Is the Fire Still Burning?

I’ve known since the beginning of summer that next month I will be speaking at the “Catch the Spark” weekend sponsored by the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms. This two-day event on October 15-16 will serve as the grand finale for the year-long celebration marking the 100th year since the completion of Gustav Stickley’s log home in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

The theme of “Catch the Spark” was inspired by Gustav Stickley’s declaration that the Arts & Crafts movement “must either grow or decay. It cannot stand still.” My contribution to the weekend will be a talk entitled “Passing the Torch: Can We Keep the Flame Burning?”

Naturally, I have been thinking a great deal about this idea of whether or not the next generation will have the same passion for all things Arts & Crafts as we do, or whether history will repeat it self and once again the movement, the philosophy, the architecture and the objects will slip into obscurity.

There are some very prominent people in the Arts & Crafts world who have already declared that the fire is dying, that Mid-Century Modernism is the next ‘hot’ area of collecting. Some have already begun shifting their business interests from hammered copper, fumed oak and matte glazes to molded plywood, chrome frames and oiled teak.

I can recall back in the 1980s when we eagerly awaited the arrival of the bi-annual 20th Century Decorative Arts auction catalogs from Christie’s and Sotheby’s, perennial contenders for the latest discovery of an early Craftsman settle, a Rohlf’s desk or a Dirk van Erp monumental mica lamp. We would pour over the pictures, memorize the descriptions and marvel at the escalating prices being paid, often by celebrities such as Stresiand, Spielberg, Lucas, Mapplethorpe and Warhol.

I’m not so sure that Christie’s or Sotheby’s has offered even a single piece of Stickley furniture this year. When I did a search at Christie’s website for “Gustav Stickley,” the following message appeared on my screen: “No upcoming lots were found for Gustav Stickley.”

When I tried the same search at Sotheby’s, they replied: “There are no matching lots.”

I wonder why?

Do the experts at their 20th Century Decorative Art & Design departments know something you and I have not yet figured out? Are we living with our heads stuck in the sand?

When I look at the calendar of events for this month, I am simply blown away by what is happening. The landmark Gustav Stickley exhibition just ended its successful year-long tour in San Diego. John Toomey and Don Treadway just had an Arts & Crafts auction in Chicago. A five-day Arts & Crafts conference is opening in Denver. Historic Seattle is sponsoring their 14th annual Bungalow Fair this weekend. The 12th annual Twin Cities Arts & Crafts Show is happening Saturday and Sunday. Next weekend is David Rago’s fall Arts & Crafts auction, as well as an Oak Park house tour including Pleasant Home, the Prairie School masterpiece designed by George W. Maher.

Doesn’t sound like a dying movement to me.

But I guess I’ve got some more thinking to do before October 15.

Hope to see you there!

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!


For more information on “Catch the Spark,” please go to

Why not make the office a place where good-looking things are at home?” – Elbert Hubbard