A History of Handicraft: “The American Arts & Crafts Chair” Continues Through Jan. 5th



The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “A Message of Honesty and Joy” continues through January 5, 2020.

From the desk of Executive Director Vonda Givens…

I’m writing with a reminder that the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms’ current exhibition The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “Message of Honesty and Joy” will continue through Sunday, January 5, 2020. For Arts and Crafts fans, especially for newcomers, this exhibition offers a “master” class in chair makers of the Stickley era. There’s still ample time to see it, but keep in mind—the arrival of the new year will bring the departure of this exhibition. Why not combine a visit with your holiday festivities? In the NJ/NY area over Thanksgiving weekend? Stop by. We’ll be open from Friday through Sunday. The exhibition may be viewed—amid our beautiful holiday decorations!—on any docent-led tour, and on weekends, it will be open for self-guided tours anytime. Or take in our Crafts-mas Open House on Saturday, December 7, when scholar Jonathan Clancy will be on hand to lead “Spotlight Talks” focused on the exhibition. Want to know more? Read on below…


“We can’t build chairs or do any other honest work requiring skill and initiative, without building honesty, skill and initiative into our characters.  So your built chair is something more than a good chair.  It is a message of honesty and joy to the possessor, and a cause of growth and joy to the worker.”   –Will Price, “The Building of a Chair,” The Artsman 1 (May 1904): 283.


The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms’ ongoing exhibition The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “A Message of Honesty and Joy,” takes its title from the Will Price quote above. Guest curated by distinguished Stickley scholar David Cathers, the exhibition examines the American Arts and Crafts chair through thirteen featured side chairs. All thirteen chairs represent early-20th-century handicraft-oriented manufacturers and small craft-oriented workshops. Three distinct examples of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops chairs are included and featured alongside chairs by Stickley Brothers, L. & J.G. Stickley, Charles P. Limbert, Joseph P. McHugh, J.M Young, Charles Rohlfs, the Roycroft Shops, Byrdcliffe Art Colony and Rose Valley Shops.


During the museum’s Symposium on Sat., Oct. 12, David Cathers examined the chairs with program attendees before his lecture on the exhibition. Photo courtesy of Ray Stubblebine.


Of the featured chairs Cathers has noted, “I think all the chair makers included in this exhibition worked in the same spirit, producing work that expressed honesty and joy.  Yet they were such creative designers and skillful artisans that their chairs are wonderfully varied, one from another. …the relief-carved Byrdcliffe chair, the restlessly curved Rose Valley chair, the tall, flamboyant Rohlfs chair, and the modest, deftly proportioned Gustav Stickley ladderback.”

As noted by Executive Director Vonda Givens, “In so many ways, this project came together through the generosity of the nationwide Arts and Crafts community,” who assisted the museum with executing David Cathers’ vision for the exhibition and the accompanying Visitor’s Guide, which includes an essay by him and features commentaries from ten writers. The Guide, presented by Toomey and Co. Auctioneers, is included in admissions fees.


Chairs back to back at The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “A Message of Honesty and Joy.” Photographer: Jonathan Clancy.


All regular weekly tours, which run hourly from 12:15 to 3:15, Thursday to Sunday, will terminate in the exhibition, located in the dining room. For anyone desiring an exclusively exhibition-focused visit—on weekends only—self-guided tours will be available from 12 to (last entry) 3:30 p.m. Reservation are not required. Please visit and help us celebrate the rich variety and vision of American Arts and Crafts makers.


Chairs at “The American Arts and Crafts Chair: “A Message of Honesty and Joy.” Photographer: Jonathan Clancy.


Can’t make it to see the exhibition? You can it experience through the Visitors Guide, available for a $10 fee which includes shipping and handling. Call the museum at 973-540-0311 to request a copy.