09 December 2011
To fully appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Shaker furniture, one must understand the origin of the Shakers themselves. We take a look into the wonderful miniature world of Dr. Ken Byers of Shaker Works West. ...
Those who call themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing can trace their origins back to 17th Century France. These early French Calvinists thrived before clashing with the army of Louis XIV in 1706. Those remaining fled to England where the exiles, along with a sect of Quakers they embraced, became known as Shakers because of the trembling and shaking that overcame them during their ecstatic worship services.
As Millennialists, their belief that Christ's second coming was realised in their leaders, the sect was unsettled in their adopted land, and in 1774 Mother Ann Lee and 8 Shakers sailed to America seeking the freedom to live, work, and worship according to their main religious beliefs: celibacy, communal life, and confession of sin.
Without doubt one of the most successful of all utopian experiments, historians argue their belief of celibacy sealed their future and by 1900 their numbers had declined to less than 1000. Today there are a handful of caretakers and no active communities. Fortunately for us, their striving for perfection left a lasting legacy in the form of handmade, simplistic furniture that has stood the test of time.
Dr Ken Byers of Shaker Works West makes exquisite 1/12th scale shaker-style recreations. You may never be able to afford a full-sized authentic piece of Shaker furniture, but your dolls house certainly can.
Ken's scale model building started in the 1960's when Fisher Body Works (the car body division of General Motors) held an annual nationwide competiton for budding young designers to create scale model cars of the future. Ken won the New England regional prize and a college scholarship whilst just a second year student in high school. Then in the 70's and 80's when he owned his full-size furniture company, he made 1/6th scale models of each new piece of furniture he designed.
The Shakers produced some of the loveliest furniture which represented form and function and became the precursors of the modern movement. Ken's first 1/12th scale piece was a tall Shaker cabinet that he had always admired. From there he selected items that he felt represented true Shaker style. As Ken specialised in a niche in the market that few others bothered with, his work attracted attention from miniaturists wanting furniture to fill their farmhouses, cottages, country and modern vignettes. Ken's inspiration comes from spending hours in the library and looking at museum pieces and paintings. Of course the internet has become a great source especially of patented drawings.
Below are some of the fabulous pieces Ken has created:
Captains Chest & Country Dough Table with Hutch (dresser) on top
Country Butter Churns & Tall Multi-Drawer Herb Cabinet
Shaker 8-drawer Table with Shelf & Traditional English Boiler
Ice Box & Maytag Washer
A group of Pedal Tools
School Clock & Monet Style Stove
Barrister's Bookcase & Old Radios
Ken's Work can be seen on his website: www.shakerworkswest.com ( you will have to copy and paste this address into your web browser).
He attends the Tom Bishop's Chicago International, Good Sam and Philadelphia Miniaturia shows in the USA.
This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you enjoy reading about miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine? Better still, take out a subscription so you never miss an exciting issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, please use the buttons at the top of the page to share with your friends.