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  • Dale Smith

Bottle Stopper Folk Art

Folk art to admire and treasure. Bottle stoppers literally define and totally fit within the diameters of folk art. Historically, folk art refers to handmade, utilitarian objects whose design is esthetically appealing. It can be contemporary or antique.


Bottle stoppers are mostly carved out of wood, but can be created from other materials as well. All are innovative and powerful expressions carved and crafted by a wide range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Many stoppers contain an energy that flows from life in a uniquely individual manner. Some stoppers smile and some reflect history. The very best provoke an emotional response of some significance, making them characters we like to live with, whether created for a utilitarian purpose or aesthetic appeal.



Unfortunately, the carvers of these stoppers are growing older and people are embracing and pursuing new technologies. Wood carving is a dying art as new stoppers use new materials. Corks which were the foundation of all stoppers have disappeared. Wine bottles are stored in expensive vaults and functional cases out of site within most households. That’s what makes this collection by Dale Smith so special.


Today's carvers are mostly men and varied artisans—there are only a few women carvers. For most, it’s a labor of love and a hobby to occupy spare time. Carvers also differ in their individual talent and level of creativity. An ability to discern the difference is critical to the final piece.


The collection carefully constructed by Dale Smith over the past forty years includes a vast range of stoppers by carvers both abroad and in the United States. Skill sets vary in terms of detail and creative imagination. Selected stoppers have moving parts that help bring the figures to life. Some are also music boxes that play a tune when wine is poured. All kinds of people and animals have been executed and painted to enhance their overall presentation and appeal. His European Anri stoppers are some of the oldest in the collection.



What is especially unique and creative is how Dale’s collection is presented and showcased. Wooden sculptures have been created that display multiple stoppers in the same structure. Multiple bottle stoppers crafted as part of one sculpture is both inventive and impactful. Old wooden blocks, planes, wooden industrial molds, letters and various decorative woods have been glued together to create the basic sculpture. The stoppers simply and beautifully decorate the sculpture which holds them in place. The individual stoppers can be moved around to create different combinations and keep the sculpture fresh and visually engaging. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind collection and presentation of folk art that can be cherished and enjoyed for generations to come.


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Website and Text by Atelier Wolfe 

Photography by Lynn Millspaugh