Shaker design, which I have long admired, was instrumental in the conception and fabrication of this box. Like so many Shaker pieces, the box has a spare, economical quality, a sense of clarity and specificity, the individual elements fitting harmoniously within the overall structure. Much like the Shakers, I have endeavored to create a piece in which materials, technique, and aesthetics unite successfully to support my intentions as the builder.
The box measures five inches in diameter and was constructed primarily with black walnut wood. The body of the box consists of seven stacked, laminated rings. The surfaces, both inside and out, were created using a variety of materials, including India ink, agricultural lime, earth pigments, and linseed oil. The domed knob on the lid was fabricated in steel, as were the box’s five domed feet.
Rectangle and obround gathering carriers were likely made for communal uses while oval carriers were mass-produced for sale to the ‘world’s people.’ The carriers were suitable for lightweight items such as kindling, vegetables, herbs, or flowers. The rectangle carrier is based on J. Kassay’s drawing in The Book of Shaker Furniture, page 95, and is from a private collection. (12” x10-1/8”x 10-1/4 to top of bail) Village attribution is unkown. The carrier is ¼ inch thick quartersawn e. white pine with 14 degree dovetails. The bottom is affixed with wire brads. The bail is steam bent ash and secured with copper rivets.
The 3/8” thick bail is sculpted above the carrier side and below the side it is tapered and thinned to ¼” with eased edges throughout. The carrier interior is a wash coat of chrome yellow. The exterior is finished with a hand rubbed varnish.
The proportions of the box are inspired by a Shaker document box from Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear's collection in the show "Line and Curve."
Like almost everyone this past year, my life has been much more private and interior than usual, and I designed this box to hold the stack of pandemic journals I've generated.
This chest is an interpretation of an original, made in the New Lebanon community as documented in John Kassay’s book. What makes the original so special, apart from the quality of workmanship, is its scale. Not quite a box, and much smaller than a blanket chest, the relatively small size is curious in a furniture form that I believe is underappreciated in general. The pencil drawer in the lower left of the carcase alludes to the small drawers seen in other Shaker furniture forms, and an attempt was made to lighten the proportions - a detail of construction inspired by the elegant work of one of my favorite furniture makers, Orren Haskins.
These bentwood boxes were inspired by the Shakers. This submission to the exhibition In Union, Remotely, is a testament to the community of today which exists around Mount Lebanon.
The Shakers refined bentwood boxes following a tradition of wooden box-making seen back through history in numerous cultures from Eastern Europe to the Haida and Tlingit of the American Indigenous Nations. The Shakers used bentwood boxes to store salt, sugar, and bits of the world - from sewing notions to hardware. They also produced a line of bentwood boxes for sale, as one of many products they made to generate income.
Present day Shaker historian Jerry Grant, and master woodworker Boyd Hutchison, offered a Shaker box-making workshop in the Bretherns’ Workshop at Mount Lebanon over a fall weekend in 2019. I took the workshop because I was interested in making something in wood by my own hands, and to learn how the Shakers constructed their elegant boxes. However, as a real beginner, my skill and endurance were tested. That weekend, I finished one box: a top and bottom, and partially completed the other four boxes in the set. Master carpenter, Peter Forward did a masterful job of completing the other four boxes. Thus members of the vibrant, present-day community dedicated to the legacy of the Shakers and to Mount Lebanon; who still carry on some of the traditions of Shaker craftmanship; whom I acknowledge with full gratitude; helped in the completion of this project.
The colors selected for the boxes are to remind us of where we are at the present. We are on the red ball which is the fire in the center of our planet, the layer which holds the yellow of earth, and all the minerals which make metals; the green of flora, young wood and new growth; the blue of all water and sky; and black, which contains all color: is how we perceive the infinity of the cosmos.
This tool tote made in 2015 of locally harvested maple (purchased at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Lumber Auction in 2009) is finished with shellac and paste wax. It measures 23” x 13” x 9”. The dimensions and the shape of the center board are taken from a19th century tote in a private collection in Connecticut. The tote represents the Shaker design philosophy of executing projects with fine craftsmanship, ensuring that it fulfills a utilitarian need, and that it be free of superfluous ornamentation.
The joinery employed was chosen to resist weakening of the tote from the force of tools banging around in it; the corner dovetails resist side-to-side forces and the wedged-through-tenons on the ends resist end-to-end forces; the center board is let into a dado to resist torsion if one side is loaded more heavily than the other, and the base is a raised panel let into a groove to support the weight of the tools. The only ornamentation is the contrasting dark color of the walnut wedges in the tenons against the lighter maple. One may notice slight wear on the tote as it is used for the purpose of its design: I use it to carry tools from my shop to locations I may be working, such as around the house or at the NWA shop.