The History


by | The History | 0 comments

“An illustrated monthly magazine in the interest of better art, better work and a better more reasonable way of living.”
~The Craftsman the magazine of the Arts & Crafts movement, edited by Gustav Stickley, was published from October 1910- December 1916 & was taken over by Art World in 1917.

Stuckley’s interest in furniture began as a carpenter, but inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement of the late 1800’s in England, he created a whole design movement giving identity & voice to the Movement in America. Through his ideology of simplicity, craftsmanship & wholesome living, he built a home decorating empire including a large store, modeled on today’s department store, featuring his furniture & metalwork. In the store was a beautiful restaurant where they served fresh food that was grown on his farm.

Stickley promoted his goods & his ideals through The Craftsman magazine which featured articles about architecture, interior design & about living well. A vehicle to educate the public on the Arts & Crafts Movement, the first two issues were devoted to William Morris & John Ruskin. Articles on Morris include praise for Morris as a poet, a storyteller, an artist & a handicraftsman, as well as “an unprejudiced man of wealth, culture & position” & “versatile genius.” Stickley laments Morris’ recent passing calling him – “a lost leader, friend & brother.” I consider myself a Morris groupie, but I do not feel that I ever knew him before I read Stickley’s words.

With that, let’s pause to consider the fact that in the first eight volumes of The Craftsman, from October 1901 to September 1905, Irene Sargent, an American art historian, made eighty-four contributions, & nearly all of its first three issues were written primarily by her. An academic, her aesthetic is succinctly expressed by a quote she published of Thomas Carlyle: “ornament is the first spiritual need of barbarous man.” This book, a chronology of Sargents’ life, by Cleota Reed, was hand-printed by Andre Chavez of The Clinker Press.

It is my feeling that though it is likely that the Morris tributes above flowed from her pen, Stickley truly loved & understood the European Art & Crafts Movement & was profoundly influenced by it, considering it his mission to bring it to America. Being the editor & publisher, you can be assured The Craftsman was Stickley’s voice, as often expressed by Sargent.

However, as much as Stickley admired Morris, rather than being another child of the medieval period on which the European Movement was modeled, Stickley’s uniquely American, colonial-inspired, cultural aesthetic was clear from the magazine’s inception & grew ever bolder with each issue.

What I consider to be the most valuable aspect of the American Arts & Crafts Movement was its focus on simplicity, honesty, & cooperation as the ingredients of living well. He was a proponent of building in harmony with the environment by using natural materials & was also an early supporter of conservation. You can see an example of the The Craftsman magazine’s beautiful & eloquent content here.

He encouraged his readers to become proficient in manual tasks like carpentry even publishing plans of how to build his furniture designs at home. His articles provided guidance on doing handcrafted work such as embroidery & there was much written on gardening. Stickley was the major tastemaker of his age & in my humble opinion, taught folks to live fulfilling lives centered on creativity, self-sufficiency, health & family.

An example of articles contained in the magazine can be viewed here, a charming article about Christmas & another informative one about lighting, a very new technology when it was written.

And, please take a look at these videos about him, his life & work. I have included a trailer of the documentary film, Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman, available on Prime Video.  It contains much of what you need to know about the Movement in this country. What I have written here is so abbreviated that I am feeling a bit disrespectful, but if it encourages you learn more about this brilliant & heartful man, then my little article has done its job.

Old typewriter


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