Long considered the “gold standard” of the American Arts & Crafts Movement, Gustav Stickley is generating quite a buzz some seven decades after his death—and Stickley furniture collectors are none too happy about it!
At last month’s “National Arts & Crafts Conference” in Asheville, North Carolina, the great grand nephew of Gustav Stickley was invited to lead a discussion on the legacy of his famous forbear. After a short lecture on Gustav’s impact upon furniture design and construction—and the effect of Gustav’s work on today’s antiques market—Thomas Stickley Black shared some previously-unknown letters between Stickley and his brothers. Although the Stickley brothers (and Gustav in particular) were highly regarded for the integrity of their design and construction, there were years when the business struggled to survive. During such lean years, Thomas discovered in the correspondence, Stickley would make a little extra money by selling his famous “Stickley” shop marks: leather, metal and paper labels bearing the sought-after Stickley trademark. On a couple of occasions, the letters reveal, he sold some of his extra branding irons used to mark certain pieces of his furniture. The letters were shown to the convention attendees and have been authenticated by the Stickley estate. They will be published in a book, written by Mr. Black, titled “A Fool to Believe: the Struggles of a Craftsman” to be published today, April 1st.
Immediately after the session, enraged collectors descended upon the sales floor where Stickley antiques dealers had set-up their wares. Anxious collectors created controlled havoc as they up-ended library tables and taborets—in search of the elusive shop marks. Apparently caught off-guard by the revelation, several dealers immediately packed their trucks and left the premises. Said one dealer, “I’m certain that I am carrying legitimate Gustav Stickley pieces. Nevertheless, I plan to get my hands on that book on the First of April!”
The conference organizers have been very responsive to media requests though they admit that the suddenness of the disclosure has left them flat-footed. “We will wait until publication on April Fool’s Day and make further comment once we’ve read the book.”