.

.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SHAKER RUGS -- ORDER AND BALANCE


SHAKERS DANCING AT WORSHIP
WIKIPEDIA

Early this summer I took the time to visit Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, to see their textile exhibit . It featured textiles that exemplified the order and balance in their everyday life.


Shakers  were industrious, inventive, and disciplined in their everyday activities. They were productive in many areas of their culture; furniture production, seed production, textiles, architecture, and other artistic endeavors. peaking during the 1800s.


Religion played a part in their culture as well as abstinence  Males and females slept, lived and ate separately.  On Sunday, their religious day, their dancing was done with spiritual spontaneity in the meeting hall .  This spontaneous dancing gave them the name "shakers" to the outside world. Both men and women participated in the dancing, yet were segregated.


SHAKER PICTORIAL HORSE RUG
PROBABLE DATE AROUND THE 1840s
Women were active in  textiles. In the early years they made  richly designed textiles that are now highly desirable to collectors


The rugs in the exhibit were made by sewing small folded pieces of cloth to the rug's backing and finishing the edges with braided pieces of cloth. 


CLOSE VIEW OF THE ABOVE HORSE RUG
PROBABLE DATE AROUND THE 1840s
Included here are two pictorial rug examples that I photographed at the Pleasant Hill exhibit. Most rugs made by the Shakers are not pictorial. The rugs that were made at Pleasant Hill average 3X5 feet making them all rectangular. 

Beverly Gordon in her well researched book, Shaker Textile Art, believes these two pictorial rugs are probably from about the 1840s.


I viewed these rugs with my interpretive eye. I wanted to get a sense of the woman that made each one. Perhaps you will notice cues, other than mine, to the maker's personality within the rug design.


The "horse" rug is vibrant, colorful and was designed  in a naive manner. This told me perhaps that the women put her soul into her work, had a lively life in the Shaker community, and was rather out of touch with the world about her  -- by her naive design. I believe the horse would to be a reflection of the importance of this animal to their society?


SHAKER "GOOD" PICTORIAL RUG

The pictorial "GOOD" rug was again naive, colorful and soulful. The "Good" might be a reminder that within their world this was an important way to be.


All conjecture on my part.


Shakers were a large society that accomplished so much during their active time. I would recommend the Beverly Gordon book as a great start to learn the ways of the Shakers.


Reference:
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

25 comments:

  1. Great post Barbara, the rugs are so beautiful and the Shaker culture is so interesting. I saw a house here locally a few days ago with two front doors side by side, and remembered reading it was of Shaker design, where males and females entered the home through separate entrances. A study I'd surely like to pursue.
    Blessings,
    ~Ronda

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am fascinated by the Shakers. I've never seen the pictorial rugs before. Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ronda -- thanks for the nice comments. Houses with two doors are usually not influenced by Shaker design. A common two door house in southern states is the commonly called tenant house among other names. I have run into two front door houses as far west as Oregon. The Shakers did have two front doors in some of their buildings. Usually Shaker architectural patterns were found within the Shaker society. Was the house you read about within a Shaker settlement?If you find out more I am sure many folks would like to hear about it. -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  4. NCmountainwoman -- the exhibit is small but it does have some very nice textiles on exhibit. i believe the exhibit goes through Oct. If you like Shaker you have probably been to Pleasant Hill. It is a wonderful place I think. thanks for the comment -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pleasant Hill is a lovely and peaceful place. It has been a few years since my last visit. I think the Shakers were quite an industrious and talented group of people. I was able to watch a documentary about them on PBS a while back. Really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Barbara, I have always been interested in Shaker design, especially in the simplicity of their design. I think many today try and copy their success but don't get very far because they don't have the order and balance part down. Thanks for a very informative and interesting post. Darcy

    ReplyDelete
  7. A fascinating group of people with an amazing aesthetic -- I love Shaker furniture and we have several reproductions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What beautiful workmanship :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello:
    What a fascinating and most interesting, as well as informative, post. And it is so strange the way 'Shaker' has come to represent a certain style across much of the world. The rugs are lovely and we enjoyed reading your interpretation.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I wasn't aware the Shakers made rugs, although it's not at all surprising. The naive designs of these are charming [which sounds a little dismissive but I don't mean it to be.] The picture of the dancing was enlightening because I had the impression the men and women danced in separate groups. Here I see the men in an outside circle and the women in the middle [which makes symbolic sense]. And it seems more stylized and less individual than I had pictured as well. Thanks for giving me a more specific understanding -- not in depth but more accurate -- of that interesting group.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Farmchick -- I agree that Pleasant Hill is a very peaceful place to visit. I feel one of its unique qualities is the spacious open land surrounding the village. -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  12. Darcy -- Yes the simplicity of their design makes their objects beautiful. Thankfully, there are many good books of the objects that were made.

    One book that I found to be informative yet not overwhelming is "Shaker Communities of Kentucky: Pleasant Hill and South Union," The (KY) (Images of America) by James W. Hooper, Larrie Curry and Tommy Hines. This book includes wonderful photos plus a good overview of the society. Thanks --- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  13. Vicki -- How wonderful that you can enjoy the Shaker style in your home. Yes, they strove for perfection is all that they did. Thanks -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jayne -- Yes, their way of life mandated good workmanship in all that they produced. thanks -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jane and Lance -- I did not know that the Shaker style had reached beyond the borders of the U.S. I suppose it is like other indigenous styles of a certain sect -- they eventually become international in this new world or ours. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  16. June -- Like you, I am always coming across ways of the Shakers that I was unaware of. You mention the dancing so let me mention their music. It is hauntingly beautiful -- here is a link about it:

    http://www.shakervillageky.org/i/downloads/music_and_dance.pdf

    Since I know you are a prolific book reader you might want to read this interesting small book, if you haven't already read it -- "Shaker Communities of Kentucky: Pleasant Hill and South Union," The (KY) (Images of America) [Paperback]
    James W. Hooper (Author), Larrie Curry (Foreword), Tommy Hines,

    Thanks for your nice comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  17. My Mother made rugs like this using strips of cloth she tore from old clothing and braided. I was explaining this process to my granddaughter and I will have to check out the Gordon book. Thanks for the tip. Dianne

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dianne -- Yes, braided work is done from strips of materiel but what I meant to make clear was the main part of the rug was made from small pieces of material folded individually and each individual piece was sewn to the rug backing and thus a design emerged. The braided part was only around the border. Some parts of the center design look like braided work but they are not. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  19. Do love the simple Shaker way. Could I live it? ????

    ReplyDelete
  20. Birdman -- Could I live the Shaker way -- I have to answer -- no, definitely not. Do I appreciate the products and some of their ways -- definitely yes. i understand your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I like the rugs, especially the horse one.It is very pretty.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I just adore that horse rug. It's gorgeous! Thanks for the interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Janet -- thanks for the nice comment -- I agree with you -- the horse is artistically rendered with balance and order, like the Shaker's lives. -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sheri -- I think I know why you like the horse. Thanks for leaving a nice comment -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  25. I hate to admit it, but I keep a ca. 1860 Pleasant Hill rug on my daughter's bedroom floor. We collected Shaker things for many years, and still enjoy many relics around our home.

    ReplyDelete