NEW BRITAIN MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

Focus On: Shaker Woodenware (Part 1)

December 03, 2016–August 27, 2017

Oval Carrier Box, ca. 1800, Maple, made in New Lebanon, NY, Courtesy of Steve and Miriam Miller 

The Shakers believe that manual labor is a form of worship, an act of serving God, and that it should be accomplished flawlessly and efficiently. This belief and lifestyle permeates throughout the enduring objects showcased in this exhibition. From the collection of Steve and Miriam Miller, Focus On: Shaker Woodenware (Part 1) demonstrates the highest quality of Shaker-crafted woodenware from communities in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Ann Lee (1736–84), known to Believers as “Mother Ann,” was the leader of the Shakers in America, after emigrating from England in 1774 with a small group of followers. Several objects in this collection—including a cherry work box, select rectangular boxes, the four fancy pails, among others—were made at the peak of Shaker growth in the mid-1800s. At this time, spiritual revelations of Mother Ann were revived and Believers’ commitments to perfection of themselves and their work was renewed.

Other objects in this exhibition, created during the late-1800s to the mid-1900s, reveal the same level of thoughtful execution. Viewers can become immersed in Shaker culture within this exhibition’s variety of carefully constructed sewing spools, oval boxes, poplarware, carriers, fancy pails, swifts, and much more. Some of these objects were made for sale to the outside world, while the rest were for the Shakers’ own use. Part 2, a continuation of this exhibition, will follow beginning September, 2017, in the Steve and Miriam Miller Gallery.