The Printed Poster: An Arts & Crafts Tradition

While furniture and art pottery often steal the show, we cannot forget that the Arts and Crafts movement in America was launched in 1895 at a printing press inside Elbert Hubbard’s drafty barn in East Aurora, where it was really, really cold last week.

And before the shellac was even dry on his first batch of fumed oak furniture over in Syracuse, Gustav Stickley was already printing a catalog and planning the first issue of The Craftsman magazine with his ghost writer and editor Irene Sargent.

And so when Elbert Hubbard and Gustav Stickley each began hosting their own versions of an Arts and Crafts conference, naturally they each promoted and commemorated their events with a printed poster.

It only seemed logical, then, when in 1988 I began planning the first Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn that we would have to have a poster to accompany the Conference Catalog. I only printed 300 copies of that first 24-page Conference Catalog, and just 100 posters featuring the eight-foot tall Roycroft clock that has stood inside the Grove Park Inn since 1913. During those early years of the Arts and Crafts Conference, when we were never sure if the interest would support another conference the following February, I couldn’t afford the services of a professional designer, so I relied on the Inn’s collection of historic black and white photographs to provide me with the nucleus of each year’s poster.

Eventually, however, the graphic designers and artists who exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Conference began dropping some serious hints about letting someone else design each year’s poster — and for me to begin printing them in color.

Among the first designers was the team of Yoshiko Yamamoto and Bruce Smith at the Arts & Crafts Press, who for three years hand-carved a true block print and actually hand-printed each of 1000 posters which we distributed free of charge to our conference attendees. Needless to say, those posters have since become true collector’s items.

In the ensuing years we have featured posters by such notable artists as Laura Wilder, Barbara Van Buskirk, Kathleen West, Linda Witkowski, and Tom Bojanowski, starting a policy along the way of distributing the posters at each show with the dates of the following year’s conference printed on them.

How’s that for confidence?

And, of course, each year someone approaches us to tell us that we got this year’s dates wrong.

The idea was that you will take your poster home with you and hang it in your home or office as a reminder of the dates of the next year’s Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference.

This year’s artist is also a newcomer to the conference. Julie Leidel lives in Golden, Colorado and has been an artist for more than twenty years, the past six of which have been inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. She is a member of the Colorado Arts and Crafts Society, and she and her husband have transformed a 1950s ranch house into a bungalow, which is no small feat (I’m still trying!).

And so this year when you leave the Arts and Crafts registration desk with your catalog, your tote bag, your name badge, your Arts and Crafts calendar, and your 2015 conference poster, you will be able to find Julie in her booth in the Contemporary Craftsfirms Show — where you can ask her to personally sign your poster (pictured).

It’s bound to become a collector’s item!

Until next Monday,

Think “Spring at the G.P.I.” –