Text by Bethany Adams
Elaborate details and nature-inspired motifs are the identifying features of the carving style commonly known as Black Forest. But despite the name, the carved goods originated not in the Black Forest region of Bavaria, Germany, but rather a lakeside community in Switzerland.
In the early 1800s, when a famine devastated the Swiss village of Brienz, local artisan Christian Fischer began selling carved pieces to tourists and was met with wild success. It wasn’t long before he needed to enlist and train other artists to meet the demand, starting the town on a path to history.
While at the beginning, Brienz carvings mostly featured animals native to the area, their growing popularity among travelers from the United Kingdom, North America, and other parts of the world led to a wider variety of pieces. Eventually, the carvings came to be recognized in Victorian society as a sign of luxury.
Today, Brienz is home to the only wood-carving school in Switzerland, and wood carvers from the area continue to produce world-renowned pieces. But if you’re looking for an antique piece, be sure to keep an eye out for the craftman’s signature. Pieces that bear the name Huggler are especially sought after.
Animal figures continue to be a popular design, with bears remaining the most common theme, and the Black Forest style of carving now adorns everything from thermometers and wall hangings to figurines and furniture. From the decorative to the functional, this distinctive style continues to ornament homes all over the world—just as it did 200 years ago.
Collection courtesy of The Nest in Birmingham.