Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture
|by Kerry Pierce
Popular Woodworking Books: 2007
Hardcover, 176 pp., $30
Kerry Pierce has written a beautiful book on not only the history and impact of the Pleasant Hill Shaker Community, but he has also succeeded in conveying their ideals, and how their philosophy influenced all they produced. "It is the essential paradox of Shaker furniture," says Pierce, "that this is work which, for modern makers, would be nourishing meals for healthy egos. Is it possible that the 19th century Pleasant Hill craftsmen who produced this work could have done so without feeling the pride we would have felt in their places?"
The author shows many details that distinguish furniture of the Pleasant Hill Community from the work of Shaker communities further east. He shows a gallery of the Pleasant Hill Shaker collection, along with dimensional drawings and detailed sketches of the joinery used. These pieces are explained in depth, with woodworking advice so a reader can reproduce them authentically. There are rocking chairs, hanging cupboards, blanket chests and tables, plus a curly cherry secretary with a dropleaf drawer front that opens on a bank of cubbyholes and drawers. There are storage cupboards, beds, sewing tables, tripod stands and a candle sconce, all with instructions for recreating the projects.
The final chapter covers a wonderfully photographed tour of the Pleasant Hill dwellings, with stunning circular staircases, arched doorways and vast meeting halls. Kerry Pierce's introduction opens with: "If you find yourself staying at the restored Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, some summer night, I have a bit of advice: at dawn, after spending the night in a building designed and built by the Shakers, walk out onto the lawn...You'll know something about how it must have felt 150 years ago..." His book is as close as most of us will come to having that experience.
. . . Barb Siddiqui