“The American Arts & Crafts Chair” Now Open at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms


From the desk of Executive Director Vonda Givens…

I am delighted by the idea that the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is imparting a “message of honesty and joy” through its newly opened exhibition examining the American Arts and Crafts chair. We hope you’ll “receive” this message with a visit to the museum in the coming months. If you’ve never visited before, this exhibition, which runs through early January, provides an ideal time to experience a tour of Gustav Stickley’s Log House. All regular weekly tours, which run hourly from 12:15 to 3:15, Thursday to Sunday, will terminate in the exhibition, located in the dining room. For anyone desiring an exclusively exhibition-focused visit—on weekends only—self-guided tours will be available from 12 to (last entry) 3:30 p.m. Reservations are not required. Please visit and help us celebrate the rich variety and vision of American Arts and Crafts makers.


“We can’t build chairs or do any other honest work requiring skill and initiative, without building honesty, skill and initiative into our characters.  So your built chair is something more than a good chair.  It is a message of honesty and joy to the possessor, and a cause of growth and joy to the worker.”   –Will Price, “The Building of a Chair,” The Artsman 1 (May 1904): 283.


A large crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of the exhibition and to hear David Cathers speak about it. Photographer: Barbara Weiskittel.


The exhibition The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “A Message of Honesty and Joy,” which takes its title from the Will Price quote above, opened at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms on June 1. Guest curated by distinguished Stickley scholar David Cathers, the exhibition examines the American Arts and Crafts chair through thirteen featured side chairs. All thirteen chairs represent early-20th-century handicraft-oriented manufacturers and small craft-oriented workshops. Three distinct examples of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops chairs are included and featured alongside chairs by Stickley Brothers, L. & J.G. Stickley, Charles P. Limbert, Joseph P. McHugh, J.M Young, Charles Rohlfs, the Roycroft Shops, Byrdcliffe Art Colony and Rose Valley Shops.


With Trustee Pete Mars’ assistance, David Cathers speaks about the design details of the Rose Valley Gothic Chair.


Of the featured chairs Cathers has noted, “I think all the chair makers included in this exhibition worked in the same spirit, producing work that expressed honesty and joy.  Yet they were such creative designers and skillful artisans that their chairs are wonderfully varied, one from another. …the relief-carved Byrdcliffe chair, the restlessly curved Rose Valley chair, the tall, flamboyant Rohlfs chair, and the modest, deftly proportioned Gustav Stickley ladderback.”

Cathers opened the exhibition with a brief insightful presentation, beginning with an overview of the underlying concept of the exhibition. Then with the help of Pete Mars, co-chair of the curatorial committee, Cathers moved on to focus on the specific design characteristics of seven chairs, and affirmed, for the record, that the Roycroft Shops chair was his favorite.


David Cathers shared an overview of the exhibition during the opening reception. Photographer: Barbara Weiskittel.


In her remarks, Executive Director Vonda Givens noted the generosity of many individuals in the nationwide Arts and Crafts community who assisted the museum with executing Cathers’ visions for the exhibition and its accompanying comprehensive Visitor’s Guide, which includes an essay by Cathers and features commentaries from ten writers. The Guide, presented by Toomey and Co. Auctioneers, is included in admissions fees.

For a further exploration of this exhibition, make plans now to attend the museum’s annual Scholars Symposium during Stickley Weekend on October 12-13. David Cathers will be the Symposium keynote speaker and will present an in-depth presentation on the exhibition.  For early registration, call the administrative office at 973-540-0311.


A few members of the museum’s exhibition team: Trustee Barbara Fuldner, Jonathan Clancy, Guest Curator David Cathers, and Vonda Givens with Board President Barbara Weiskittel.


Can’t make it to see the exhibition? You can it experience through the Visitors Guide, available for a $10 fee which includes shipping and handling. Call the museum at 973-540-0311 to request a copy.


Lenders to the exhibition: Ryan Berley, Curator of Rose Valley Museum at Thunderbird Lodge, with E. Morris Potter, the great-grand niece of Will Price, who designed the Gothic Chair in 1902.


Photographer credit: Barbara Weiskittel.

Photos courtesy of Vonda Givens.