We don’t typically re-share articles from others, but when I read “The First American Modernists” by Lance Esplund, I knew I had to share it with our community of Shaker furniture lovers. Lance provides a thoughtful, interesting look at the Shakers and Shaker furniture, as inspired by an art exhibit at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. The exhibition, titled “The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World,” provided a historical overview of the Shakers and their simplistic, spiritual lifestyle; focusing on the craft of their now world recognized furniture.
While Shaker communities were once vibrant and thriving, there are now only 3 Shakers left. Brother Arnold Hadd and his two elderly sisters practice their faith at Sabbathday Lake’s Shaker Village in New Glouster Maine. It’s the worlds last active Shaker Community. Brother Arnold Spoke at the exhibit & covered topics such as the concept of “Shaker Style” (which he claims does not exist) and the inspiration behind their modest furniture design. According to Esplund, the exhibit was full of Shaker Furniture. He goes on to explain:
“That “classic” Shaker style is well represented here in strong, unassuming cupboards, tables, desks and chests of drawers; delicately crafted oval wooden nesting boxes; inviting, wide-mouthed wooden bowls; tightly woven rugs and baskets; and sprightly, no-nonsense ladder-back chairs. Made of chestnut, walnut, flame birch and bird’s-eye maple, these lightweight, sturdy chairs have rhythmically dynamic woven cane and checkerboard tape seats. They could be easily hung on wall pegs to allow for the ecstatic “shaking” dancing prayers for which the “Believers” became commonly known.”
While I haven’t had the opportunity to see the exhibit first hand, I have a deep appreciation for Shaker Furniture and it’s honest, unassuming design. Rich with history, Shaker Furniture has a legacy and heritage that we are proud to represent here at Vermont Woods Studios. If you’re interested in learning more about this Shaker exhibition, Esplund’s article is full of practical insight on the history and inspiration behind their furniture.
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