Digging For Gems in Your Own Backyard
Much of the time, it seems, we find ourselves focused on the most well-known of the Arts & Crafts icons: Gustav Stickley, Rookwood, the Roycrofters, Grueby, Kalo Silver, Dirk van Erp, Van Briggle and the rest of the usual suspects.
And, equally as apparent, most researchers, writers and speakers have devoted the majority of their time uncovering every known fact – and theorizing on those they could not verify – on these same individuals, even going so far as to celebrate having a cold beer in a bar that once had been a furniture showroom for one of them.
But for every major Arts & Crafts icon, there are scores of others who were doing much the same thing at the same time, but have been either dismissed or overlooked.
Chances are one of them was not far from where you live.
In and around Asheville, we had a number of talented individuals who worked in the Arts & Crafts style: silversmiths William Dodge and Stuart Nye, Penland School coppersmiths, Pisgah Forest Pottery, Brown Brothers Pottery, the Artisans’ Shop, Biltmore Industries, blacksmith Tony Lord and others. Fortunately for all of us, Robert Brunk has published two volumes of essays containing valuable information on several of these individuals.
We are equally as fortunate to have several publications dedicated to the Arts & Crafts era – Style 1900, Arts & Crafts Homes, the Journal of the American Art Pottery Association, American Bungalow, Cottages & Bungalows and others – as well as newsletters and websites that can serve as a means of sharing information on lesser known firms and individuals.
Imagine, if you would, what would happen if we each selected one of these lesser known Arts & Crafts firms and, starting with our area libraries, museums and historical society, began accumulating just the most basic of information: the name of the business, the principal players, their location, photographs of what they made, descendents (a great source of photographs and examples of their work), shopmarks they may have used, advertisements they placed in newspapers and other gems.
You may not realize it now, but it’s fun.
And coming across a newspaper article or old photograph soon becomes as exciting as finding another piece of Arts & Crafts furniture, pottery or metalware.
So, why not add another dimension to your Arts & Crafts collecting by identifying and researching one of the little-known Arts & Crafts firms or individuals in your area?
They certainly deserve it.
– Bruce Johnson
Note: Photograph of the William Dodge Silver Shop in 1927. Place your cursor over the photo to enlarge it.
Next Week: “Making a Difference – From Afar”