ART CENTRE
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The 1500 Possibilities of the Elegant Cane
By Rafael Espinós
Published in La Vanguardia, "Casa y Ambiente" section, p. 8,
0ctober 27, 1991
The sculptor Cocomir, great enthusiast and knower of the world of canes, has created more than 300 different pieces.

Jaime de Mora admits to having around fifty, and Antonio Gala, quite a few more. Without carrying one, Beau Brummel would have seemed lame, and even some traditional riddles ("Which is the animal that when born uses four legs, when older uses two and when very old uses three?") wouldn't have any reason to be.

But the most interesting thing is that without the cane and its innumerable applications, collectionism would also lose one of its most versatile and creative objects. The most famous collectors knew this. It is rumored that Tutankamen was one, but it results nearer and surer to refer to the collections of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Voltaire, Napoleon, Toulouse-Lautrec, Brummel, and closer in time and space, Salvador Dalí, for whom the cane was, more than a physical support, an unsubstitutable gestural companion.

And it is, that since the world exists, the wand, the staff, and the shepherd's crook have served not only as physical but as well as moral support. The wand of office shows itself to be as ancient as the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Representing authority, it was a completely indispensable complement to certain uniforms and personages, (who doesn't remember the field wands of the German marshals or the nervous stick of Montgomery?) The scepter of bishops, the staff of shepherds, the spiked stick of night watchmen, the noisy alerter of the chamberlains announcing the entrance of important people, the object that gets thrown into the air by directors of Scottish bagpipe bands, the cinematic companion of Fred Astair and Maurice Chevalier...

All in all, since antiquity the walking stick has all sorts of uses and functions: from the most pragmatic, which is to serve as an aid to the body when tired, or as a weapon of defense, to the most leisurely and sophisticated of uses, as an ink well, a billiards cue, or an alarm clock. The jeweler Van Clef sold to the Maharani of Baroda a most delicate cane-incense holder with more than 500 carats of encrusted jewels.

There are some that have written there are more than 1,500 uses for the walking stick, which perhaps is an exaggeration. I speak on the theme with Cocomir, new name of José Vicente Corominas, which corresponds with his new life as a sculptor and creator of canes. Before, he was an architect, established in many countries of the world; today, he is possibly the person who knows most about walking sticks in Spain. Cocomir works between Sant Antoni de Calonge and Torre Valentina where he has his gallery and studio, and is certainly the only sculptor who has created more than 300 models, made by hand. Well, the artist warns that in the collectionism of period canes, the exceptional is to find one that is not falsified in its turtle shell, grip, ivory, and even in its bamboo cane or shaft.

Alternative Uses
"All walking sticks have a purpose, they should oscillate, almost walk by themselves and give their momentum to the walker." says Cocomir. The shaft or cane now has a length of 92 centimeters, and has lengthened a lot since this object, so practical and beautiful had its golden age at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present one.

With mimicry, there were those who treasured them focusing on their useless uses, so abundant. For example, in the cane with a glass grip that accompanied the suicide of the "Veccio frack", or of the English "country", the whim of Lords and gentlemen who ordered canes from the best craftsmen with the grip in the shape of the noble characteristics of the head of their favorite dogs or sons lost in the Victorian colonies so as to remember them.

There were friends of the blade who ordered sword canes with a soul of the best steel. Concerning firearms, Cocomir informs that the manufacturer Beretta created special canes for the personal guard of the last Turkish Sultan, while the Remington company advertised in the press their most select products.

Still in the Hispanic world there abound walking sticks that conceal souls of rifles and carbines, containing in disguised breeches cartridges and bullets.

To the useless opera cane we will add others. For example, the so traditional crook, or also the "pistol grip", that has the shape of a handle, and therefore, if it is good, one can grasp it with anatomical ease, and lastly, the elegant and curved cane, which one thought of as the oldest and yet it turns out to be the most modern of all.

In the chapter of woods, the best antique canes are made of malacca, a type of reed of oriental origin. Also in bamboo, much cheaper and accessible, were made many canes of all types, but nowadays cherry and chestnut woods are those that result best. Regarding surprises and exotic canes, everything counts: plaits of interwoven bull intestines, clubs perforated by steel and then shaped as if wood, and then those that don't hide or disguise the hardness of their iron or steel to perform a double function.

Leaving aside the hiking stick, very cheap and practical, we shall return to the most sophisticated canes. It is clear that a good silver handle requires one to dress in tails, and to beautifully finish the piece with woods that are more noble in appearance than really practical: mahogany, palisander, and other excellent tropical woods will not be as pliant as malacca or cherry. They will be more beautiful, but less useful.

In Spain, apart from the canes and crutches for people with difficulties in walking, one can acquire collector's canes in specialized shops existing in the principal cities. Cocomir thinks that we (Spain) must be producing around 600,000 canes of all types a year, even exporting them, but it is an almost ridiculous figure compared with the Italians, whose most important factory in Milan produces more than three million pieces a year.

Many canes of good appearance abound in auction houses and antiquarians, many times redone with grips and shafts that don't correspond. But they are nice; they aren't expensive and are coming into fashion.

To each one its style and price, which is according to quality, materials, rarity, and creativity, which goes up if to all this we add singularity. But one would say that here and now they aren't expensive. Collector's canes (here beware of the rehashed ones that don't deserve this qualification) can be found in antique shops, curio shops and auction houses. And there are good shops that sell canes of a more or less eternal design, and quite "English", who continue being very important consumers, (of the cane), good manufacturers, and on occasion, very creative.

For creativity, sculpture, forms that caress, and guaranteed functionality of the contraption, - the canes of Cocomir, found in some shops apart from his. In a style really distinct, classical and beautiful, the sculptress Pallejá creates beautiful heads of dogs that serve as the grip of exceptional "superbritannical sticks" once cast into noble metals.


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