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That technique would have eliminated not only the nails that hold the bottom in place, but also the unsightly gaps, by allowing the builder to conceal extra width on the bottom panel in the grooves on either side. The bottom could then have shrunk in width without creating visible gaps on either side. The hanging cupboard (lower photo this page), although an elegant manifestation of the Shaker aesthetic, uses nails for nearly all its structural elements. The sides, top and bottom are nailed together.

Did the craftsman who made the sponge-painted oval boxes in the quarters above the Meeting House feel the same pride in his workmanship I feel in mine? And what about the maker of that magnificent secretary? Did he step back and admire the beauty and strength of the piece he’d built with his own hands? To have seen it as a product of his efforts would have been antithetical to Shaker belief, but would it have been possible to have succeeded so brilliantly without taking personal satisfaction in the accomplishment?

One such piece is the miniature blanket chest in this book which is identified in a letter saying that Mary Settles, the very last of the Pleasant Hill Shakers, had given the chest to an unnamed man. But most of the work now in the Pleasant Hill collection lacks this kind of documentary provenance. Some pieces were provisionally identified as Pleasant Hill simply because they were in the buildings of the community when those buildings were purchased prior to restoration. While this is suggestive of a Pleasant Hill origin, it is not conclusive.

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Canadian Home Workshop: Kitchens


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