Who Designed Stickley Furniture? — 6 Comments

  1. Hi Bob,
    I am now 50+ years of age and have gathered some observations along the way. The ability to do create and to build a successful business doesn’t seem to go hand-in-hand. While there are many skilled people who have gone on to build successful businesses throughout history, it seems unnecessary to credit them solely with the creative aspects of their businesses. Someone who is highly skilled and dedicated to their craft/art/science is usually unwilling to make the sacrifices required of them to scale their operation.

    Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be anyway to determine who made what contribution to the state of furniture design. After all, we can’t quite credit mortise and tenon joint to a single person. Why obsess over who created the furniture sold by Stickley business entity?

    You write some really nice books and I find them very helpful in my own little pursuit of woodworking. While the general background of this style of furniture is interesting, I find the tendency of people to attribute a design to a person rather naive. These designs are not plucked out of vacuum but evolve from a base of prior art. I am happy to learn as much detail about the furniture as possible. I couldn’t care less about the debate about who created it or how much credit one should get — especially when there is no way of making that determination.

    Just my two cents,

  2. Hi Phil,

    Your comment shows the difference between woodworkers and collectors when it comes to writing or studying this style of furniture. Most books about Stickley are written from a collectors point of view, and in that world, who did what can make a big difference in the value of individual pieces or collections. I write from a furniture maker’s point of view; I like the way this stuff looks in my house, I can’t afford originals and it’s an entertaining challenge to build it.

    I would go a step farther than you and say it’s incredibly naive to think that one individual could be entirely responsible for any given design in factory-made pieces. Furniture shops don’t work that way, and the anonymous cabinetmaker building prototypes possibly had as much or more influence on these pieces as the named designers.

    Bob Lang

  3. For facts, as differentiated from assumptions, about Ellis as a furniture designer for Stickley see the blog post “Furniture Design for Gustav Stickley?” by Eileen Manning Michels.

    • With all due respect Dr. Michels, you will catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. Here is a link to the post on your blog that you referenced I don’t mind if you comment here, or provide links to your work, as long as you remain polite.

      If all we knew about history were limited to facts that could be proven without any doubt, history books would be very short. The fact is that we don’t have the ability to be certain about many things. I find your opinions and educated guess work woven throughout the article, and that is what you have used to support what you call fact. This reminds me of your thoughts on Ellis and alcohol as in this example. You were proven wrong about that aspect of Ellis and the way you adamantly defended your position as fact makes me question the validity of all of your work.

      I thank you for your dedication and effort in researching the life of Harvey Ellis, but I do not understand your harsh criticism of those who do not share your opinions and speculation, and your habit of presenting such as indisputable facts. You are welcome to reply, but pedantic snobbery will not be tolerated on my website.

      Bob Lang

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