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Artist with highboy
Photo Courtesy of Maggie Erb Sacks

Maggie Erb Sacks has broken South Carolina fine cabinet-making traditions – a little at the time. But in doing so, she has also made sure other traditions are perpetuated.

Simply being a female distinguishes her in the state’s long history of local cabinetmaking. Sacks has become noted, among her myriad achievements, for miniature furniture. In fact, one of her small pieces is currently on view at McKissick Museum, part of A Compass to Guide: South Carolina Cabinetmakers Today, an exhibition that continues on the University of South Carolina historic Horseshoe through July 17, 2017.

“In the 19th century, it was the practice of those apprenticing to fine cabinetmakers to craft miniatures to demonstrate their mastery of the skills necessary to make fine furniture,” said Dr. Tom Mack, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina – Aiken.

Sacks is well aware these little pieces of furniture, 1/8 scale, slightly larger than doll house furniture, are highly collectible. The artisan crafted her miniature dry sink from walnut and lined its basin with copper. The piece, replicating a very utilitarian workhorse of the 19th century, has two shelves below, a lid for the sink, and two enclosed drawers.

Like apprentices whose traditions she carries on, Sacks apprenticed in Virginia before coming to Aiken from Pennsylvania in 1973.

Although small is beautiful, Sacks sometimes goes big. When she does it is for traditional-sized furniture, in both period and contemporary styles.
Among other small achievements, Sacks replicated – in gingerbread – Aiken’s Visitors’ Center and Train Museum as part of the historic town’s holidays festivities a few years ago.

Working in wood has been one of her personal traditions. “I have been engaged in woodworking since I was a teen,” Sacks said.

Maggie Erb Sacks
1790 Highland Park Drive
Aiken, SC 29801
More about Aiken.