Shaker values, if not rituals, find a following in the creative class

While Shakerism has dwindled to a handful of members (with the sole remaining Shaker colony in Maine having only two members, one 65 and the other in her 80s), at least the “spirit” of the American-born religion is inspiring a new breed of artists, designers and restauranteurs drawn by its simplicity and egalitarianism, reports the New York Times (April 24). Shaker furniture and other crafts have long been valued by secular admirers, but more recently a new group of devotees have been attracted by Shaker values and spirituality, writes Christopher Barnard. He cites a couple who opened a New York restaurant based on Shaker values of hospitality and simplicity, and interviews others who said they were attracted to the Shakers’ egalitarian practices regarding gender and race (adherents had rejected slavery early in their history and taught and practiced equality between the sexes). Artists and designers are being drawn to the Shaker principle of “beauty rests on utility,” the theme of a fashion show being put on by designer Tori Burch and other artists at Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, a former Shaker community turned museum. One clothes designer draws on the Shaker principle of simplicity as she cuts down on waste by using material from deadstock, or unused fabric. The Shaker Museum in Chatham, NY, which is in the process of a vast expansion, has created a “Maker’s Circle” comprised of creative people inspired by Shakerism. Director Lacy Schutz said designers and “makers” are drawn to Shakerism right now because of a “desire to communicate a belief system and a level of integrity.”

Source: Hancock Shaker Village.