When it comes to buying furniture, there’s one element that catches my eye, and it’s the price tag. Color, style, utility—it all places a distant second to price. I bring up this narrow point-of-view (and my meager film critics salary), only because after seeing Herb Stratford’s documentary Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman, I’d never really considered the origins of my furniture.
Born in the mid-1800s, Gustav Stickley is known as one of the first “lifestyle entrepreneurs.” He showed how furniture could not only integrate with your home, but also with the type of lifestyle you want to live. He originated the first true “American Style” of design, gave life to the little known Arts and Crafts Movement during the industrial revolution, and published the popular Craftsman Magazine.
“…originated the ‘American Style’ of design, gave life to the little known Arts and Crafts Movement…and published the popular Craftsman Magazine.”
The documentary covers Stickley’s life from beginning to end. Born in 1858 in Wisconsin, Stickley’s family owned a modest farm. He had to quit school in the eighth grade to support the family, and while working at a successful chair manufacturer, he became enamored with the world of woodworking and specifically wood’s color, texture, and grain.
Despite his eighth-grade education, Stickley would go on to become a carpenter, designer, writer, and successful businessman. He first created a furniture company with his brothers that encompassed manufacturing, wholesale, and retail and quickly became wealthy.
"…find inspiration from William Morris in terms of design and philosophy toward ecology and worker’s rights…"