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The rise, fall and resurrection of the father of the American Arts and Crafts movement is told in the new documentary Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman.

Gustav Stickley is one of the most recognizable names in American furniture. A visionary designer, he was the key driving force in bringing the Arts and Crafts movement to America in the early 1900s. His furniture work included what has become known as the Mission Style.

Herb Stratford's film offers an unprecedented look at his life and works as told through interviews, archival materials, and a close examination of his most iconic works.

Stratford 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, the Craftsman Magazine, and Craftsman Farms – a forerunner of the farm-to-table movement.
He also visits several key locations in Stickley's lifetime, including his Syracuse home, where he 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. We meet some of the talented collaborators Stickley surrounded himself with, such as Harvey Ellis, Lamont Warner and Irene Sargent.

The film also details the eventual loss of his businesses, and, after several decades, the rebirth and recognition of the movement he inspired.

"Anyone interested in the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1900s will find this a riveting watch. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about a time in American history that most people know very little" -Alan Ng, Film Threat

"One of the best documentaries I’ve seen about art and craftsmanship: a richly detailed look at Stickley and his vision. We’re told wonderful nuggets of history, and see inside the current busy factory. Visually, the film is magnificent. Stickley’s furniture flows with its traditional classic lines and looks as modern as a spaceship to Mars. An exceptional film." -Michael Calleri, Niagara Gazette

"A must-see! Stickley is often referred to as a 'lifestyle entrepreneur,' and it’s easy to think of him as the inspiration for Ralph Lauren – not in his specific style but in his philosophy. Stickley was all about home, and he made people really think about the things they surrounded themselves with. His own home – which is a treat to see in the film – was filled with his pieces, each one lovingly and intentionally placed to serve a purpose. Stratford gives historians, fans and Stickley’s family the opportunity to wax’s eye-opening, especially since it translates to a way of life that goes well beyond furniture." -Lois Alter Mark, Alliance of Women Film Journalists
What is the Arts and Crafts Movement?

The Arts and Crafts movement emerged during the late Victorian period in England, the most industrialized country in the world at that time. Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of handcraftsmanship and precapitalist forms of culture and society. Arts and Crafts designers sought to improve standards of decorative design, believed to have been debased by mechanization, and to create environments in which beautiful and fine workmanship governed. The Arts and Crafts movement did not promote a particular style, but it did advocate reform as part of its philosophy and instigated a critique of industrial labor; as modern machines replaced workers, Arts and Crafts proponents called for an end to the division of labor and advanced the designer as craftsman.

The American Arts and Crafts movement was inextricably linked to the British movement and closely aligned with the work of William Morris (1834–1896)...who believed that industrialization alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer. Morris strove to unite all the arts within the decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity of form.

Diversity persevered within the American Arts and Crafts movement as a mixture of individuals worked in diverse locations. Gustav Stickley (1858–1942), founder of The United Crafts (later known as the Craftsman Workshops), was a proselytizer of the craftsman ideal. Emulating William Morris’s production through guild manufacture of his furniture, Stickley believed that mass-produced furniture was poorly constructed and overly complicated in design. Stickley set out to improve American taste through “craftsman” or “mission” furniture with designs governed by honest construction, simple lines, and quality material. He also published the highly influential The Craftsman (1901–16), a beacon for the American Arts and Crafts movement.

The rise of urban centers and the inevitability of technology presaged the end of the Arts and Crafts movement...By the 1920s, machine-age modernity and the pursuit of a national identity had captured the attention of designers and consumers, bringing an end to the handcrafted nature of the Arts and Crafts movement in America.

- From Monica Obniski's wonderful essay, The Arts and Crafts Movement in America

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