Mid-Century Modern: Furniture Craft of Arden Riddle

August 27 - October 25, 2015

The Canton Museum of Art (CMA) presents a survey of Arden Riddle's gorgeously crafted furniture in a new exhibition entitled Mid-Century Modern: The Furniture Craft of Arden Riddle. The exhibition is on display through October 25 and includes several magnificent furniture pieces and a video of notable works from his finely crafted collection.

Arden Riddle was a master craftsman and designed hundreds of wonderful furniture pieces in Akron, Ohio. Born in West Virginia in 1921, he grew up on a farm with his six brothers and sisters. After graduating high school, Riddle volunteered for the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant while serving in the European Theater, primarily in France and Germany. Riddle fought in the Battle of the Bulge and engaged the enemy for 84 consecutive days—and by his own admission, never expected to return home alive. He earned the Bronze Star among other military awards.

Following World War II, Riddle enrolled in the David Wolcott Kendall Memorial School and the Gilbert School of Advanced Design in Michigan, graduating in 1948. There, he learned the fine art of furniture design and the craft of creating quality furniture. During this time, several of his family members migrated to Akron, Ohio, to work in the growing manufacturing plants supporting the war effort. This led Riddle to open his own furniture business in 1950—the Arden Riddle Furniture & Gallery operated for 50 years at their Copley location.

Riddle had few outside employees, relying instead on family members. His father worked with him for several years after his retirement from Goodyear Aircraft. Riddle’s brother, Paul, executed the upholstery work, while sisters, Pauline and Geneva, sewed and created cushions. Riddle never married, and his profession largely consumed his adult life.  As a true artisan, Riddle worked long hours to achieve the highest degree of execution and completion of his designs and furniture. He personally selected all the wood materials and demonstrated the durability of his fabrics by raking an icepick over them. Riddle imported the finest springs from England for his chairs, and he used the finest oils for finishing. Most importantly, he enjoyed visiting and talking to his customers about his work—his craft, each creation a work of fine art. Riddle died in 2011, at the age of 90, still dreaming that his life’s work would survive him for others to enjoy.

Riddle styled Mid-Century Modern furniture utilizing clean lines and smooth surfaces, providing for a “fuss free” design. The Mid-Century Modern movement is categorized as 1933 to 1965 with emphasis on the 1950s. During the 1950s, America was depleted financially and emotionally from both world wars; but spirits were high and the opportunity to pave a new way of life was strong. It was for practical reasons that the innovative use of minimal materials was developed. In light of the economic times, people were into simplifying their lives; much like they are today...thus the resurgence of this furniture style.
Mid-Century Modern furniture is simple and timeless, and provided an emotional rebellion from the ornamentation of the past. As the saying goes, “what goes around, comes around”, and it is with nostalgia that we incorporate this simple yet beautiful style of design back into our lives today.