The Scoop on a New Film About Arts & Crafts Pioneer Gustav Stickley
Today’s lifestyle entrepreneurs have nothing on American Arts and Crafts pioneer Gustav Stickley. At the height of his fame in the early 1900s, the Wisconsin-born furniture designer operated The Craftsman Building, a 12-story retail and office space in New York City. The structure also held a restaurant that was furnished with Stickley-made tables and chairs and prepared food using fresh produce and dairy from Craftsman Farms, his 650-acre property in northern New Jersey.
Now a museum, Craftsman Farms served as a prime filming location for director Herb Stratford’s new documentary Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman. The 68-minute film premiered on March 5 on virtual cinemas. It takes viewers through Stickley’s idealism-fueled rise and rapid fall, precipitated by his company’s bankruptcy in 1916.
Stickley died in 1942, mostly forgotten, but his now-coveted wood furniture began to regain popularity in the 1970s and ’80s. The film traces this resurgence of interest, highlighting the beauty and quality of Stickley’s work (an example is shown at top). And it conveys the enduring appeal of surrounding oneself with well-made objects that embody a spirit of truth and simplicity.
“The idea that Stickley was really about was home,” says Vonda Givens, executive director of The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, in the film. “And home is something that, whether you’re 6 or 60, you understand it.”