Work by more than 100 Artisans inside new Carmel more

Shaker oval boxes, carriers and chairs
Art and Craft Shows, the Gallery in Seymour and the following Shaker Museums: Hancock Shaker Village, South Union Shaker Village, Canterbury Shaker Village, and Watervielt Shaker Village
Pete Baxter

“My skills and the Shaker box design offer the opportunity to express my personal creative process. Part of the process is to carefully select the right kind of wood, with the perfect grain, the perfect cut and all for the right box design.”

Pete Baxter is a first-generation woodworker, self-taught and specializing in Shaker chairs and oval boxes. His interest in Shaker furniture started in undergraduate school with an elective course on Shaker life, and he found the Shaker tradition of handmade wooden boxes about 10 years after he started woodworking. They have been his signature pieces ever since.

A lifelong resident of Seymour, his workshop is in a building constructed by his maternal grandfather in the early 1950’s. The 700-square-foot white block building is situated on a small rise overlooking the remnants of a once two-story horse barn that now is storage for stickered maple, walnut and cherry boards. The building originally was a small cottage built for Pete’s newlywed parents.

Once located in the ‘country’ outside the Seymour city limits, time and city growth have reached to and beyond the small workshop.

The Jackson County artisan’s work follows the same Shaker design that originated in the 1790s and was used until Brother Delmer Wilson completed the last one in 1955 at the Sabbath Day Lake Community in Maine.

“While the design belongs to the Shakers, the interpretation and work is a one-of-a-kind that is impossible to be replicated again, even by me,” Pete explained. “Therefore, each box is authentically Shaker and the finished work is uniquely original.”

Select hardwoods — cherry or maple – are used. He soaks the bands in hot water and secures them with copper tacks to prevent staining. By hand, he then fits tops and bottoms to the bands, using copper shoe pegs to secure them. As a final step, Pete applies a hand-rubbed varnish.

“Today, my creative skills of interpreting particular woods and grains to express a visual warmness and excellence with the Shaker traditions and designs improves slightly with each new box,” he said. “Each has a purpose, each box has a particular wood, grain pattern, workmanship and, consequently, original look.”

The high standards that Indiana Artisan promotes and upholds attracted Pete to the organization.

“I am not only highly honored by the designation but feel a trust that I will live up to the high standards expected,” he said. “Being an Indiana Artisan means that my work will never be so good that I will not continue to pursue excellence and raise the standard of expectations. Having my work receive the designation encourages me to be even more creative and artistically expressive.”

In March, 2013, Pete’s creative work was recognized again when it juried into the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen. It also has juried into Early American Life magazine’s Directory of Traditional American Crafts for 2012, 2013, and 2014. The Directory is an honor bestowed on a handful of Artisans who work in traditional media, style and crafts. An artisan’s work must be rated a Master or Museum Quality level for inclusion in the Directory.

Pete sells his work in a building owned by his family since 1940, operating an appointment-only gallery in the heart of historic downtown Seymour.