The Shakers sought to create a heaven on earth through a combination of worship and diligent work, and their handicrafts are among our greatest exemplars of form following function. Practical yet attractive, the furniture, textiles, tools and machinery of the Shakers are utterly distinctive and became famous the world over during the twentieth century, with certain Modernist architects and designers finding unexpected common ground with this decidedly n-Modernist sect. 'Shaker Handicraft' - the first Shaker exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1935 - was only the first of many major exhibits, and today the spirit of the Shakers - and the clean lines, solid construction and honest functionality of their crafts - make it one of the most popular and timeless design categories in the US and beyond.
Lesley Herzberg has a background in religious studies and art history. For the past five years she has been curator and collections manager at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.