Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shaker Beauty Part Three: Beauty in Simplicity

If you should have a lovely garden, you should live a lovely life
--Shaker saying

I've been feeling a bit conflicted about this series on Shaker Beauty, because as you may know, the Shakers stood firmly against adornment of any kind.  They believed that any interest in personal adornment could only distract from spiritual communion.  God knows I love personal adornment and its history, and the Shakers just did everything in such a lovely manner that I can't help but gush over it.

Here is a bottle of rose water prepared in the last inhabited Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.  The village I spent time in had stunning gardens.  The herbs were all labeled with their medicinal uses.  Several kinds of roses were grown for their gentle tonic qualities (Shakers id not tend to adorn tables with flowers), but red roses, or Apothecary Roses, were reserved for the preparation of rose water.  I adore the labeling on this small glass bottle.  I use rose water every day but usually buy mine at the health food store.  It says something about enhancing my aura comes in a pink plastic spray bottle.  Sure it's cute, but the Shaker bottle is a lot cuter.  I use a mineral-makeup face powder and I like to spray on rose water to set it.  I also use the spray to re-wet sections of my hair for lowing out straight, or to revive the curls.  Often I just spray myself (or others) in the face because it feels and smells so good.  The kind I usually use smells light and fruity-flowery.  The Shaker water has a deeper and spicier rose scent.

The Shakers used rose water for bathing.  Roses are known for mildly astringent properties and rose water is one of the most common ingredients for face creams, toners, and cleansers in my antique beauty books.  After the flowers were gathered from the garden, the essence was distilled and the water prepared in the Well-Being room, still full of the loveliest glass bottles.  

People from the outside world came to the villages to buy everything from the famed Shaker chairs to rose and mint water, cooking herbs, and cheese.  Hancock, the village I visited has preserved a Victorian-style house at the edge of the property that the Shakers used as a store and to meet with outsiders.  They decorated and outfitted this building to make visitors feel welcome.  This wallpaper was added sometime in the sixties and I think its fantastic. It almost looks like Florence Broadhurst to me. The background may have been red when it was first hung but it's now faded to a gorgeous pink and I love the way it looks with the Shaker bench.

Shaker Beauty Part One:  Hands to Work
Shaker Beauty Part Two:  Sisters Bathing at Pleasure