Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman, opening nationwide on March 5 in virtual cinemas. This is a timely film considering that home remodeling is soaring during this pandemic. It’s great to see to this historical designer in a documentary about the rise, fall, and resurrection of the father of the American Arts and Crafts movement is chronicled in Stratford’s film, which offers an unprecedented look at the life and works of Gustav Stickley as told through interviews, archival materials, and a close examination of his most iconic works.

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, Craftsman Magazine, and Craftsman, the precursor 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.
Gustav Stickley (1858 -1942) was an American design icon, a furniture maker, architect, and publisher. Through his designs, writings, and teachings, he became a leading advocate of the Arts and Crafts movement, which flourished in the United States around the turn of the 20th century.

Stickley believed furniture should be rational – that is, well-made, comfortable, and practical. He wanted it to be attractive as well but argued that its attractiveness should stem from a harmonious shape and quality materials, instead of superfluous, purely decorative details. The aim of good design (and, in fact, of the entire Arts and Crafts Movement) was “to substitute the luxury of taste for the luxury of costliness; to teach that beauty does not imply elaboration or ornament; to employ only those forms and materials which make for simplicity, individually and dignity of effect.”

It was through The Craftsman magazine, which ran from 1901 to 1916, that Stickley promoted his principles. Along with articles about other Arts and Crafts advocates and designers, like John Ruskin and William Morris, the magazine published plans showing readers how to construct their furniture, handicrafts, and even houses.

In addition to his monthly publication and furniture enterprise, Stickley owned and operated retail locations across the country including a flagship store in Manhattan that featured whole-home planning and shopping options with architectural services and a top floor farm-to-table restaurant. He owned a 650-acre farm in New Jersey that was to become a Craftsman school for children that is now a national historic landmark.

Herb Stratford is a filmmaker, artist, and writer. Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman is his first feature-length documentary, following several documentary short films. He is also a film critic and film festival programmer, and a nationally recognized leader on the restoration of historic theatres. He is currently developing additional documentary films as well as unscripted television projects. Stratford and his professional film crew are located in Tucson, Arizona.

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