The Craftsman: The Life and Work of Gustav Stickley

4 Session Online Course  |  $25/session | Location: Zoom Online Classroom

Saturdays, October 3, 10, 17, & 31, 2020  |   1:00 PM EDT


Session 1: Saturday, October 3 at 1:00 PM EDT

“There is Properly No History; Only Biography”: The Life and Work of Gustav Stickley


In his essay “History,” from 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson made the bold–and strikingly modern–claim that “All history is subjective.  There is properly no history; only biography.”  We begin the celebration of Stickley this month with a close look at his biography, examining Stickley’s life and tracing his output from the earliest forms we know of, to the latest pieces he made in his long and storied career.  The session will shed new light on aspects of Stickley’s career and demonstrate that the origins of his Arts and Crafts sensibilities began well before he published “New Furniture from the Workshop of Gustave Stickley” in 1900 and discuss–for the first time–a previously unknown company that he founded.

A Morris Plains house designed and built by Gustav Stickley for William C. Parker in 1913.

Session 2: Saturday, October 10 at 1:00 PM EDT

“Devoted to the New Domestic Art”: Craftsman Homes and the Birth of Stickley’s Empire


If The Craftsman served as the means by which Stickley introduced new audiences to the philosophy behind his furniture, it was his Craftsman houses that made these aspirations concrete: they became a means by which people could realize their aspirations and actively an engage the Arts and Crafts as a lifestyle.  From the genesis of this idea in May 1903’s “The Craftsman House,” through the designs of Harvey Ellis later that year, to the formation of “The Craftsman Homebuilder’s Club” in April 1904, this session traces the evolution of Stickley’s Craftsman Houses.  In addition to the history of this aspect of Stickley’s career, this session brings you inside the Parker House, an immaculately preserved and privately-owned Stickley home with original woodwork and fireplace system.

Session 3: Saturday, October 17 at 1:00 PM EDT

“The Cultivation of Human Sympathy”: Stickley’s Early Factory and the Ideal Workshop


There exists a tension, inherent in any discussions of the Arts and Crafts movement, between the ideals assigned to the movement, and the economic realities that governed production, and hindsight is often too blunt an instrument to be useful.  This session explores the early factory of Stickley–from 1898 to 1904–and his productions, not through the false binary of a gauzy idealism vs. insincere capitalist pandering, but looking more deeply at his factory as a mediation between these competing poles.  Originally planned as a topic for the Stickley Weekend Symposium, it is a more nuanced look at the current exhibition that explores the degree to which Stickley achieved –as Oscar Lovell Triggs wrote in The Craftsman–“a form of labor which aims to be artistic one the one hand and educative of the other.”  It frames Stickley’s factory in relation to Triggs’ ideal workshop, of which “the cultivation of human sympathy–that delicate something that is the source of all high endeavor” was a measure of success.

A close up shot of a hand-hammered copper door pull incised with Craftsman Workshops shopmark.

Session 4: Saturday, October 31 at 1:00 PM EDT

“By Hammer and Hand”: A New History of Stickley’s Metal Shop


Perhaps no other aspect of Stickley’s career is in need of revision than his decision to expand the factory into the production of metal wares in late 1902.  New evidence has challenged much of the conventional wisdom that surrounds the shop history and sheds new light on the timeline of the work, the workers who made the objects, and the sources that Stickley looked to for design ideas as he developed this aesthetic.  What emerges from synthesizing these new sources is a more complete, and complicated, history of the shop that elevates previously unknown workers and companies to replace of the names to which we have grown accustomed.

REGISTER HERE for 1 or more sessions.