In about three weeks the Hancock Shaker Museum will open its doors, gates, barns and buildings to the public. There will be no Fall colours to greet you but I didn’t want you to miss it. I was there for an all too brief visit because I wanted to see something of who the people were that so inspire woodworkers today with their simple designs and concepts of worklife making the essentials of life with their own hands. If you haven’t made space in your diary and you are within a three hour drive of Massachusetts, I suggest you make the time. The preservation of craftwork and the environments in which they were made will enable you to better understand an era under very direct pressure to collapse and make way for the woodworking we know today. The link woodworking and blacksmithing had to an agrarianism we no longer have gives meaning to why the crafts had such depth, value and meaning. None of it was hobby work dumbed down to a pastime. It was a productive era they thought would last for ever. I can’t help but look back on the woodworking then and feel a warmth towards what they accomplished. I find affinity with certain phases from the past and try to unite the realities of them with today’s woodworking. I say pastime woodworking because I think that that’s an empty sort of contemplative sphere of woodworking most woodworkers I know don’t do.
Opens April 13 to October 27 2014
10am -4pm April through June 29
10am -5pm June 30 through Nov 2
My time at Hancock was so inspiring I plan to return there for an extended stay. My schedule disallows it for now but I will make it happen as soon as I can. There are many spheres in woodworking history that impact our lives. Periods filled with fancy the likes of which were rarely emulated and would certainly not be copied today, but somehow the Shakers captured our woodworking hearts with simplicity of grace and style we can still enjoy. WHen I am there I want to touch the benches and measure the clocks, look under chairs and look at colour in the wood. I like seeing the life in their legacy that’s so different to what we see in mansions here throughout the UK in the same way I saw it at St Fagan’s here in Wales two years ago when I wrote the series on Textured Life. Anyway, I wanted to make sure you grabbed the opportunity to visit the Hancock Shaker Museum at the start instead of the end of the season. So you could glean from their fields a glimpse of the gift to be simple and free.
Imagine a mortise machine like this one