Ever since buying my first Morris chair in 1991, I’ve had a deep interest in The Shop of the Crafters, an unusual Arts & Crafts furniture factory in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nothing is left of the factory – I drive over its bones every time I drive north on Interstate 75. But the furniture survives at the Cincinnati Art Museum, in my living room and through a remarkable book from Turn of the Century Editions.
In 2017, the publishing company released a new book on The Shop of the Crafters that I missed. Titled “Oscar Onken and The Shop of the Crafters at Cincinnati” by M.J. McCracken and W. Michael McCracken, this book contains new catalogs, photos of extant pieces and delves deeper into the history of Onken and the designers who created the furniture.
Even better, the book contains the entire first issue of The Lantern, a short-lived publication that promoted the company’s furniture and the founder’s philosophy (more on that tomorrow).
I devoured the entire book today. If you have any interest in Arts & Crafts furniture, this book is essential. (Thanks to Ray Schwanenberger for alerting me to it.)
I still own the No. 413 Morris chair. I built a copy of it and it was featured on the cover of the June 2000 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine. After that article appeared I built many more copies for locals who wanted a piece of Cincinnati history in their living rooms. Also, I was working way too cheap at the time. I think I sold the chairs for $500 (with no cushions).
Today I was transfixed by a bunch of pieces from The Shop of the Crafters that I’d never seen before. There were several pieces in there that really wanted to be built.
— Christopher Schwarz