A Few Special Weekends
We traveled north this past weekend, back to Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, New Jersey, the home of Gustav Stickley and his family for nearly ten years during the pinnacle of his career.
The occasion was the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms annual fall gala, which serves as the non-profit organization’s primary fund raising event of the year. And, as is always the case, the weather was perfect, the seminars thought provoking, the exhibits impressive, the tours carefully planned, and the grounds were immaculate.
Gustav Stickley would have been proud.
This has become something of an annual pilgrimage for Leigh Ann and me, much as returning to the Grove Park Inn each February for the annual Arts and Crafts Conference has for so many of you. Outsiders must wonder, I am sure, why we return to the same place, the same event, hear many of the same speakers and seminar topics, walk the same hallways, even see the same Arts and Crafts furnishings, year after year.
It’s a question I ask myself every fall, as I sit and wonder if this will be the year when people decide not to come to the Grove Park Inn.
But as I sat in the back of the seminar room last Saturday and gazed around the auditorium, I had no doubt that we would be returning to Craftsman Farms next October. I don’t yet know who will be the speakers or what the focus of the exhibits will be, and I do know that Stickley’s log home and grounds will look much as they do today, but it really doesn’t matter.
It will be to see our Arts and Crafts friends.
We all have friends. They are our neighbors, the people we work with, parents of our children’s classmates, and members of our extended families. Some of them understand our fascination with all things Arts and Crafts; they may even appreciate the craftsmanship that went into each drippy vase, pegged joint, and hammered piece of copper. But what they must whisper to each other as they walk back toward their own homes would only make us smile…..
Not our Arts and Crafts friends.
People don’t collect Arts and Crafts because it’s different.
People collect Arts and Crafts because we’re different.
And every so often we just have to get away from our house projects, our work projects, our school and community projects and immerse ourselves in an Arts and Crafts experience with our Arts and Crafts friends.
And it’s not because we only want to sit around and debate who was the best decorator at Rookwood, or whether Dard Hunter had a greater influence at Roycroft than Karl Kipp, or what would have happened had the five Stickley boys been able to get along and work together.
It’s far more subtle than that.
It’s an experience, even if just for a weekend at Craftsman Farms, the Roycroft Campus, or the Grove Park Inn, that recharges our Arts and Crafts batteries, that reaffirms not the monetary value of the objects we collect, but our belief that the simple life is worth the extra effort, that art and beauty belong not just in museums but also in our homes, that craftsmanship is to be respected and revered, and that, in the words of John Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”
It’s not something we need every weekend, for we do find great comfort as we sit amidst our modest collections that also serve as furnishings for our homes. We gain a silent affirmation as we sip a morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine and gaze across the room at a particular piece, recalling the day we discovered it in a dealer’s booth or at a local yard sale, and think, too, of the day when a craftsman stepped back and also stood a few feet away from it, and pronounced it finished.
Just as we wonder who he or she was, each of them must have wondered where their work of art and craftsmanship might someday be. Both nameless to the other.
And so, for as long as there are Arts and Crafts collectors, there will be a need for a few special weekends, a few breaks from our many projects, a few opportunities to sit near the fireplaces in the Great Hall, to walk the grounds of Craftsman Farms, or to stroll around the Roycroft Campus with those special people we call our Arts and Crafts friends.
Without them, we would each be just another collector.
Until next Monday,
Make plans for your special Arts and Crafts weekend, wherever it might be.