Redux: The Arts & Crafts Revival, 1972-2012
Would I have written it?
Writing a book about people who are deceased is one thing. All you have to worry about is getting the facts straight and possibly offending a few of the subject’s descendants.
I’ve done that.
But writing a book about people who are alive is another thing, especially people you are about to meet in the hallway, see standing in line for lunch, or find yourself sitting next to at a seminar.
I don’t know if I could do that.
New authors Judith Budwig (pictured) and Jeffrey Preston knew any attempt to document the events and the people behind the Arts and Crafts revival would incite criticism of their motives, their personal interests and their own perspective, but they dove headfirst into the turbulent waters with little regard for their own safety.
I conferred with them several times during their two-year journey, a journey that few others would have undertaken, for it was not without personal sacrifice and financial commitment. This was not a book that could have been researched in an office. It required face-to-face interviews, uncomfortable questions and countless hours tracking down minute details.
And they knew they would be criticized more for what they had to omit than for what they were able to document.
My personal fear, one I expressed to them more than once last summer, was that their self-imposed deadline of the February Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference was too soon. Books like this, I reasoned, are often never followed with a larger, revised second edition. You get one chance to get it right, then it remains in print forever.
I was pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of Redux the night before their first book signing at the Grove Park Inn. It was larger than what I expected, it was profusely illustrated with nearly 800 color and black and white photographs, and it dove far deeper than I could have imagined possible with less than two years of research and writing.
Was it perfect?
Of course not. No book ever is.
Were there omissions?
Of course. To have covered every aspect of the Arts and Crafts revival would have required another 392 pages, pushing the size of the book beyond the limitations set by the publisher, and the price beyond the limitations set by the readers.
As a historian, I lament never being able to interview my deceased subjects. I would have loved to have had Gustav Stickley take me on a tour of his furniture factory outside Syracuse, where but a single brick wall now remains. I would have loved to have had lunch with Elbert Hubbard in the Roycroft Inn, or peered over the sweaty shoulder of a gruff Dirk van Erp in his San Francisco metalshop.
Judith Budwig and Jeffrey Preston didn’t wait until it was too late to conduct their interview with publisher Stephen Gray, to take a tour of the current Stickley factory, to have lunch with important Arts and Crafts collectors and dealers, or to peer over the shoulder of metalsmith Michael Adams.
They have made a permanent and important contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement, providing us with insights we might never have enjoyed and appreciated.
I applaud their efforts and heartily recommend their book to you.
Until next Monday,
Have a great week!
For more information on Redux: The Arts & Crafts Revival, 1972-2012, please see this week’s In the News, and go to http://www.merceroakpublishing.com.