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Del Val High School students visit Stickley Museum


About two dozen Delaware Valley High School woodworking students toured the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, N.J., on Friday, Oct. 25.

The 30-acre National Historic Landmark was the home of Gustav Stickley from 1911 to 1915. He was a designer, architect and publisher who embraced the arts and crafts movement and its simplicity and use of natural materials. It was in part a reaction to the fussy discomfort of the Victorian era’s architecture and furnishings.

Stickley is best remembered for his Mission Oak furniture and his zeal for simplicity in design. Stickley’s dream was to have a residential school where boys would learn woodworking and design. But he went bankrupt and that never happened. But for a few years he and his family lived in a big farmhouse partially made of chestnut logs with a school-sized kitchen that could feed 100.

Woodworking teacher Josh Paul leads this trip every other year, giving students a chance to incorporate some new ideas into their projects. He notes that the students’ visit was very much in line with Stickley’s desire to share his ideas with other furniture makers.

Paul said, “Seeing the work of an established craftsman, shows them finished projects so they’re not working in a vacuum. It gives them impetus to get them moving on their projects and gets them working a little harder.”

At the Stickley Museum “they see the strong mortise-and-tenon joints in use that they are learning to make in the shop.” This kind of joint has a rectangular peg fitted into a rectangular hole. “It’s a strong, simple, traditional joint that never fails,” said Paul.

A couple of students – Wood 4 students Dante Appello and Mike Casarona – repeatedly crouched down beside chairs and other Stickley creations to examine the details of design and joinery.

On the way home, a Del Val Stickley-trip tradition was observed at a McDonald’s in Randolph, N.J. The group set a new collective record for eating Chicken McNuggets. Even with several students abstaining, the crew ingested a dismaying 580 McNuggets.

Next year, a field trip to the George Nakashima House, Studio and Workshop in Bucks County is likely.

Del Val offers Woodworking I, 2, 3 and 4, plus Stagecraft, which is part of Del Val’s Arts Academy.