Shaker Village: Where Handmade is Well-Played

11:28 PM

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Over the last couple of days, we had some crazy storms across metro Detroit. There were downpours and wind that was so insane, using an umbrella wasn't an option. The power went out, and I was scared. That's how my weekend ended and how my week began, so we're going to go back in time a bit and talk about a happier day instead.

Welcome to Shaker Village--Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. It was an early-October day trip with my grandparents, parents, and mom's friend, Heike (visiting the U.S. for the first time . . . all the way from Germany!), who inspired the visit because of her long-time fascination with the Shaker community.

Don't know what a Shaker is? Don't worry--I didn't, either. I just assumed that Shakers were basically Amish, and we'd be stopping by for some handcrafted goods and delicious food as we strategically stayed out of the way of anyone who didn't like modern technology. But . . . I assumed incorrectly.

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A woman demonstrates basket-making in true Shaker-fashion.
Pleasant Hill's Shaker Village is not only different from an Amish community in that modern technology is embraced, not shunned--it's also run by craftsmen and craftswomen who act like Shakers, rather than by actual Shakers. There is, however, a pretty good reason for the masquerade. Turns out, the Shakers--who, save for a few elderly members who currently live somewhere in New England--are pretty much all gone because they don't have children to pass on their legacy. Instead, the religious community makes (made?) its mark by recruiting adults who choose to join as "brothers" and "sisters."

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Not Shakers. Grandpa, Mama, Heike, Brad, and Grandma hanging out at Shaker Village.
My dad was around somewhere . . . probably talking the ears off of a few of the village "inhabitants."
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The Centre Family Dwelling, which once housed a "family" of over 100 Shaker men and women.
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Efficiency--the Shaker way. Shakers stored everything from hats to chairs on walls, freeing up precious floor space.
Also central to the Shaker way of life? Hard work, and continually improving upon the tools we use to this day. Shakers were once very essential to the provision of goods across the U.S., creating furniture, storage vessels, and other products that they used within Shaker communities and sold to outside businesses. High quality was the name of the game, and the Shakers did not skimp when it came to their crafts.

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Broom making. These things are awesome--so sturdy, they stand up on their own!

And, yes--there was food. A delicious menu of quiche-like proportions, reflecting the farm-to-table theme of the village. Ever been hypnotized by a piece of bread and some butter? Well, it's entirely possible, because the The Inn at Shaker Village's restaurant served yeast rolls that were some of the most addicting things I've ever eaten.

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Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

And the animals. They just liked to hang out all over the place. Like, "Don't mind me . . . I'm a cat, and this is how I do."

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Sleepy cat, sleepy cat. What are they feeding you?
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This kitty liked hanging out under benches and on windowsills.
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My new horsey friends.
One of my favorite places was the craft store. Filled with gorgeous goodies from handwoven towels to wooden boxes, this place showcased lovely Shaker-inspired decor. Ah, to fill a home with such lovely things . . . 
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One of the gorgeous, hand-painted boxes that filled the store.

While I'm in no hurry to adopt the Shaker belief system, I think it's interesting to discover how different types of people across the country and throughout history live/have lived. Have you been anywhere lately that gave you a glimpse into a totally different lifestyle? Share your stories in the comment section!

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