I can’t swear to there being a “cycle” for every Arts & Crafts woodworker. I can only speak to my own experience and add that I have had many nods of agreement when sharing my philosophy.
I began building Arts & Crafts pieces, because the sturdy simplicity spoke to me, and the beauty of the quarter-sawn white oak was all the embellishment I required. A gentle curve here or there and an exposed tenon for tactile sensation. Most of what I built was patterned off Gus Stickley’s examples. Easy to find images and good quality work. Then I started digging deeper and found the works of other Arts & Crafts companies. I learned to assess their work as notable, original, or simply another copy.
Greene & Greene was different. It didn’t easily fit into the mold of “adapted” Arts & Crafts. In fact, all it really shared with the rest was traditional joinery and that it happened around the same early-20th century period. And because of those two things (in my mind, at least), it was lumped into Arts & Crafts.
So the cycle that started with Stickley, moved through his brothers and familiars, and then turned further to the unique works of the brothers Greene. Heavily influenced by the Far East, their designs had flow and subtleties that were missing from the others. A certain amount of playfulness, but still with solid construction and some clever twists on joinery. I think of moving to building Greene & Greene designs as an advancement of my skills and experience.
I can only imagine that there is another step in the cycle, but I’m not sure where it leads. Until then, I’m still enjoying Greene & Greene. Whether building myself, or working with others who share the fascination. I had the privilege of filming three videos with well-known and respected Greene & Greene furniture makers, Darrell Peart, Dale Barnard and William Ng. Each had their own opinions on Greene & Greene furniture, and personal approaches to building Greene pieces.
If you’ve reached the Greene point in your Arts & Crafts cycle, do yourself a favor and check out the videos included in this package. Oh, and when you’re ready to build, another guy who knows a thing about the Greene brothers has a nice book with cutting lists. Oh, it’s in the kit too!? How convenient.
– David Thiel