Styles of Architecture......... Arts & Crafts -Table of Contents

Arts & Crafts in Upstate New York

The text below is an excerpt from material related to "Crafting Community: Exploring Complexity and Contradiction - A Conference in Buffalo and Upstate New York," June 2005

It is not by accident that this region of the country is referred to as the Burned-Over district, the evangelical heartland of the early United States, where spirited reformers drew many converts to various causes calling for personal and social change. This context allowed two legendary American figures in the Arts and Crafts movement to flourish. Both were visionaries who were also adept at marketing the "simple life" to a broad middle class concerned with moral values in addition to upward mobility.

Elbert Hubbard and Gustav Stickley each developed a multi-media furnishings business that promoted process as well as product, ideals along with clean-lined goods.

Both Stickley and Hubbard created communities around themselves, and those communities fabricated important furniture, ceramics, metalwork, and other artistic products.

Other communities devoted to plain living and high thinking flourished in the region, too, including Chautauqua, Byrdcliffe, Onteora, and paintersí enclaves like Cragsmoor and Pakatakan.

Factories, ranging from Stickley's to Tiffany's, might be construed as a form of community fostering workers' artisanal and creative expression through handwork, while ensuring their economic well-being through judicious use of machines and mass production/marketing techniques.

The proprietors and managers of factories were sometimes avant-garde patrons. For instance, Frank Lloyd Wright owed his commission for Buffalo's Larkin [Co.] building (1904) to enthusiastic supporters within the company, notably William Heath (husband to one of Hubbard's sisters) and Darwin. D. Martin. For his own extended family, Martin commissioned from Wright an architectural compound (1902-06), now undergoing restoration. The Martin "community" of buildings ultimately included a Lake Erie summer retreat, dubbed "Graycliff" (1926), for which Mrs. Martin was the principal client.

Craftsmen themselves created communities, which often transcended local and regional boundaries. Ceramist Adelaide Alsop Robineau of Syracuse established Keramic Studio, a national circulated magazine for a mostly-female audience of china painters and art potters. While Robineau championed good design and professionalism in do-it-yourself projects executed by amateurs, New York interior decorators such as Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists, brought the talents of various well-schooled artists and craftsmen to bear on the creation of high-style interiors, whether in homes, churches, or civic buildings. Tiffany windows, in fact, grace Trinity Church in Buffalo.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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