Written by Alan Beutler, owner of Old Friends.
Generally speaking the terms "Arts and Crafts," "Mission," and "Craftsman" all describe furniture inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The movement started in England about 150 years ago. The movement was in part a peaceful revolution against the Victorian Era - an era of great excesses. Concurrently, the burgeoning Industrial Revolution was enabling factories to produce copious amounts of goods, many of which were cheap and shoddy. "Boy, sure glad that stopped" remarks Alan with just a hint of cynicism.
Out of these circumstances grew the philosophies and styles of the arts and crafts movement. Many early ecological concepts flourished. For example, "Don't fill your houses with junk, only have things that are well made, functional, and tasteful." Relating to furniture, pieces should be designed so that the beauty of the wood and the honesty of the structure are emphasized, negating the Victorian need for over-ornamentation.
Then a guy named Gustav Stickley turned up. He was born in Wisconsin of German ancestry and gifted with ambition and foresight. As a youth he worked for an uncle making chairs but quickly moved on to various partnerships, some involving his four brothers, all the while fine tuning the designs and processes of manufacturing furniture.
He combined the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution with the Craftsmanship of the Old World and made furniture which for 15-20 years was "the rage." He was rich, charming, generous, boastful, and in the end. . . bankrupt. The result of some bad decisions and changing tastes.
Oh, but his furniture, the quarter sawn oak, natural colors, and exquisite structure, still lives on! A renewal of interest in the style started slowly in the 1970's and has grown stronger ever since. Pieces are increasingly harder to find and more expensive. Along with Gustav Stickley some of the more noteworthy contributors to the movement are John Riskin, William Morris (the British grandfather of the movement), Charles Limbert of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Elbert Hubbard of the Roycrofters, all the Stickley brothers (Leopold, John, George, Albert, and Charles), Harvey Ellis the "gifted designer," The Greene and Greene of Pasadena architectural fame, and of course Frank Lloyd Wright, maybe the "coolest guy of the century!"