loading background
view

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Furniture City History.org


cover photo

James Seino, Art Director at Stickley Brothers Furniture

by GRHC

published: July 7th, 2008

James Seino, born in Japan in 1885, graduated from the Imperial Academy of Art in Tokyo and studied art in Paris and New York. He arrived in Grand Rapids, as a single man, in 1914 and by 1920 there were at least four other Japanese men in the city, three were also artists and the other was a student. Seino, head of the first Japanese family in Grand Rapids and probably in Michigan, visited Japan around 1922 and returned with his bride, Kaoru. (Find more information to your right in Related Items)

Stickley Brothers Furniture Co., Rear View

view full record

The Stickley Brothers Furniture Co. brought James Seino to the city in 1914 to head the furniture decoration department. While known for their plain style, Stickley introduced a line of furniture called "Quaint American" that was often painted and decorated in the Japanese style. Another line introduced later, "Adam Colonial," was also painted and decorated.


Stickley Brothers Furniture, Decorating Department

view full record

Furniture decorating departments hired Japanese artists and also women with artistic abilities. The workrooms, lighted only with factory windows and crowded with furniture, were probably the only place in a furniture factory that either Japanese or women would be found.


James Seino with Decorative Screen

view full record

Oriental designs were very popular during this period. Folding screens often featured floral or water scenes that might include birds and gold leaf was frequently used. Furniture, especially tables and chairs, was decorated in a more subdued fashion often using small floral motifs.


Catalog of Japanese Paintings

view full record

In 1917 Seino and two other Japanese men, Roshu Koizumi and Goro Toyama, exhibited their paintings at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Seino, whose name is seen here as Jhen, generally used the name of James while living here.


Clinic for Infant Feeding

view full record

Seino and Kaoru had two sons, James Jr. and Robert, born in Grand Rapids between 1925 and 1930. Mrs. Seino and the boys happen to appear in the center of this photograph of the Infant Feeding Clinic taken in 1929.


James Seino Dies at 64

view full record

James Seino worked his entire career in Grand Rapids as head of the decorating department at the Stickley Brothers Co. He died in 1952 at the age of 64.


Bibliography

Books Available at the History and Special Collections Dept., Grand Rapids Public Library

  • Carron, Christian G. Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City. Grand Rapids, MI: Public Museum of Grand Rapids, 1998. 
  • Clark, Michael E. and Thomas-Clark, Jill. The Stickley Brothers: the Quest for an American Voice. Salt Lake City: Gibb Smith, 2002 
  • Goss, Dwight. History of Grand Rapids and its Industries. Chicago: C. F. Cooper, 1906.
  • Ransom, Frank Edward. The City Built on Wood: A history of the Furniture Industry in Grand Rapids, Michigan 1850-1950. Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1955.
  • A large collection of books and materials about Stickley furniture is available in this department

Books Available at the Grand Rapids Public Library

  • Carron, Christian G. Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City. Grand Rapids, MI: Public Museum of Grand Rapids, 1998. 
  • Clark, Michael E. and Thomas-Clark, Jill. The Stickley Brothers: the Quest for an American Voice. Salt Lake City: Gibb Smith, 2002 

Websites



site by GRCMC