Chains carved from a single block of wood, cages whittled with wooden balls rattling inside—all "made with just a pocketknife"—are among our most enduring folk designs. Who makes them and why? what is their history? what do they mean for their makers, for their viewers, for our society? Simon J. Bronner portrays four wood carvers in southern Indiana, men who had been transplanted from the rural landscapes of their youth to industrial towns. After retiring, they took up a skill they remembered from childhood. Bronner discusses how creativity helped these men adjust to change and how viewers' responses to carving reflect their own backgrounds. By recording the narratives of these men's lives, the stories and anecdotes that laced their conversation, Bronner finds new insight into the functions and symbolism of traditional craft. Including anew illustrated afterword in which the author discusses recent developments in the carver's art, this new edition will appeal to carvers, scholars, and anyone interested in traditional woodworking.
Simon J. Bronner is Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences and Dean of the College of General Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the editor of the four-volume Encyclopedia of American Folklife, Manly Traditions: The Folk Roots of American Masculinities, Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America, 1880-1920, and other volumes, and the author of several books, including Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition, Killing Tradition: Inside Hunting and Animal Rights Controversies, Following Tradition: Folklore in the Discourse of American Culture, and The Carver's Art: Crafting Meaning from Wood.
A masterfully balanced psychological interpretation of a group of traditional artists, their creativity, and the functions and symbolism of their works.