‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free,
‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
We will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed
To turn, to turn will be our delight
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right.
-Simple Gifts, aka Dining Hall Song #6
Vintage Postcard of the Shaker Village, Harvard MA

Vintage Postcard of the Shaker Village, Harvard MA

Celebrate the return of a special week honoring the Shakers’ contributions to crafts: always functional, and recognizable for their simple elegance. Become inspired by Shaker history to “put your hands to work” in a productive atmosphere of learning and sharing. Shaker Week 2013 is November 17-23.

I asked Shaker enthusiast and Folk School folk, Ruth Truett to talk about Shaker Week at the Folk School.

CP: Why does Shaker style and philosophy fit in so well at the Folk School?

Weave with prepared Black Ash splint over a wooden mold to create the quintessential Shaker basket, the cathead.

The quintessential Shaker basket, the cathead

RT: Shakers were progressive in issues of equality of the sexes, care of children and the aged, and pacifism. They “loved God and each other and worked devotedly to build a physical and spiritual haven apart from the complications and competitions of ‘the world'” (Rocheleau). The Folk School’s commitment to cooperative rather than competitive learning, simplicity and devoted creativity in design and style of objects and buildings finds a happy home for Shaker craftsmen, teachers and students.

CP: What do you like about Shaker Week?
RT: This week where we make objects, sing songs and listen to the Shakers is not consciously religious. We listen and work to hear a people who “shunned what they judged wasteful and unnecessary, including ornament, devoting their creativity instead to what was useful and well made…within the discipline of simplicity” (Rocheleau). We hear the Shaker genius.

Making Shaker boxes in the Woodworking Studio

Making Shaker boxes in the Woodworking Studio

Check out these Shaker Week 2013 Classes:
19th-century Blacksmithing, Shaker Style – Michael Saari
Shaker-inspired Pottery – Mary Dashiell
Herbs: From the Shakers to Today’s Uses – Carol Blackburn
Rose of Sharon…with a Twist – Pat Meinecke
From Sheep Comes Yarn – Martha Owen

View all Shaker Week 2013 Classes on our website.

Ruth recommends checking out the Folk School Craft Shop book nook for more resources on Shakers. One book she is specifically fond of is: Shaker Built by Rocheleau and Sprigg. Monacelli Press. 1994

Here is a selection of some of the books on Shakers currently in the Craft Shop:


Cory Marie Podielski
About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes.