Friday, July 31, 2009

Gustav Stickley Wrought iron & copper chandelier

In 1902 Gustav Stickley added a metal workshop to complement the already established Craftsman Workshops. In-house metalworking was principally set up by Stickley as a means of supplying metalwork fittings for his furniture production, as in hinges, handles, inlays etc. However, there was also intense and ongoing competition with other rival companies who were also supplying broadly Arts & Crafts based interior furnishings and accessories. It was in Stickley's interest to expand the broad base of his company as much as he was able.

Most of the work produced was iron and copper based and production ranged from vases to fireplace furniture, candlesticks, chargers and lighting. Much of the design work itself was fairly straightforward, practical and honest to materials, as would be expected from a man whose commercial and private philosophy tried to run close to the idealism of John Ruskin, who was an early influence on Stickley and one of the guides to his own interpretation of the Arts & Crafts movement.

The output of the metal workshop was limited, especially when compared to that of the company's furniture production. Much of it was also fairly heavy, both in appearance and construction, and seemed somewhat lacking in attention to both style and finish. Compared with their main rivals in metalwork production, such as Roycroft and the Onondago Metal Shops, Stickley was hard pressed to compete. However, the Craftsman Workshops never saw metalwork production as the main theme of the company, and it remained largely as a supply industry for furniture production.

The pieces that were produced, such as the wrought iron and copper chandelier shown above, were often featured in Stickley's monthly The Craftsman magazine which was used, to a certain extent at least, as a vehicle for the company and it's products. When design work like the chandelier were shown within settings that were considered appropriate for the style, the more rudimentary finish and appearance does not seem to hamper the metalwork, and when seen in this context the piece seems perfectly suited to and complementary to the simple, honest and well constructed furniture that was the trademark of Stickley and his Craftsman Workshops. All were produced in order to create an overall ambiance that is a Craftsman interior.

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