Appenzeller Handicrafts

The residents of Innerrhoden like to express their love of their homeland through the creation of beautiful objects. Over the centuries in this small area, a distinct culture of handicrafts has blossomed, which is shaped by the life and work of the region.

One example of this is wood coopering. From the 18th century onwards as a result of an economic upturn due to the popularity of whey health cures, the herdsmen’s equipment was increasingly decorated with wood carvings. They became adornments to farming customs and traditions – and soon collectors’ pieces. The wood cooper uses fine, white maple and pine to create «Fahreimers» (decorated bottoms of milking pails), butter churns, whey pails, bowls, butter boards and milk churns. These objects are decorated with star and diamond-shaped ornaments, stylised plant motifs and straps of precisely chiselled dotted, linear and semi-circular shapes.

Decorative Saddlery: Decorations for horse belts were the earliest examples of brassworking and were first produced towards the end of the 18th century. Since this time brass has been used to decorate cowbell belts, braces and all sorts of traditional and contemporary leather goods. The belts for cowbells are decorated by the saddler with brass ornaments, woollen fringes and embroidery made from coloured leather bands. The artistically worked brass plates have pictures from the herdsmen’s life and often display the owner’s initials.

Hair ornaments were highly sought after for many years in Innerrhoden – firstly by local women to go with their traditional costumes and later far beyond the borders of canton and country. Elisabeth Signer (1824 – 1908), who learned her craft in England, was famous for her creations made from human hair.

Just recently a few craftworkers have started to take up this delicate art of braiding again. In the same way as with bobbin lacemaking, bundles of a few hairs, which hang suspended with weights from a ring-shaped braiding bar, are artistically wound to create spider web-like strips, rolls, balls and tubes. These are then mounted in precious metal to form ear pendants, bracelets, necklaces and watch chains.

Only very few goldsmiths are capable of designing decorations for traditional Appenzeller costumes. These delicate gold and silver pieces decorated with precious and semi-precious stones are reminiscent of rococo ornamentation. For many years cameo brooches and earrings were very popular with Appenzeller women and tiny cameo pictures were transformed into brooches, medallions and earrings.

Other craftworkers in the region include hammered dulcimer makers, wood turners, makers of traditional costumes and silversmiths as well as the makers of the «Dewiisli» for the festive «Chlausezüüg». The most famous representatives of traditional handicrafts are the hand embroiderers and folk artists.