With the 33rd National Arts and Crafts Conference now two weeks away, it’s not unusual for me to get a phone call from a reporter wanting some additional information on the conference and the three daily shows.
Thirty-three years ago, which would be 1988, our conversation would generally begin with the reporter asking me to explain just what the Arts and Crafts movement was. Back then, antiques publications featured mahogany highboys carved by Thomas Chippendale, revolving walnut Wooton desks with a hundred tiny drawers, cherry sugar chests made by an anonymous country craftsman in Tennessee, and Coats & Clarke spool cabinets with perfect, unspoiled drawer decals.
Arts and Crafts was considered the new kid on the block: someone nobody could quite figure out, not until they got to know him.
And thirty-three years ago, the idea of organizing an educational conference for people who wanted to immerse themselves for three days in everything Arts and Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina – not exactly the birthplace of Arts and Crafts – seemed news worthy.
In fact, one of my early slogans was: “At the Grove Park Inn you can learn more, do more, and see more Arts and Crafts in three days than you can anyplace else in an entire year.”
A slight exaggeration, I will admit, but I made my point.
Today, I couldn’t say the same thing.
Arts and Crafts is no longer the new kid on the block. It’s everywhere you look: antique malls, doctors’ offices, movie sets, bank lobbies, hair salons, vacation rentals, church sanctuaries, and, of course, splashed across the internet.
So, why do hundreds of people still, after thirty-three years, make the trek to Asheville, North Carolina, for three days of Arts and Crafts?
Perhaps, now, rather than a revolution, it’s a celebration.
It’s as much an Arts and Crafts reunion as any summer family gathering.
It starts on Thursday evening, when the staff from the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms hosts their annual kickoff party and reception in the spacious Skyline Room overlooking Asheville and the distant Blue Ridge Mountains. This is where we spot friends we haven’t seen for a year or more, and where we have the opportunity not to just wave hello in the hallway as we rush off to the next event, but where we can stand or sit and catch up on everything from family matters to our latest discoveries.
It’s an evening that sets the tone for the next three days, for the mood is relaxed, festive, and energetic. Executive director Vonda Givens and her staff organize the evening, this year giving us a rare opportunity to meet Herb Stratford, the director and producer of the new documentary movie Gustav Stickley, American Craftsman, which we will be premiering on Saturday evening. Herb will be revealing some behind-the-scenes stories of what it took to film, edit, and assemble this long-awaited movie, making this an unforgettable experience.
The evening is also the opportunity for us to support the continued restoration and operation of Gustav Stickley’s famed Craftsman Farms, as it also serves as an important fundraiser for the museum. To learn more about this special pre-conference celebration, please go to www.stickleymuseum.org
I look forward to seeing you there myself.
Until next week,
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle our inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer