At this year’s Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference, the Stickley Museum introduced the 5th installment in our “Mr. Stickley” exhibition series: “Mr. Stickley’s Lighting.” The series continues to examine different aspects of Gustav Stickley’s career, and this year’s focus on lighting is one of the most popular!
We began with an exhibition in the Great Hall of the Grove Park Inn for the duration of the conference. Although space limitations meant the exhibition was not comprehensive, it included a wide variety of examples of Stickley’s lighting in the form of lamps, lanterns, sconces, and candlesticks, using a variety of different materials including wood, pottery, hammered copper, brass, and iron. Lampshades made of wicker, split bamboo, silk, linen, and glass also helped to fully illustrate Stickley’s approach to lighting design.
On Saturday night of the conference, trustees Mark Weaver and Pete Mars led a small group discussion that was attended by 67 people! The discussion related Stickley’s lighting designs to its historical and cultural context – lighting in American homes in the early part of the 20th century and the psychological and esthetic impact of interior electric lighting at that time. Of course, you can’t talk about early electricity without mentioning Thomas Edison, the man who brought us the electric light bulb. Interestingly both his labs in Menlo Park and his home in Llewellyn Park were reasonably close to Stickley’s Craftsman Farms.
We continued to explore Mr. Stickley’s lighting with “An Electric Evening” on Sunday, March 4. The evening began with the return of Pete Mars’ Twilight Tour. This tour gave participants a glimpse of evening life during the time the Stickleys were in residence at the Log House. Pete further explored the development of electric lighting within the context of Craftsman Farms, and illuminated the features of the Log House design that shine most beautifully in the evening light. Anyone who has had the chance to visit the Log House knows that, although quite dimly lit, the soft glow created by the amber glass and copper lanterns does give one a distinct feeling of warmth and calm.
Following the tour, Mark Weaver’s “Mr. Stickley’s Lighting” lecture shed some additional light on Stickley’s approach to developing his domestic lighting fixtures. For example, Stickley used lampshades as both the means to achieve a desired lighting effect and as a prominent design feature in a room. He favored Japanese wicker shades of split bamboo or willow lined with heavy Habutai silk in soft rich shades of red, green, dull yellow, or orange. Domestic light came from a variety of fuel sources. As seen in the Log House, electricity, oil, candles, and denatured alcohol – or ethanol – were all used in lighting at the time.
For further reading, the exhibition catalogue – “Mr. Stickley’s Lighting” – is available for purchase on our website.
And be sure to check out this great video with clips from Pete’s tour! Many thanks to David Lowden for the video.