What’s not to love about Shaker? As a furniture Craftsman, I work with many different styles of furniture and to me there is just something moving, inspirational and spiritual about the Shaker style. Although the Shakers never had a colony in Vermont they did have successful operations in New York, New Hampshire and Maine, three states boarding Vermont. Why they never settled in Vermont is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it may have had something to due with the harsh winters and rocky farm land, but my neighbors in New York, New Hampshire and Maine may have a different opinion on that.
Although the Shakers never colonized Vermont, there is just something about this style that screams VERMONT to me. Maybe it’s the honesty in design, nothing artificial or overtly ornamental. Maybe it’s the utilitarian elements of extreme functionality, each piece, designed for a purpose fulfilling that purpose gracefully. Maybe it’s the simplicity in design, or its humble character and presence, all these characteristics remind me of my fellow Vermonters, maybe thats why Shaker Furniture says Vermont to me.
The Shakers were devoutly religious, worshiping their God as they saw fit, they felt it was essential to withdraw from the world, into their communities where they worshiped with their work. To the Shakers, all work was prayer and they believed the divine worked through their hands. Considering that Shaker Furniture has endured both in style and in craftsmanship, maybe the Shakers were on to something.
If someone is interested in owning an original Shaker piece finding one can be difficult, most being in museums, or private collections, but their are a few craftsman who today still build in the Shaker style. A few of these craftsmen hold to rigid guidelines of the originals, while others blend Shaker elements into their own designs and on occasion a piece, or two will surface in an antique shop, or an auction.
Regardless how one comes into possession of a piece of Shaker Furniture it is always a spiritual experience, the history, the inspiration and the devotion, whether it be in the actual piece, or the design. As a craftsman, creating a Shaker piece takes me back to a time where a studio is filled with busy gentlemen diligently working away in prayer devoted to divine perfection on earth.
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