Mother Ann Lee

Category : Art, community, Poetry, Shakers
Date : March 2, 2024
Mother Ann Lee
29 February 1736 — 8 September 1784

Cosmic feminist karma
Inspired when first in,
When women invited in.
A broadsheet to marketh the course, to report. 

Lace repurposed, given new life, liberties,
infused with psychedelic indigo.
A spectrum instructed with solemnity
Occasionally, light flickers. 

Mother Ann Lee embodied cosmic feminist karma
bringing a new religion into the worldf
ounded on principles so radical that they endured persecutions 

One could say her broadsheet was verbal;
she being illiterate to written words
yet literate in all realms cosmic
The written  Testimonies of her contemporary believers 
and works of the later visionists-scribes themselves of hearts and leaves
and maps and flowers and trees-- 
scripted scrolls brought down from spirits’ energies spoke to her cosmic energy. 

Stone Prison 
How can I but love my dear faithful children
Who’re willing to bear and suffer with me
When I was on earth and in a cold prison, I cry’d
To my God to remember me 

I prayed to God to protect my dear children,
To strengthen the weak and comfort the strong
For I was distressed and in a stone prison,
And none but my God to protect me from harm. 

—excerpt from ‘meetinghouse’ --  spoken word by Brece Honeycutt & Shaker song/Stone Prison sung by Miriam Cantor Stone. performed at Shaker Heritage Society for Moonbow #6, July 29 2023.

it’s in the mail

Date : December 6, 2020

Thursday December 10th marks the poet Emily Dickinson’s 190th birthday. Dickinson sent many poems to her friends in letters and as letters, often with a flower enclosed.  During the 1800s, the Shakers communicated amongst their 19 villages with letters, setting aside time in their schedules to read these aloud to the sisters and brethren.

And how do these two strands weave together you might be wondering? These acts of correspondence inspired a project between the bookbinding studio at Camphill Village and me, the artist-in-residence at Hancock Shaker Village.

For the past months, we have been sending letters, books, poems and art materials back and forth. This course of action chosen, for we are unable to collaborate in person due to Covid-19.  

Recently, I received this from one of my collaborators:

“I just wanted to touch base and thank you for the wonderful creation that we are so fortunate to be inspired by. Every time I see that original envelope my heart leaps with joy. And the poems are such a healthy nourishment for the soul.”

In light of Dickinson’s birthday and in hopes that President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will choose an inaugural poet, we offer a few of the poems that we have shared, “nourishment”  for your souls.

Prayer Bowl by Al Hunter found in “When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs came Through” edited by Joy Harjo
Necessity by Stuart Kestenbaum found in his collection of poetry, “How to Start Over”
When I am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver found in her “Devotions The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver”

Emily Dickinson, #1693, date unknown found in “The Poems of Emily Dickinson” edited by R. W. Franklin


color X 2

Date : October 14, 2020

The Shakers literally ‘colored their world’ from the interior and exterior of their buildings, to the objects they used and to the garments they wore.

Slowly this vibrant world began to dawn on me about a month into my residency.  Was it when we examined their garments with a blue warp and red weft, a process they called ‘changeable,’ that renders a vibrating look to the coat or gown?  Was it standing in the storage room and seeing painted pails all the colors of the rainbow?  Was it being overwhelmed by the multiple yellow ochre hues of paint–peg rails, floor, built-in cupboard, window trim—contrasted with the blues, greens and reds of the objects in the dwelling room?

Hard to say if it was just one moment, but more likely an accumulation of hues over time that dazzled. The Shakers lived in a vibrant world, both interiorly, with their religious beliefs and exteriorly with their painted world.  If only I could time travel back for a day, a week and take that color walk with them. 

I invite you to take two color walks with me.

Next week on October 22 at 5:30pm via Zoom, Hancock Shaker Village Curator Sarah Margolis-Pineo and I will discuss my residency, the search for the Shaker palette through natural dyes and mine the collection for brilliantly colored examples.

Please sign up to join us for A Coat of Heavenly Brightness and register here at Hancock Shaker Village’s website.

Last week, I participated in ‘COLOR + ECOLOGY’ part of the The Common Thread Series, a collaboration with the Southern New England Fiber Shed and the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD.  Laurie Brewer, RISD Museum Costume & Textiles Associate Curator + RISD Apparel Faculty Member along with Amy DuFault and Dora Mugerwa discussed ‘how color’s relationship to regional ecology and history impact the curation of how colors are represented in fashion and textiles’. 

Video of our discussion is available here via The Nature Lab.


Category : community
Date : August 30, 2020

Later today a group of our communities’ essential workers—teachers, nurses, firefighters, health care workers, police officers, maintenance workers, foodbank volunteers, and grocery workers—will be thanked for their service over the past months.  No, they won’t be opening letters, but instead will be offered words and music by Yo Yo Ma, Anjimile, Emanuel Ax, Billy Keane, Chantell McFarland and Deval Patrick — Live from Hancock Shaker Village:  Songs of Comfort

Hancock Shaker Village is known as the City of Peace and seems a fitting place for this evenings’ thank you celebration.

Even though, The Shakers as a society operated outside of the World, as they termed it, they very much participated in and contributed to their surrounding communities.  In her book Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union: A History of the Hancock Bishopric, Deborah E. Burns cites many examples, but this one is both apt and particularly poignant.

“A report from Hudson, New York, in the Pittsfield Sun of November 28, 1803 states:  On Thursday morning last, between eight and nine o’clock, 73 waggons arrived in this city from New Lebanon loaded with different kinds of provisions which is a donation from the Societies of Shakers in New Lebanon and Hancock, to the sufferers by the late terrible epidemic in New York.  The following are the quantities of provisions which they shipped from there to New York, vix. 833 lb. of Pork, 1951 lb. of Beef, 1746 lb. mutton, 1685 lb. rye flour, 52 bushels rye, 24 do. beans, 179 do. potatoes, 34 do. carrots, 2 do. beets, 2 do. dried apples.  Besides these provisions the two Societies made up 300 dollars in specie, which is also to be presented to the poor of New York.  Would not the wealthy part of the community do well to imitate this most noble example of the Shakers?”

 Deborah Burns, Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union:  A History of the Hancock Bishopric, (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1993), pgs. 52-53.

Please note, this concert is limited to the invited audience and will be broadcast live on WAMC starting at 7pm and continues until 8:30 pm.

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