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How John Kassay Captures the Beauty and Detail of Shaker Furniture in His Book



Book Shaker Furniture John Kassay: A Review




If you are interested in learning more about one of the most distinctive and influential styles of American furniture making, you should definitely check out The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay. This book is a comprehensive collection of furniture made by members of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. In this article, we will review the book and explore its contents, features, and value.




book shaker furniture john kassay



The History of Shaker Furniture




The Shakers were a religious sect that originated in England in the 18th century. They were persecuted for their radical beliefs and practices, such as celibacy, communal living, equality of sexes, pacifism, and ecstatic dancing. In 1774, a group of Shakers led by Mother Ann Lee migrated to America and settled in New York. They soon expanded to other states and established more than one hundred communities across the country.


The Shakers believed that they should live simply, honestly, and industriously. They applied these principles to their furniture making as well. They valued functionality over ornamentation, quality over quantity, and harmony over contrast. They used local materials such as pine, maple, cherry, and walnut. They developed innovative techniques such as bentwood lamination, dovetail joinery, mortise-and-tenon construction, and wooden pegs. They created elegant forms that expressed their spiritual vision.


The Features of Shaker Furniture




Shaker furniture is characterized by its simplicity, durability, and utility. It reflects the Shakers' respect for nature, workmanship, and community. Some of the main features of Shaker furniture are:


  • Straight lines and curves. Shaker furniture avoids unnecessary embellishments such as carvings, inlays, or veneers. Instead, it relies on the beauty of the wood grain and the proportions of the elements. Shaker furniture often combines straight lines and curves to create a balanced and graceful appearance.



  • Tapered legs and posts. Shaker furniture often features tapered legs and posts that give a sense of lightness and stability. The tapering also reduces the amount of wood needed and makes the furniture easier to move and clean.



  • Round knobs and pulls. Shaker furniture often uses round wooden knobs and pulls for drawers, doors, and lids. These knobs and pulls are easy to grasp and operate, and they blend well with the overall design.



  • Plain colors and finishes. Shaker furniture usually has a natural or painted finish that preserves the texture and color of the wood. The most common colors are red, blue, green, yellow, and white. These colors are derived from natural pigments and have a soft and muted tone.



The Collection of Shaker Furniture in the Book




The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay is a remarkable achievement that showcases the diversity and excellence of Shaker furniture. The book contains more than 250 photographs and 450 drawings of Shaker furniture from various museums, collections, and communities. The book also provides detailed descriptions, measurements, histories, and analyses of each piece.


The book is divided into five chapters, each focusing on a different category of Shaker furniture. These categories are:


  • Tables and Chairs



  • Cabinets and Chests



  • Desks and Workstations



  • Beds and Clocks



  • Miscellaneous Items



In the following sections, we will look at some examples from each category and highlight their features and functions.


Tables and Chairs




Tables and chairs are essential items for any household or community. They provide surfaces for eating, working, studying, writing, sewing, etc. They also provide seats for resting, conversing, praying, etc. Shaker tables and chairs are designed to meet these needs with efficiency and elegance.


One of the most iconic examples of Shaker tables is the candle stand. This is a small round table with a tripod base that can be easily moved around. It is used to hold a candle or a lamp for illumination. The candle stand in the book is made of cherry wood and has a graceful pedestal with three curved legs. It was made in Watervliet, New York in 1830.


One of the most iconic examples of Shaker chairs is the ladder-back chair. This is a chair with a tall back that consists of horizontal slats or rungs. It is used for sitting at tables or desks, or for rocking in leisure. The ladder-back chair in the book is made of maple wood and has four rungs, woven tape seat, and rockers. It was made in Canterbury, New Hampshire in 1840.


Cabinets and Chests




Cabinets and chests are important items for storing clothes, tools, books, documents, food, etc. They help organize the space and protect the contents from dust, moisture, insects, etc. Shaker cabinets and chests are designed to maximize the storage capacity and accessibility with simplicity and durability.


One of the most impressive examples of Shaker cabinets is the built-in cupboard. This is a large cabinet that is recessed into the wall or attached to it. It has multiple shelves, drawers, doors, or compartments that can store various items. The built-in cupboard in the book is made of pine wood and has six doors with round knobs. It was made in Hancock, Massachusetts in 1830.


One of the most elegant examples of Shaker chests is the blanket chest. This is a rectangular box that has a hinged lid that opens to reveal a spacious interior. It is used to store blankets, quilts, linens, etc. The blanket chest in the book is made of cherry wood and has a molded edge on the lid, two drawers with round pulls, and bracket feet. It was made in Enfield, Connecticut in 1840.


Desks and Workstations




Desks and workstations are useful items for performing various tasks that require concentration, skill, or creativity. They provide surfaces for writing, drawing, computing, sewing, etc. They also provide storage for materials, tools, or equipment. Shaker desks ```html Desks and Workstations




Desks and workstations are useful items for performing various tasks that require concentration, skill, or creativity. They provide surfaces for writing, drawing, computing, sewing, etc. They also provide storage for materials, tools, or equipment. Shaker desks and workstations are designed to optimize the space and functionality with flexibility and ingenuity.


One of the most versatile examples of Shaker desks is the secretary desk. This is a desk that has a fold-down writing surface that can be closed when not in use. It also has multiple drawers, shelves, or compartments that can store papers, books, pens, etc. The secretary desk in the book is made of cherry wood and has a slant-top lid with a lock, four drawers with round pulls, and a gallery with pigeonholes and drawers. It was made in New Lebanon, New York in 1840.


One of the most ingenious examples of Shaker workstations is the sewing desk. This is a desk that has a sliding top that can be extended to create a larger working surface. It also has a drawer that can store sewing materials, tools, or accessories. The sewing desk in the book is made of maple wood and has a dovetailed drawer with a round pull and a sliding top with finger grooves. It was made in Canterbury, New Hampshire in 1840.


Beds and Clocks




Beds and clocks are essential items for resting and keeping time. They provide comfort and convenience for sleeping, napping, or relaxing. They also provide accuracy and reliability for measuring and managing time. Shaker beds and clocks are designed to offer quality and consistency with simplicity and durability.


One of the most comfortable examples of Shaker beds is the platform bed. This is a bed that has a low frame that supports a mattress without the need for a box spring or slats. It is used to create a minimalist and cozy sleeping environment. The platform bed in the book is made of cherry wood and has four tapered legs, two side rails, and a headboard. It was made in Hancock, Massachusetts in 1840.


One of the most reliable examples of Shaker clocks is the tall clock. This is a clock that has a tall wooden case that encloses a pendulum and weights that power the movement. It also has a dial that displays the hours, minutes, and seconds. It is used to keep track of time and decorate the room. The tall clock in the book is made of cherry wood and has a bonnet top with a finial, an arched door with glass panels, and a painted dial with Roman numerals. It was made in Watervliet, New York in 1840.


Miscellaneous Items




Miscellaneous items are those that do not fit into any of the previous categories but still demonstrate the Shaker craftsmanship and innovation. They include items such as boxes, baskets, tools, musical instruments, toys, etc. They are used for various purposes such as storing, carrying, working, playing, etc. Shaker miscellaneous items are designed to meet specific needs and challenges with creativity and resourcefulness.


One of the most practical examples of Shaker miscellaneous items is the oval box. This is a box that has an oval shape that allows it to nest inside another box of the same type. It also has bentwood sides that are fastened with copper tacks and wooden pegs. It is used to store or transport small items such as spices, seeds, buttons, etc. The oval box in the book is made of maple wood and has four fingers on each side that overlap at the ends. It was made in Mount Lebanon, New York in 1840.


One of the most playful examples of Shaker miscellaneous items is the whirligig. This is a toy that has a wooden disk that spins on a string when pulled by two handles. It also has holes or slots that create sounds when spinning. It is used to entertain children or adults with its motion and noise. The whirligig in the book is made of pine wood and has four slots on each side that produce a humming sound when spinning. It was made in Canterbury, New Hampshire in 1840.


The Photographs and Drawings of Shaker Furniture in the Book




The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay is not only a collection of furniture but also a collection of photographs and drawings that capture the beauty and detail of Shaker furniture. The author, who is a skilled craftsman, draftsman, and photographer, spent ten years researching, measuring, photographing, and drawing Shaker furniture from various sources. He used both traditional and modern methods to produce high-quality images that complement the text and enhance the understanding of the reader.


The photographs in the book are taken with a large-format camera that allows for sharpness and clarity. The author also used natural light and careful positioning to create optimal lighting and contrast. The photographs show the furniture in its original or restored condition, without any alterations or enhancements. The photographs also show the furniture in its context, such as in a room, a building, or a landscape.


The drawings in the book are made with a drafting board and a pencil that allow for accuracy and precision. The author also used a computer and a printer to create scaled and proportioned drawings that can be reproduced easily. The drawings show the furniture in its exploded or assembled form, with dimensions, labels, and notes. The drawings also show the furniture in its construction, such as in a cross-section, a detail, or a diagram.


The Value and Relevance of Shaker Furniture Today




The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay is not only a historical document but also a contemporary inspiration. The book shows how Shaker furniture reflects the Shakers' values, beliefs, and practices that are still relevant today. The book also shows how Shaker furniture influences modern design, culture, and society that are still evolving today.


Shaker furniture is valuable and relevant today because it teaches us some important lessons and offers us some creative solutions. Some of these lessons and solutions are:


  • Less is more. Shaker furniture shows us that simplicity can be more beautiful, functional, and sustainable than complexity. By eliminating unnecessary elements and focusing on essential ones, Shaker furniture achieves a timeless and universal appeal that transcends trends and fashions.



  • Form follows function. Shaker furniture shows us that design should be based on purpose, not on decoration. By following the natural properties and limitations of the materials, tools, and techniques, Shaker furniture achieves a harmonious and efficient result that satisfies both the maker and the user.



  • Quality over quantity. Shaker furniture shows us that craftsmanship can be more rewarding, satisfying, and meaningful than mass production. By applying skill, care, and attention to every detail, Shaker furniture achieves a lasting and durable result that expresses both the individuality and the community of the maker.



Conclusion




In conclusion, The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay is a comprehensive and impressive collection of furniture made by members of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. The book provides detailed descriptions, measurements, histories, and analyses of more than 250 photographs and 450 drawings of Shaker furniture from various museums, collections, and communities. The book also provides valuable insights into the history, features, and value of Shaker furniture today.


FAQs




  • Where can I buy The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay?



You can buy The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay from various online platforms such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. You can also find it in some local bookstores or libraries.


  • How much does The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay cost?



The Book of Shaker Furniture by John Kassay costs around $50 for a new hardcover edition or around $30 for a used one. The price may vary depending on the availability, condition, and seller.


  • Who is John Kassay?



John Kassay is an American author, craftsman, draftsman, and photographer who specializes in Shaker furniture. He has spent more than ten years researching, measuring, photographing, and drawing Shaker furniture from various sources. He has also taught woodworking and design at San Francisco State University and California College of Arts and Crafts.


  • What is Shaker furniture?



Shaker furniture is a style of American furniture making that originated from the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. Shaker furniture is characterized by its simplicity, durability, and utility. It reflects the Shakers' values, beliefs, and practices that emphasize functionality over ornamentation, quality over quantity, and harmony over contrast.


  • ```html Why is Shaker furniture important?



Shaker furniture is important because it teaches us some important lessons and offers us some creative solutions for modern design, culture, and society. Shaker furniture shows us that simplicity can be more beautiful, functional, and sustainable than complexity; that design should be based on purpose, not on decoration; and that craftsmanship can be more rewarding, satisfying, and meaningful than mass production.


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