The shaker style began when Jane and James Wardly began their own version of Christian religion in 1774. The travelled to America from Manchester England much like many of the other religious groups who were trying to escape persecution in Europe. The custom furniture they made was just one aspect of the traditional habits that make up the Shakers unique. You can give credit to these people for their significant cultural contributions and their stringent rule of equality between the sexes. The Shakers are often referred to as the charismatic Christians because they openly display communication and friendliness towards outsiders.
This large self-sufficient group of people needed little to no help from the outside world. Shakers are known for creating small communities where they rely on their own food to be grown and also furniture to be made. To support these communities the skill of custom furniture labour was enabled by a deep study of woodwork and craftsmanship. The main principles they utilize include the core idea of simplicity and utility. If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, this description may remind you of the Dutch or even the Germanic culture.
To recognize the custom furniture that the Shakers have pioneered you need to look for a few special features. The chairs and tables are admired for their simplicity and quality along with the clean design that is reminiscent of later Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. This community modified the standard table that was popular in the 1800’s by making extra legroom and modifying the slanted legs to be straight up and down slants of wood.
The backs of the chairs are the most recognizable feature of their custom furniture.
Designs can vary from post, slat, ladder, or woven backs and this is evolved from hundreds of years of traditional furniture making techniques. The minimalist textile aesthetic is cheap and easy to reproduce which is why the Shakers made such a great business out of this endeavour. Extra ornamentation was heavily rejected and they instead used asymmetrical lines to add visual interest. All the wood chairs and tables that they produce must be painted in order to preserve the grain and certify that the pieces last for fifty years or more. The furniture is simply beautiful and if you are interested in buying some for your own home, the best way to find a Shaker community is to contact your neighbourhood city council. Today more than 50 groups are living prosperously in the Eastern United States and can be contacted through the postal mail.