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Canes & Walking Sticks

 

Among the many forms of vernacular folk art, carved canes and walking sticks can be appreciated for both their beauty and their usefulness Until recently, little has been written about canes. They have not had the attention given to other American folk art such as weathervanes, quilts, tramp art or samplers. Yet canes have a wide range of functions and a rich diversity of forms, making them far more varied than most other folk art objects.

Today, use of a cane first brings to mind old age or infirmity, but in the 19th century a cane or walking stick was a fashion accessory and much was written about the proper and graceful use of the cane or umbrella while walking in public. The history of the cane and the staff goes back to biblical times, and over the years canes have been used as religious and magical symbols, and as signs of authority or power. In more modern times, even up to the present, avidly collected canes have had handles made by Faberge and Tiffany, as well as those of elegantly carved ivory, jewel-inlaid wood, and intricately fashioned silver. The range of so-called systems canes is likewise very wide: there are ones that were hollowed to hold alcoholic beverages and substances such as tobacco, and ones that contained tools, gadgets of all sorts, and even musical instruments. There is, as well, a large category of canes as weapons.

Over the years, The Ames Gallery has had a stylistically wide range of sticks and canes, but our focus is definitely on the hand-carved folk art style pieces. We especially enjoy the whimsy and thoughtfulness that individual carvers bring to their work. They can produce detailed, complex carvings, or can make sparsely adorned canes, which have their own simple beauty. Clearly one need only cut a tree branch to length and use that as a walking stick or cane. What makes the canes we offer "art" is the adornment that people have been compelled to add: incised drawings; carved raised messages commemorating events, places and people; figures or animals forming the handles, or climbing, encircling or entwining the shaft.

Among these gallery pieces one might find the ideal cane to aid in walking or the perfect stick to make a fashion statement or to show a bit of a swagger. Most of the pieces from the Ames Gallery find homes with cane and walking stick collectors—valued for their sculptural qualities.


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