Thank you, George Martin, Age 13

“Is it signed?”

How often have we heard — and asked — that familiar question?

On a recent trek across North Carolina, I stopped at a couple of my favorite antiques shops along Interstate 40. While I really don’t expect to find a great piece of Stickley, Grueby, or even Roycroft metalware tucked away in one of the popular interstate malls, I’m always reminded of one of several admonitions, such as “If you don’t go, you don’t know,” or “He who snoozes, loses,” or my own, “The only person who doesn’t find anything is the one who quit looking.”

And I really did once have a conversation with a Durham antiques dealer who, while leaning against a faintly signed Gustav Stickley dining room chair, sighed, “I really would love to have a piece of signed Stickley in my shop.”

On this particular Thursday, however, I did find a signed – and dated – piece of Arts and Craft: a cute, well-proportioned, well-constructed, keyed-tenon footstool, possibly with its original leatherette upholstery and tacks.

The maker?

George W. Martin

March 28, 1911

Manual School

7th Grade

Thirteen-year-old George Martin undoubtedly made this oak footstool using plans published in any of several magazines or books, such as Popular Mechanics or The Craftsman. Or perhaps he copied an actual example his woodworking instructor had brought to shop class. Regardless, when he was done, he turned it over and across the fir plank bottom, using his blunt #2 pencil, proudly signed his name and documented his work.

If only every craftsman and craftswomen had followed George’s example ….

But George’s footstool is a good reminder of one of the basic tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, one we either tend to forget — or feel we don’t have the time to do.

Make something.

No one in Gustav Stickley’s furniture factory could ever have felt more proud than did 7th grade manual school student George W. Martin on March 28, 1911, when he laid down his pencil, picked up his completed footstool, and took it home to show his family.

Yet we too often deny ourselves that same feeling of accomplishment.

Head, Heart, and Hand.

Until next Monday,

Sign up for a community education class in your area or register today for one of our Pre-Conference Workshops at the National Arts & Crafts Conference, February 19th-21st, 2016!