Artists & Designers

Stickley, Gustav (American, 1858-1942)

Born in 1858 in Osceola, Wisconsin to two German immigrants, designer Gustav Stickley's career began in 1876 when he apprenticed in his uncle's chair factory at the age of eighteen. In 1888, Stickley formed a partnership with salesman, Elgin Simonds, and their furniture manufacturing business soon achieved success through the production of then-fashionable 'Oriental' and revival styles until 1898. In that year, Stickley seized control of the firm, renamed it the Gustave Stickley Company, and in 1900 introduced a line of artistic "New Furniture," characterized by sturdy materials, rectilinear forms, sparse ornamentation, and evident or "honest" construction. He also adopted Arts and Crafts designer William Morris' motto, "Als ik kan" ("If I can"), as his own and trademarked the symbol of the medieval joiner's compass. As a result of his newfound fascination with the social and artistic principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, in 1901 Stickley renamed the company United Crafts and again, in 1903, when it became the Craftsman Workshops. Craftsman Workshops was, for the following decade, a successful commercial enterprise that included publication of a monthly proselytizing magazine, The Craftsman (1901-1916), as well as expansion into metalwork, textile, landscape, and architectural designs targeted at America's burgeoning middle class. More so than any other Arts and Crafts manufacturer in the United States, Stickley's firm bridged the high ideals of the great theorists of artistic reform, foremost among them John Ruskin and William Morris, with the contingencies and processes of the mass market.

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