“The Shaker chair was an aesthetic metaphor for the religious
precepts of the society: simplicity, separation from the world,
utilitarianism, and dedication to fine craftsmanship.”
—Bernice Steinbaum, The Rocker: An American Design Tradition
Craft in the Classroom
Remind students of the Shaker design
principles of simplicity, utility,
order, permanence, versatility, clean
lines, and unadorned surfaces. Have
them look for examples of chairs
that do not reflect these principles.
Use a Venn diagram to delineate the
similarities and differences between
chairs from “the world” and the
Shaker ladder-back chair.
Have students explore the Web
for examples of Shaker design. Look
for baskets, oval boxes, textiles, furniture, and woodenware. Create a
bulletin-board display showing how
these objects and artifacts exemplify
the Shaker design principles.
The Shakers are credited with many
innovations, including the flat broom,
the clothespin, and an early version
of the circular saw. In each case, the
new object filled a need identified
in the community. Have students
work in teams to identify a school or
classroom problem or need. Students
should brainstorm ideas for innovative solutions, make sketches, and
produce a prototype. Remind students
to apply the Shaker design principles
to their sketches and prototypes.
Craft in America is a monthly feature in SchoolArts magazine by Marilyn Stewart,
professor of art education, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA; and Kathleen Walck,
art educator, Kutztown, PA, for Craft in America, Inc.
Cooperware from a variety of Eastern Shaker communities, 1830–1875. Courtesy of
Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham and New Lebanon, New York, Jane Feld-man photograph. Oval Box with Spools, Mount Lebanon, New York. Courtesy of Shaker
Museum and Library, Old Chatham and New Lebanon, New York.
Ordering the DVD and Companion Book
To order the Craft in America DVD for long-term viewing
and classroom use, or to order the companion book
Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists
and Objects contact PBS Video at 1-800-752-9727, or
Side Chair, Mount Lebanon, New York,
c. 1850. Courtesy of Shaker Museum
and Library, Old Chatham and New
Lebanon, New York.
Craft in America: The Series
Craft in America’s nationally
broadcast PBS documentary series
seeks to celebrate craft by honoring the artists who create it. In
three episodes entitled “Memory,”
“Landscape,” and “Community,”
Craft in America television viewers
travel throughout the United States
visiting America’s premier craft
artists in their studios to witness
the creation of handmade objects,
and into the homes, businesses,
and public spaces where functional
art is employed and celebrated. The
primary objective of the series is to
convey to a national audience the
breadth and beauty of handmade
objects in our culture.
Three educator guides accompany
Craft in America. Each guide—
Memory, Landscape, and
Community—relates to and reflects the
core ideas, artists, and art forms
presented in the corresponding
series episode. Educator guides are
available at www.pbs.org/teachers.