The Shakers were not shy about retrofitting or changing design to accommodate new needs. This early practice is evidenced by one of the oldest ‘relics’, Mother Ann’s rocking chair—an eighteenth century stationary Windsor chair to which rockers were added [in the collection of Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA].
Whilst a chair might be a manageable object to retrofit, a building did not daunt. The Hired Men’s Shop at Hancock Shaker Village once served as a seed shop and later as a working print shop. This building was not merely converted by simply carting in new equipment and putting up a wall or two, but the entire structure was rolled across busy Route 20 to replace a burned down building. Using what was at hand for what was needed.
And for the next six months, the building will function as an artist’s studio for the ARTISTS AT WORK pilot project. Before moving in, I swept the wide wooden floorboards, for as Mother Ann Lee [founding leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers] said, ‘There is no dirt in heaven.”
Six windows fill the room with natural light. A large pot bellied stove sits in front of an faded red built in cupboard with 21 drawers and four cupboards. To my surprise, when opened, the interior of each cupboard is painted a citrine yellow. We set up a work table and brought in a rocking chair.
Time to get to work.