University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

Stickley, Gustav, 1858-1942. / Craftsman homes

Cabinet work for home workers and students who wish to learn the fundamental principles of construction,   pp. 169-184

Page 172

individuality, but the natural thing would
be for him to express it in more or less prim-
itive forms of construction that are, so far
as they go, correct, instead of attempting
something that, when it is finished, is all
wrong because the student has not under-
stood what he was about.   Unquestionably
there are certain principles and rules as to
design, proportion  and form that are as
fundamental in their nature as are the tables
of addition, subtraction, division and multi-
plication, with relation to mathematics, or as
the alphabet is as a basis to literature, but
they are not yet formulated for general use.
The trained worker learns these things by
experience and comes to have a sort of sixth
sense with regard to their application,
but this takes strong direct thinking,
keen   observation and  the power      of
initiative that is possessed only by the
very   exceptional and  highly      skilled
  Nevertheless it surely is as easy to
begin work in the right way as in the
wrong way.   It would be better if all
our teaching of manual training were
based upon some text book carefully
compiled by a master workman and kept
within certain well defined limits.  After
the student had thoroughly learned all
that lay within these limits and was
grounded in the principles of design
         and construction as carefully as he
         would be grounded in mathematics or
         classical literature, he might safely
         be trusted to produce something that
         would express his own individuality,
         for then, if ever, he would have de-
         veloped an individuality that was
         worth while. And this principle ap-
         plies as well to amateur workers of
         all kinds as it does to the students
         in the public schools, for it is the
         basis of all work that is worthy to
           One great advantage of taking up
         cabinetmaking at home as well as in
         the schools, is that it could be made
         not only a means of amusement or
         mental development to the individual,
         but could be expanded into a home or
         neighborhood handicraft that might
         be carried on  in connection with
         small farming, upon  a basis that
         would insure a reasonable financial
success.   Handicrafts, as   practiced by
individual arts and crafts workers in the
studio, do not afford a sufficient living to
craft workers as a class, but that is largely
because these very principles of sound con-
struction and thorough workmanship are not
always observed or even comprehended, so
that it is difficult for the individual worker to
produce anything that has a definite and per-
manent commercial value. This kind of furni-
ture, on the contrary, has a very well defined
and thoroughly established commercial value,
as our own experience has proven; and yet it
is so simple in design and construction that it
can be made at home or on the farm during
the idle months of winter or by a group of

Go up to Top of Page