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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Gustav Stickley tells the American Story in furniture in new documentary

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

There are so many takes on the Arts & Crafts movement, and the striking furniture of Gustav Stickley (1858-1942), the self-taught innovator of wooden designs. He manufactured furniture, metal fasteners, and nature-inspired textiles from 1900 to 1916. Craftsman2021 While Stickley dubbed his style “Craftsman," and published a magazine of the same name, collectors often refer to his work as Mission or Mission Oak.

But the work of Stickley, explored in a new documentary, GUSTAV STICKLEY: AMERICAN CRAFTSMAN out in March, could be seen as the secularization of Shaker furniture.

Then again, the delicate gravitas of his well-made chairs, tables, sideboards, cupboards, pegged dressers, custom drawers, wood-paneled wall designs, and foray into architecture were also a rebuke of slapdash factory results and European-dominated aesthetics.

Stickley reacted to the assembly line of Chippendale rip-offs with a signature rustic home-grown result, and a family feel to his workshops.

No child labor, nor long hours in his manufacturing facilities meant a critique of the Industrial Revolution as well.

Gustav Stickley died with very little left of his reputation intact after a devastating bankruptcy.

His essays in solid wood were deemed of not much value by auctioneers then, just clunky relics of one man’s dream to create a uniquely American style of furnishings. 

Stickleychari2021Then a 1972 exhibition put Gustav Stickley back on the shelf of American innovators with influential works that helped form the American identity.

Collectors like Steven Spielberg and Joel Silver suddenly emerged as price-drivers. Stickley pieces have shown up in films from BACK TO THE FUTURE to even now in the Oscar-tipped MANK, the headboard behind Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman).

Stickley's Mission pieces offer an authentic American setting like no other.

Herb Stratford's first feature documentary, GUSTAV STICKLEY: AMERICAN CRAFTSMAN, opens on March 5, and offers a unique perspective on the man behind the mission.

Gustav Stickley is a visionary American Craftsman

Official Descirption from First Run Features

Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman traces the development and evolution of Stickley's unique style as well as the creation of his diverse businesses, including furniture manufacturing, a ground-breaking Manhattan store, and the Craftsman Magazine and Craftsman Farms — a progenitor of the farm-to-table movement. It also details the eventual loss of his businesses, and, after several decades, the rebirth and recognition of the movement he inspired. The film visits several key locations in his lifetime, including his Syracuse home, where he lived and created his first arts and crafts interior, and the pump house at Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, which he restored as a summer family camp; as well we meet some of the talented collaborators Stickley surrounding himself with, such as Harvey Ellis, Lamont Warner and Irene Sargent. 

First Run Features presents the Virtual Cinema premiere of GUSTAV STICKLEY: AMERICAN CRAFTSMAN opening nationwide in March.

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

LA Correspondent for filmfestivals.com


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