4. Other Sources of Influence: Japanese Decorative Art and North American Indian and Cultural Artifacts 5. Brief Gustav Stickley Bio 6. Stickley's Designers 7. Stages in the Development of Stickley's Operations8. Sources of Background Information 9. Bibliography of Stickley's Writings
7a Stirrings of Ambition 1858-18987b Arts and Crafts Beginnings 1898-1900< 7c The First Mission Period 1900-1904 7d Interval of Harvey Ellis 1903-1904 7e The Pivotal Year 1904 7f Standard Stickley Furniture 1904-1916
1.John Ruskin and William Morris as Guiding Lights
In early issues of The CraftsmanStickley acknowledges that the example of Ruskin and Morris awakens him to the Arts and Crafts, Read More here. In 1901, Issue number 1, The Craftsman displays Stickley's homage to William Morris's ideas and ideals. In turn, The Craftsman's second issue celebrates John Ruskin.
2. Impact of Britain's Books and Magazines: Access for Americans to Leading Architect-Designers:-- Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin; Edward William Godwin; Arthur H. Mackmurdo; Charles F. A. Voysey; M H Baillie Scott; Charles Rennie Mackintosh; Ernest Gimson and the Barnsleys, to name just a few.
Much of what Americans absorb about the British Arts and Crafts movement in the second half of the 19th-century reaches North America in printed form. By the 1890s, photographic illustrations in magazines are commonplace. As detailed in this webpage , books and magazines from Britain are inspiring sources for Americans.
My rough adaptation of an advertisement in the same publisher's novel, The Unpretenders, the image on this page shows the "role" of the monthly periodical, The International Studio, as a leading influence on aesthetic taste in the early decades of the 20th century. Patterned on the London-based The Studio (1893-1964), as a regular feature of its articles, the upscale magazine The International Studio includes photographs and sketches.
Issues of The International Studio contain articles on the work of established artists and on artists whose fame is rising. Operating at the peak of the current technology, the magazine's photographs and sketches -- in color and halftone -- show off furniture, painting, etching, drawing, photography, sculpture, architecture, decoration art, tapestries, rugs, textiles, embroideries, landscape architecture, stained glass, pottery. It notes exhibitions, museums, galleries and studios in the important world's art centers. Just an an example of its sense of a role as an authoriative voise of style, in five issues in 1899 and early 1900, The International Studio dedicates over 100 pages to the London-based Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society's sixth exhibition.
Source: Source of Advertisement for The International Studio: for Anne Warwick's, The Unpretenders, New York: John Lane, 1916; for a contemporary account of the impact of the IS, see Beverly K. Brandt, "Worthy and Carefully Selected": American Arts and Crafts at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904 Archives of American Art Journal 28, No. 1 1988, pages 2-16.
In 1897 Arts and Crafts societies form in Boston and Rochester, New York, and similar groups soon emerge in other eastern cities.
Source: Beverly K. Brandt, The Craftsman and the Critic: Defining Usefulness and Beauty in Arts and Crafts Era Boston Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009
At the time, many Americans, including Stickley, recognize that an American taste for simplicity is developing. (Rhetorically, one asks, "How do we reconcile these stirrings for simplicity among Arts and Crafts enthusiasts with the continued interest in the Colonial Revival?" Interest in single branch, or a shared interest in both branches is not incompatible. For example, today, among amateur woodworkers, it is not uncommon that we share an equal appreciation for each decorative arts styling. At the turn into the 20th century, it is not unlikely among citizens -- especially educated urban residents -- that some embrace one over the other style, while still others are equally drawn to both. )
For example, the publicity given Frank Lloyd Wright's creations is a testament to an embrace by a wide range of the public to simpler, more restrained designs (The preceding hyperlink discusses the several sources that lead to a shift from turned spindles to square, stright-lined spindles, perhaps one of the leading indicators of a turn by Ameican taste to a more restrained design.)
Stickley is drawn toward the Arts and Craft movement for both personal and commercial reasons, and in 1900, he put his newly conceived Art Crafts furniture on public view, and -- as Margaret Edgewood shows tastes are shifting --this shift in design preference by Stickley did not go unnoticed by an American public .
Developing Styles, Techniques, Materials
Quarter Oak; Quarter-Sawn Oak
Exposed Tenons and Keys
Inlay -- glossary_inlay.htm
Ornamentation With Hand-Wrought Copper or Iron Hardware.
Sample Photos and Articles from The Studio and from The International Studio show interior designs and furniture by Charles F A Voysey, MackIntosh, and M H Baillie Scott
Stickley himself subscribed to International Studio, and at least two of Stickley's designers, Harvey Ellis (1852-1904) and LaMont Warner (1876-1970), clipped and filed articles and images from International Studio and English architectural magazines.
1896 Voysey, "The Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1896" The Studio IX, no. 45 December 1896, pages 189-204.
1896 E.B.S., "Some Recent Designs by Mr. C.P.A. Voysey, " The Studio XII May 1896, pages 208-219.
1901 Voysey, "Remarks on Domestic Entrance Halls", The Studio, 21 1901, pages 242-246.
1895 Baillie Scott, "An Ideal Suburban House" Jan, pages 127-132.
1895 Baillie Scott, "The Decoration of the Suburban House" April, pages 15-22.
1895 Baillie Scott, "The Fireplace in the Suburban House" November, pages 101-8.
1896 Baillie Scott, "An Artist’s House" Oct, pages 28-37.
1897 Baillie Scott, "On the Choice of Simple Furniture" April, pages 152-57.
1897 Baillie Scott, "A Small Country House" Dec pages 167-172 & 177.
1898 Baillie Scott, "Some Furniture for the New Palace, Darmstadt" July, pages 91-97.
1899 Baillie Scott , "Decoration and Furniture for the New Palace, Darmstadt" March, pages 107-15.
1900 Baillie Scott, "A Country House" February, pages 30-38.
1907 Characteristics of C. F. A. Voysey's architecture. The International Studio v. 33 November 1907, pages 19-24
4. Other Sources of Influence: Japanese Decorative Art and North American Indian and Cultural Artifacts
America, in general, is drawn to the simplicity and skilled hand craftsmanship of Japanese decorative art.
Asian decorative art is exhibited in America at Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition of 1876.
At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, Americans -- exposed to decorative art from a variety of nations and times -- are influenced by Japanese decoration, late 17th- and early 18th-century British domestic design, and blue and white Chinese porcelain. Where they can, designers include examples from Greek, Persian, Moorish, Egyptian and other exotic styles and motifs.
For those who can afford it, very elaborately, homes are designed and decorated through the collaborative efforts of designers, architects and craftsmen. Typical motifs included sunflowers, fan shapes, peacock feathers, and bamboo.
Lectures and books by British and American visitors to Japan also help genrate a sort of mania for collecting Japanese decorative art. The British designer, Christopher Dresser visits Japan -- in part, his trip is in behalf of the famous New York firm, Tiffany -- and, on return, gives many lectures illustrated with photographs and writes about Japanese art. His 1882 book, Japan: Its Architecture, Art, and Art Manufactures, sells widely on both sides of the Atlantic. Three years later, in 1885, an American biologist, Edward S. Morse, writes a book exclusively devoted to Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings, which also arouses much interest, including in Americans such as Frank Lloyd Wright. Morse lacks photographs in his book but his drawings are exquisite and his descriptions of the interiors and exteriors of Edo-Japanese homes are both detailed and inviting. Together these books enjoy wide sales.
A fever develops for collecting artistic works, and home interiors become expressions of artistic taste, generating the term, "Household Art". The underlying principles of the movement emphasize "art in the production of furniture", thus helping to create another term for the popular vocabulary, "art furniture". A reaction to the highly elaborate products of mainstream Victorian taste, aestheticism stresses simple forms and uncluttered surfaces. Often, too, following the example of recent imports from Japan, and featured in the designs of such noted people as Edward William Godwin (1833-1888), designs can have asymmetric characteristics.
Sources: Martha Crabill McClaugherty, "Household Art: Creating the Artistic Home, 1868-1893",Winterthur Portfolio 18, No. 1 Spring, 1983, pages 1-26; Susan Weber Soros, ed., E.W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999; Lionel Lambourne, Japonisme: Cultural Crossings Between Japan and the West London: Phaidon, 2005.
At least one contemporary writer, Arthur Russell, appreciates the simplicity and subtlety of Grueby pottery as "Japanesque", because he claims[t]he Japanese have taught us much, but nothing more clearly perhaps than that beauty does not depend upon intricacy or elaborateness of design and ornamentation.
Source: Arthur Russell, "Grueby Pottery", The House Beautiful 5, no 1 December, 1898, page 3, as quoted by numous writers, including Martin P Eidelberg, From Our Native Clay: Art Pottery From the Collections of the American Ceramic Arts Society New York: Turn of the Century Editions, 1987, page 50 50.
Stickley himself collected Japanese prints and admired Asian design, and it is possible that Stickley is familiar with a New York store specializing in Japanese decorative arts.
Source: Barbara Stickley Wiles, interview February 14, 1979, as cited by Mary Ann Smith, Gustav Stickley: The Craftsman Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1983, page 14.
Influence of North American Indians Charles Lummis Land of Sunshine
Modernity, Yes -- Not Anti-Machine
Joel Lefever:-- They Make Furniture with Machinery
Holland Historical Trust Curator Joel Lefever examines three Grand Rapids firms that changed public attitudes toward the production of fine furniture with machinery in the late nineteenth century.
What set Grand Rapids apart in the furniture industry was the impact that its companies had on the way furniture was perceived by both the trade and the public. Traditionally, high-quality, stylish, expensive furniture had been handmade. During the period from 1870 to 1885, the leading Grand Rapids companies, in particular Berkey & Gay Furniture Company; Nelson, Matter & Company; and Phoenix Furniture Company, helped machine-assisted production of fine furniture to gain acceptance.
These three companies, which are considered the most significant early Grand Rapids firms, exhibited large bedroom suites at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and all three won awards, signaling that machine-assisted production had matured.
Longer-established cabinetmakers and factories did not readily accept that the same machinery used to make inexpensive "cottage furniture" could also be applied to high-end furniture. Customers, who were not concerned with construction methods, were easier to convince: they simply wanted substantial furniture that looked good for a reasonable price.
The trade did not object to the use of machinery for production of "low" to "medium" furniture. Machines were used as early as the 1850s for preparing, shaping, and turning wood. However, when Grand Rapids applied the same technology to upper-end furniture in the 1870s, the furniture trade took notice, and some began to complain bitterly. The industry was divided between those who embraced technological advances and those who did not. Ultimately, only those who accepted new woodworking technology could survive.
These three major Grand Rapids companies contributed to the city's emergence as a furniture manufacturing center. They combined keen businessmen, raw materials, available work force, technological advances, professional furniture designers, and aggressive marketing to create a significant impact on the industry.
Source: Joel Lefever, "They Make Furniture with Machinery", Christian G Carron, ed., Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America's Furniture City. Grand Rapids, MI: Public Museum of Grand Rapids, 1998, pages 32-41.
America's practitioners of Arts and Crafts ideas and ideals saw themselves as 'Modern' definitely embracing America's growing sense of national identity
Regardless their admiration of the aesthetic values they derived from British, Native American and Japanese sources, or any yearnings that they might hold for simplifying their lives by returning to an era before the ongoing Industrial Revolution -- the Anti-Modern Impulse --", claims David Cathers, "America's practitioners of Arts and Crafts ideas and ideals saw themselves as 'Modern' men and women, definitely embracing America's growing sense of national identity."
For Cathers, this concept about "modern" might come from Hermann Muthesius, where -- in his 1905 treatise on The English House, a work that Cathers cites -- Muthesius discusses the irony of William Morris as a "modern man":
... [William] Morris spent most of the rest of his life learning one craft after another. Not restricting himself to the mechanical sort of handwork but working with the intelligence of the discoverer and pathfinder. His foundation was always the practice of the medieval craftsman. But as a modern man he could not help building on this foundation in a modern way, a way appropriate to the cultural conditions of today. In this it was far from his mind to search for 'new forms', but because he always returned to nature to use her in the way that medieval artists had done, as a modern man, automatically and without wishing to, he discovered something new.
Hermann Muthesius, The English House, in 3 vols, ed with intro by Dennis Sharp; trans by Janet Seligman and Stewart Spencer London: Frances Lincoln, 2007, volume I, page 97.
Margaret Edgewood's frequently cited article about Stickley's furniture, "Some Simple Furniture", describes it as "new in form and color ... made of American wood, designed and executed by American artisans". Margaret Edgewood, The House Beautiful (October 1900), page 653.
As shown in Document 21, Frank Lloyd Wright -- Art and Craft of the Machine 1901, the use of power machines for manufacture of fine furniture -- while it was shunned by their English brothers and sisters -- was readily embraced by the Ameircans
In the December 1902 of The Craftsman the designer/decorator Henry W. Belknap (1860-1946), a veteran of several firms of the era, makes the case against unaided hand labour and raises the related issues of profit for the producer and affordability for the consumer:It would seem that a field is open for an enterprise which, while having its commercial side, is yet upon a higher plane ... It is probable that in order to make such a place sufficiently profitable ... work must be admitted which is not strictly that of the individual craftsman ... No one but the idealist imagines that we can eliminate the machine ... for the cost of hand-work must always place it beyond the reach of all save the wealthy.
Source: Henry W. Belknap, "The Revival of The Craftsman", The Craftsman December 1902, pages 184-185.
Perhaps Gustav Stickley's Craftsman Workshops best exemplifies Belknap's views. Why? Because, in balancing the demands of both craft and commerce, Stickley works at creating an enterprise that is both economically viable, yet could exist "upon a higher plane" of idealism.In 1906, perhaps after the production of his 32-square-spindle Morris Chair, Stickley writes "the use and abuse of machinery" According to David Cathers, regardless of Stickley's aspirations or his achievements, the compromises he makes, and his ultimate failure are testimony to the flawed foundations of America's first Arts and Crafts Movement.
Following an apprenticeship in his uncle's chair factory, Gustav Stickley became a furniture manufacturer in the early 1880s, and over the following two decades he grew prosperous producing unremarkable revival-style chairs. But financial success alone failed to satisfy him. By the late 1890s, feeling compelled to engage in more meaningful work, he became increasingly drawn to the nascent American Arts and Crafts Movement.
6. Stickley's Designers:-- Lamont Warner (1876-1970); Irene Sargent(18??-1932); Henry Wilkinson (1869-1931); Harvey Ellis (1852-1904); Blanche Baxter (1870-1967); Claude Bragdon (1866-1946); Jerome Connor (1874-1943); Peter Hansen (1880-1947); Samuel Howe (1854-1948; George H Jones (1865-1927); Valentine M Kluge (1874- ?); Louise Shrimpton (1870-1954); Victor Toothaker (1882-1932);
Henry Wilkinson (1869-1931)
Stickley was not a designer himself, he did have gift for attracting and motivating talented people. At Cornell University -- where he got his architecture degree -- Wilkinson acquired an admiration for John Ruskin, William Morris, and neo-gothic design. In July, 1900, Henry Wilkinson was hired as Stickley's first architect/furniture designer. In a very real sense, then, Wilkinson was prepared intellectually for employment as Stickley's first designer, for it is he who created Stickley's first Arts and Crafts furniture.
Stylistically innovative, the Wilkinson-designed furniture attracted the distributor, Clingman - Tobey Furniture, although this connection was brief, less than 12 months, enough time to lanuch Stickley a marketer of Arts and Crafts furniture.
Lamont A Warner
Only a step behind Wilkinson in his appointment, Lamont Warner (1876-1970) joins Stickley in September, 1900.
more info to come
As an art student, Warner "absorbed the Japonisme of his teacher, Arthur Wesley Dow". The interiors that Harvey Ellis designs for Gustav Stickley are Japanesque; Warner, Ellis, and Stickley all collect Japanese woodcut prints.
Source: David Cathers, "Enterprise on a Higher Plane", International Arts and Crafts, Ed. by Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry London: V&A PUBLICATIONS, 2005, [chapter 11] pages ?
During 1901 and 1902, Wilkinson and Warner, as the firms chief designers, developed what Stickley calls "the structural style of cabinetmaking" -- a phrase, incidentally that, as detailed in Chapter 5, originates with Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852) in the 1840s -- and it highlights the "construction of rectilinear Craftsman furniture".
For Stickley, "such details as mortise and tenon, key and dovetail can be made very decorative, provided they are only where needed and actually do the work they are intended".
Gustav Stickley, Chips from the Craftsman Workshops — Number II Syracuse, NY: 1907, page 38.
He also emphasized "the structurally-necessary hardware", for instance light-catching hand-hammered copper or in hinges across cabinet doors, both to hold to together and to enliven an otherwise plain colour mattered, too.
Stickley's finishers gave quarter-sawn oak furniture soft brown hues by exposing it to ammonia fumes that were absorbed into the wood then they applied dyes to develop green-brown, grey-brown tones.
Scaling DownHis furniture of this period, often built on a massive scale, and yet in itself skilfully executed joinery, its subtle curves, its play of solid and void, and the exactitude of its dimensions achieved the "refined plainness" that Stickley sought.
Some of Stickley's early Arts and Crafts furniture revealed his evident debt to British precedents, British furniture that Stickley knew best and the strongest influence on him was that of M.H. Baillie Scott.
At the time, International Studio published Baillie Scott's designs, and Stickley's designer, LaMont Warner, habitually saved clippings from that source.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ Pyghtle Works In 1901 Baillie Scott settles at Bedford, seemingly to be near Pyghtle Works, a furniture making shop. Just how Baillie Scott gets connected with the Bedford-based furniture manufacturer, John P. White -- who operates Pyghtle Works -- is not known, although people speculate that Baillie Scott may have become familiar with Pyghtle Works in the mid-1890s, since White as joiner does commissions for producing furniture for many of the major architects. For Baillie Scott, being close to Pyghtle Works is an asset, but evidently other matters enter the equation, including access to good schools for Baillie Scott’s children. His motives for locating at Bedford aside, this period is significant, because it is when he begins designing furniture and fabrics, and writing the 1906 Houses and Gardens. (Baillie Scott’s summarizes his thoughts on decorative design in Houses and Gardens.) In 1901 White issues a catalog of Baillie Scott’s furniture, 120 pieces in all. Made at the Pyghtle Shop, they sell through Liberty’s or White’s own showrooms at 134 New Bond Street, London. Quarto. (Today, on Bookfinder.com, a paperbound “reprint” of Furniture Made at the Pyghtle Works costs almost $4000.00!) @@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Stickley must have also had a copy of the Bedford-based John P. White's 1901 catalog-- [John P White], Furniture Made at the Pyghtle Works, Bedford by John P. White, Designed by MH Baillie Scott London: Bemrose & Sons, 1901. -- of Baillie Scott furniture, because a few Stickley firm's designs of this time derived from illustrated in that catalogue. In general, however Stickley and his designers absorbed Baillie Scott's vocabulary and convincingly created work of their own.
The rectilinearity, deft proportion, decorous detailing of the 1901 Craftsman adjustable back armchair owes something to Baillie Scott, one would mistake it for anything but a Stickley creation (plate 11.11) .
When his structural style was at its peak summer and fall of 1902, Stickley and his designers were certainly reading the illustrated articles to journals were publishing about the Turin International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art.
Phillipe Garner book on decorative arts 1890-1940 has a section describing the major exhibitions of the era.
Sources: "International exhibition of modern decorative art at Turin", International Studio 17 October 1902, pages 251-259; E. Shovey et. al., "First international exhibition of modern decorative art at Turin", International Studio 17 (July 1902) pages 45-47; M. O'Neill, "Rhetorics of Display: Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau at the Turin Exhibition of 1902", Journal of Design History 20 no. 3 2007 pages 205-225;
The exhibition apparently caught their attention was The Rose by Charles Rennie and Margaret Mackintosh. The Rose Boudoir's colour palette of whin silver and green was a far remove from Stickley's brown and grey-brown hues, and its graceful furniture was almost ethereal in contrast to Stickley's substantial cabinetry. Most important, the furniture and decorative objects in this space melded with the architecture and formed a harmonious, unified whole. The Rose Boudoir conveyed an aesthetic message -- the interior as ensemble -- that was new to Stickley's firm.
In late 1902, early 1903, Stickley visited Europe
Probably because of the Turin exhibition, and certainly because of the soon-to-open London Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Stickley decided to mount an exhibition of his own, and he made this trip to find objects to include in his displays.Details of his itinerary are sketchy: he was in Paris in late in 1902 or early 1903, to visit t the shops of Siegfried Bing and Rene Lalique. In London, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society opened it seventh exhibition in mid-January 1903, and while Stickley never specifically said he had gone to it, there is enough evidence to place him there, especially when later events -- evidence of purchases of products that were exhibited and the like -- are considered.
Stickley's Arts and Crafts exhibition, Syracuse, March-April 1903, later in Rochester, New York
The exhibition's main focus was American artisans working in wood, metal, leather, textiles and ceramics.
Not online, this "catalogue" is available only by readingit at the Syracuse Museum. Annotation on google book search:
Catalog of an exhibition of arts and crafts furniture and furnishings held at the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. Objects in the exhibition include items from noted arts and crafts designers such as Gustave Stickley, Hendrik Van Ingen, Harvey Ellis, Fireside Industries of Berea College, Dedham Pottery, Grueby Faience Co., Newcomb Pottery Co., Rookwood Pottery Co., Van Briggle Pottery Co., Cheltenham press, Merry Mount Press, student work from Alfred University Ceramics Department and the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, and other works from individual artists and a small number of items from other countries.
By sponsoring this exhibition, attracting handicraft workers to participate, and reporting on the event in The Craftsman, Stickley began to assume his central role in American Arts and Crafts.
In sum, Craftsman furniture, characterized by a stark simplicity, was introduced to the public and the furniture trade in 1900, soon achieved wider public acceptance. [for documentation, check Philippe Garner, ed., The Encyclopedia Of Decorative Arts New York: Van Nostrand, 1978. Also note that in 1909 binstead's book was published in America with two addional chapters, each written by Americans -- stickley was one author.
As noted above, lead by the formation of groups in Boston and Chicago, Arts and Crafts design was celebrated by a growing list of energetic organizations. Such activity only helped Stickley command a greater and greater market share.
In May, 1903, Stickley hired the architect/designer Harvey Ellis. At the time, Stickley's furniture was
"massive, powerful, and bristling with vigorously revealed structure: exposed mortise and tenon joints, locked in place with pins; chamfered, butt-jointed boards; and wrought metal hardware attached to the furniture with pyramidal faceted-head lag screws."
Ellis's arrival quickly changed Stickley design. Ellis injected a smaller scale, lighter, softer lines that included arcs and curves, and more color, including color in the inlays, for which Ellis is most famous. Like Stickley himself, Ellis was influenced by designers such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, C. F. A. Voysey, and M. H. Baillie Scott.
He also brought geometric, conventionalized design motifs, derived not only from his English Arts and Crafts sources, but from American Indian art for which he had great admiration. And he brought his superb drafting skills, informed with the simplicity and sophistication of the Japanese prints he collected, which elevated the level of The Craftsman magazine illustrations to heights never before achieved.
Harvey Ellis is best remembered for his Craftsman furniture designs that reflect British precedent, chiefly Voysey, Mackintosh and Baillie Scott. One of Ellis's inlaid drop-front for example, was in part inspired by the Voysey stationery case that Stickley bought in London, and inlay was similar to the inlay on the J.S. Henry piece acquired by Stickley at the same time. Ellis's Craftsman furniture was a marked departure from the firm's structural furniture of 1901-2.
Ellis banished the articulate (?) joints and massiveness of the earlier work, and built on a smaller, more elegant scale. And he brought a light colour palette to Stickley's cabinet wood with the addition of stylized inlays of pewter, copper and tint woods (plate I I.I4).
It also seems apparent that Ellis, more than anyone else, brought Native American designs to the Craftsman Workshops. His cover illustration for the October 1903 The Craftsman incorporated elements adapted from North American Indian pottery and baskets, and t article he illustrated for that issue, mentioned above 149), depicted stencilled wall coverings based on similar themes. These motifs evidently appealed to him because North American Indian geometry suited the generally rectilinear character of Craftsman furniture and because they could add colour to a Craftsman interior. The essay's text suggest another reason why these motifs attracted Ellis: observed that Native Americans used 'symbols to typify the elements' — that is, they conventionalized natural forms and therefore created art that in the eyes of I Craftsman paralleled 'the much-admired work of the Japanese artists',30
Ellis created his first Craftsman houses for the July and August 1903 issues of The Craftsman, and the works transformed Craftsman design. The living room in the August house plan, to take one example, was a far remove from the heavier, more visibly hand-hewn am predominantly brown or green-brown interiors published in the magazine prior to Ellis's arrival (plat 11.15). It had ebonized floors, plum-colour wall beneath a yellow frieze, a pale cream ceiling, and olive green portières (door curtains) with indigo and ivory appliques outlined in brown and yellow stitching. TM walls were divided into plain horizontal bands that looked back to Whistler's paintings and domestic interiors.
Motifs derived from Mackintosh were visible throughout this room: for example, the rose bush stencilled onto the linen-covered wall and the spade shape with tripartite sprouts stencilled onto the frieze area above the fireplace. In the large scale of the timber construction, the spareness of the room, the flat planes of colour and the asymmetric composition of his rendering Ellis's Japonisme was strongly in evidence as well.
With this elegant, aestheticized interior Ellis created a compelling synthesis that was wholly his own.
Ellis was a superbly gifted designer with wide-ranging taste that encompassed ideas from Japanese art, Native American handicraft, and British Arts and Crafts design. In 1903, assimilating those sources and summoning up his considerable powers, he realized the architectural coherence that Stickley and his other designers had sought without success in the wake of Turin and in the months following Stickley's trip to London in January 1903. Stickley's quest for that Arts and Crafts ideal, the interior as a total work of art, was finally realized at the Craftsman Workshops because of Harvey Ellis.31 Harvey Ellis synthesized British and Japanese influences in creating the first coherent domestic interiors to appear in Stickley's magazine.
In contrast to Stickley's earlier creations, the Ellis fall-front desk shown in figure 5, demonstrates the designer's major impact on the furniture made in the Craftsman Workshops. Although it is essentially rectilinear, the deeply arching apron not only introduces this graceful curve to Stickley's furniture, it also imparts to the desk a sense of lightness totally unlike the conscious sturdiness of the earlier designs. Gently rounded cutouts, echoing the curve of the apron, appear at the bottom of each side. The desk is without expressed structural features, replaced by what we have come to recognize as the stylistic traits of Ellis: the arching apron, wide, overhanging top, a back formed of laminated panels, and, of course, the conventionalized inlay pattern on the fall-front. Most of Ellis" Craftsman furniture is made of oak, but he either fumed it near-black or selected wood with a less obvious flake. Thus the graining of the quarter-sawn oak is a much less significant design element for Ellis than it was for Stickley—most likely because its patterns would have been at odds with his inlay motifs.
In addition to the aspects of Ellis" design vocabulary seen in this desk, there are several other equally important elements he introduced to Stickley"s work. The first is the bowed side, as seen for example, on the later Stickley chest, figure 6. Nothing in Stickley"s pre-Ellis work even hinted at this kind of roundedness and subtlety. Second, Ellis created the attenuated tall back chairs, close relatives to the tall chairs designed by Mackintosh and Voysey, and, to a lesser degree, by Wright. And, finally, Ellis introduced the use of veneer to Craftsman furniture, a traditional technique for the matching of grain patterns.
It is the inlay that makes Ellis-designed Craftsman furniture so special to the present day collector. The inlay made it unusually difficult and time-consuming to produce, and presumably more expensive to buy. Stickley first advertised inlaid pieces in The Craftsman magazine in July, 1903, featured a major article about them in January, 1904, and mentioned them for the last time in his May, 1904 issue. After that, production seems to have been discontinued. In an interview with the author, Gustav Stickley"s daughter Barbara Wiles confirmed that her father produced only enough inlaid furniture to show at trade exhibitions and major retail stores, and this would seem to explain its exceptional rarity today.
The inlay itself was composed of pewter, copper and light woods, and introduced a new note of color to Stickley's Craftsman designs. The love of color and its skillful use are apparent in Ellis" work throughout his career. Roger Kennedy says of Ellis: "he celebrated color".
8. Sources of Background Information: Roger Kennedy, "Long Dark Corridors: Harvey Ellis," Prairie School Review 5 First-Second Quarter 1968.
1 Thomas E. Tallmadge, "The Chicago School", Architectural Review 15 December 1908.
2. Claude Bragdon, "Harvey Ellis: A Portrait Sketch", Architectural Review 15 December 1908.
3.Hugh M. G. Garden, "Harvey Ellis, Designer and Draftsman", Architectural Review, XV, December 1908.
4.For a detailed discussion of Ellis" architecture of this period, see: A REDISCOVERY—HARVEY ELLIS: ARTIST, ARCHITECT. This is an exhibition catalog published jointly by the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, 1972. For a discussion of Ellis" furniture designs, see: FURNITURE DESIGNED BY ARCHITECTS, by Marian Page, New York: Watson Guptill, 1980.
5.Roger Kennedy, "Long Dark Corridors: Harvey Ellis," Prairie School Review 5 Issues 1 and 2 1968.
6.Claude Bragdon, "Harvey Ellis: A Portrait Sketch," Architectural Review 15 December 1908
7. Hugh M. G. Garden, "Harvey Ellis, Designer and Draftsman," Architectural Review, 15 December 1908.
David Cathers, Stickley style: arts and crafts homes in the craftsman tradition 1999; Furniture of the American arts and crafts movement: Stickley and Roycroft ...1981; Gustav Stickley; Furniture of the American arts and crafts movement: furniture made by Gustav Stickley ... 1996.
The Standardization of 1904 Begins Stickley's Mature Period, 1904-1910
David Cathers -- a leading authority Stickley -- calls 1904 the "pivotal" year for Stickley furniture
The Craftsman Workshops Syracuse NY Catalogue "D" 1904
The Craftsman Workshops Syracuse NY Supplement to Catalogue "D" 1905
In February 1905, Gustav Stickley published an extensive catalog -- an 128-page "Cabinet Work from the Craftsman Workshops, or "Catalogue D", with either newly designed pieces, or modified pieces of earlier designs. In both its format and its contents, Catalogue D was a definite departure, indicative of a major revison of company policy.
As his chief biographer, David Cathers, notes, Stickley's earlier catalogs and promotional booklets had a more pedestrain flavor: -- bound in stout brown paper covers, Gothic typefonts, and Morrisian decorative borders that echoed William Morris design. His assistant, Irene Sargent, wrote pieces designed to inspire, which link Stickley furniture to medieval antecedents and/or themes addressed by Morris
In 1904, Stickley shed the medievalist facade -- created by Irene Sargent -- that, earler, he cast over his Arts and Crafts enterprise, making the "D" catalogs more straightforwardly indicative of a strict business orientation.
The covers are gray and rather industrial looking, while pages inside are filled with business-like black-and-white photos.
Lacking in these black-and-white images, of course, are the rich brown hues and textures of the actual wood. Moreover, the "Arts and Crafts as lifestyle" writing -- that is, the subtle proselytizing agenda of Irene Sargent -- are supplanted by a brief promotional "Introduction", annonuncing such innovations as sleek spindles, some with inlay. In broad terms, with Catalogue D and its "Supplement" Stickley distills the heft of his 1901 and 1902 furniture with the refinements Harvey Ellis designs of 1903 and 1904.
Overall, these designs possess a holistic integrity -- a restrained plainess, yes, but with an internal coherence and outward heft -- designs that give a sense that Stickley has finally acquired enough confidence to confront the vicissitudes of the mass market.
Stickley Revises Construction Details of Production of Selected Pieces in Catalogue D
The mitered Mullions once found on the doors of Craftsman bookcases and china cabinets are replaced by simpler, lap-jointed Mullions. The backs of carcase pieces have lightweight panels. Seams -- originally wooden members simply butted side-by-side on cabinet doors or the sides of carcases -- are now beneath Quartersawn Oak veneers. Exposed Tenons, still very much in evidence, but fewer pieces with Tenon-and-Key joints are produced. The more recent designs lack the heft of the early furniture, while the timber components in their construction is generally thinner than before. Stickley's wood finishes hint at actually retaining the signature richness of depth of the quarter-sawn oak's stripes, with its suggestion of permenance, but, like his furniture, these too are increasingly standardized.
Coinciding with the release of Catalogue D, Janurary 1904, The Craftsman began the series, "Home Training in Cabinet Work". Some of the "Home Training" designs are created for The Craftsman, but others are versions of Stickley production furniture, and still others inspired by furniture originally in international art journals like The Studio.
The initial article sets the tone for the series: the purpose is two-fold, i.e., "therapeutic" and "educational". The first, the therapeutic, offers recreation to the stressed office worker. The second, the educational, provides manual training that "fits a boy, by practice, to become skilled workmen, builders, or designers". Evidently while Stickley's signature went on the byline, the series author is Louise Shrimpton (1870-1956) [Check page 157 of Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry, International Arts and Crafts, London: V&A Publications, 2005.]
Announcement of the "Home Training in Cabinet Work" articles in The Craftsman 1905, page 651
Link to the articles on "Home Training in Cabinet Work" in The Craftsman, March, 1905 to October 1905
Source: adapted from David Cathers Gustav Stickley New York: Phaidon, 2003, pages 124-141
(Ellis died in January 1904, which means that he only worked about Stickley about eight months.)
In 1904 Stickley's firm began to "standardize" Craftsman furniture design.
The furniture -- handsome, substantial and functional -- required skilled hands to construct. Production, more and more machine-aided, was increasingly standardized for economy.
But, by reducing standard designs to a limited number, and increasing its reliance on machines, the firm's products became more affordable.
With these innovations, For Stickley, his firm was now creating what, in the December, 1905 issue The Craftsman, he calls
... a democratic art, an art that is not restricted to a small exclusive circle, but to all humanity, an art that gives true motives and right impulses and shall teach us "to do the right thing well in the spirit of one who appreciates the fit, the seemly and the beautiful."
Integrating Hand Craftsmanship With Machine Production
Coherence of Style in Decorative Arts
Following the didacticism of groups -- "tastemakers" in the United States -- such as Boston's Society of Arts and Crafts, where a determination exists to develop a sense of "taste" in newly arrived immigrants, Stickley declares from the beginning that his intended market is the "the middle class individual". But until 1904, Stickley cannot produce goods for the middle class person. In 1904, he successfully reduces his costs by integrating hand craftsmanship with machine production.
According to David Cathers, pages 38-42 of his bio gustav stickley, this "Chip" is only 24 pages long: A Revival of Old Arts and Crafts Applied to Wood and Leather
Sources: Eileen Boris, Art and Labor: Ruskin, Morris, and the Craftsman Ideal in America Temple University Press,1986; David Cathers "In a Higher Plane" [not complete], International Arts and Crafts, Edited by Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry London: V&A PUBLICATIONS, 2005, [chapter 11] pages ?.
Always critical of elaborate machine-made ornament that imitates handwork, Stickley's attitude towards technology is quite straightforward. "When rightly used", he says, "the machine is simply a tool in the hands of a skilled worker, and in no way detracts from his work". Source: Gustav Stickley, "The Use and Abuse of Machinery, and its Relation to the Arts and Crafts", The Craftsman November 1906 page 204.
By January, 1904 the "Craftsman house" is a regular feature of Stickley's magazine. A modest, sturdy, reasonably priced suburban or rural dwelling, built, ideally -- following the examples set initially by Pugin, but finds its champions later in by Webb, Shaw, Voysey, Baillie Scott, and Gimson -- of local stone and wood, its interior characterized by open planning, built-in furniture and harmonious colour combinations -- this last a legacy of Ellis -- but the open planning -- see above -- Stickley picks up from Voysey and Baillie Scott.
From 1904, Stickley's products -- including his Craftsman houses -- are set in a consistent style. As we note above -- and in Chapter 1:1 Background Information -- Stickley learns architectural coherence from the examples of Voysey, Baillie Scott and Mackintosh, and from Harvey Ellis, and now this style is his aesthetic ideal. This shift towards what we might call "the unified interior ensemble" reflects, too, a definite commercial consideration. At this point in his life, Stickley is an astute salesperson, selling not just products but a lifestyle. The Craftsman house, filled with harmonious, standardized Craftsman furniture, Craftsman metalwork and Craftsman textiles, has evolved into his marketing ideal.
International Arts and Crafts, Edited by Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry London: V&A PUBLICATIONS, 2005, chapter 11.
During the years of the Craftsman Workshops Stickley remains committed to good design and sound craftsmanship, producing work of great integrity. But, as a businessman with ambition and and an ability for self-promotion, he is at once an apostle of the Arts and Crafts movement's virtues and a capitalist who has created a substantial enterprise. If these two poles are contradictory, he is not troubled about it.
Evidently, however, he dedicates most of his firm's profits two essentially altruistic ventures: the first, underwriting The Craftsman; the second, building and operating Craftsman Farms. Initially The Craftsman is edited (and largely written by the Syracuse University professor, Irene Sargent (1852-1932). During the fifteen years of publication -- 1901-16-- The Craftsman promotes Stickley's products, but these economic matters are subsidary to a larger mission as part of the Arts and Crafts lifestyle movement. In this role the magazine ranges from, on the one hand, an advocacy of design reform to, one the other hand, promotic and ethical code for followers of the movemnt.
Issues of The Craftsman promote "the simple life" and embrace the era's progressive social ideals, such as the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of Native American culture. To encourage its readers to take up handicrafts, along sketches and working drawings, articles in the magzine provide how-to-do-it instructions in cabinet-making, metalwork and needlework. Movement promoters in the American wing of the Arts and Crafts lifestyle write for The Craftsman, including the designer Ernest Batchelder (1875-1957), the ceramicist C.F. Binns (1857-1934), the architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), and the domestic architect and promoter of utopian communal living, William L. Price (1861-1916).
Probably the most widely-read publication in the American Arts and Crafts Movement, its peak circulation remains small -- a circulation of only 22,500 -- is small, but with a readership compsed the architects, designers, artisans, educators, and Arts and Crafts societiy members, its impact is extensive.
Since Craftsman and Craftsman-inspired houses and interiors are frequently featured in both architectural journals and in such lifestyle magazines as House and Garden and House Beautiful -- see my discussion of the era's magazines here -- in America, Stickley's message reaches farther than just dedicated followers. He is, without any doubt, from coast-to-coast, an influential voice on matters of handicraft, furniture design and domestic architecture.
The second undertaking -- again financed by the profits Stickley's business earns -- is "Craftsman Farms", the 650-acre model farm he starts in rural New Jersey in 1908. Like the Rose Valley utopian community the Philadelphia architect, William L Price, founds in 1901, rather than simply visualizing his farm as a rustic family compound, he also plans to establish a modestly-sized utopian community composed of crafts-people and a boys' school. While these well-intentioned plans remain unrealized, at the time, Craftsman Farms itself -- a place of pastoral beauty -- is the Stickley family home.
Perhaps Stickley's contradictory nature -- an idealism amalgamated with commercial instincts -- that helps explain not only his own initial success and then rapid decline but also the short life of the first American Arts and Crafts Movement, roughly mid-1890s to WW I. With standardization noted above -- and competitor's knockoffs -- and an increasing mix of hand- and machine-making of furniture in the Arts and Crafts style, Stickley's days become numbered. He files for bankruptcy in 1916.
Interest in Arts and Crafts did not die. In the 1970s a major revitalization of interest, nationwide, occurs, a revitalized enthusiam that continues into the second decade of the 21st-century. But, in between World War I and the 1970s, pockets of interest continues, particularly on the East Coast, something that you can prove for yourself by using the digitized database of American newspapers maintained by Newapaperarchive.com.
Sources: David Cathers, Gustav Stickley New York: Phaidon, 2003; David Cathers, In a Higher Plane" [not complete], International Arts and Crafts, Ed by Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry London: V&A PUBLICATIONS, 2005, [chapter 11]; M H Baillie Scott, Houses and gardens : arts and crafts interiors 1933; James D. Kornwolf, M. H. Baillie Scott and the arts and crafts movement: pioneers of modern design 1972; Kevin P. Rodel and Jonathan Binzen, Arts & crafts furniture : from classic to contemporary Newtown, CT : Taunton Press, 2003; Eileen Boris, Art and Labor: Ruskin, Morris, and the Craftsman Ideal in America Temple University Press,1986;.