With an eye toward perfection
September 29, 2004 9:43 AM Subscribe
Utopian Christians, despisers of all ornament, in some rough sense protomodernists, the eighteenth- and nineteeth-century millenarian cult known disparagingly as the Shakers has had an impact on the history of design far in excess of its size. (At most, there were only ever a few thousand, and it's easy to understand why, given their emphasis on "perfection" to the point of celibacy.) Key to the Shaker world view was the perfectability of the material world - its purgation of all decoration, artifice and frippery - as an act of worship. This ethos of design, summarized in these theses toward the improvement of the domestic environment, has gifted us with a legacy of highly esteemed craft objects. None has been more celebrated than that canny apotheosis of domestic utility, the Shaker rail, which survives here in a particularly nice contemporary interpretation. If only half the artifacts we're currently offered were as thoughtfully designed...
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