Tramp art put simply was an art movement found throughout the world where small pieces of wood, taken primarily from shipping crates and discarded cigar boxes were whittled into layers of geometric shapes having the outside edges of each layer notch carved, or in the technique of what is alternately known as a Crown of Thorns. In the United States it was practiced most widely, yet was also a worldwide phenomenon. The artists used simple tools such as a pocketknife to carve the wood and assemble mostly utilitarian objects such as frames and boxes, but also pieces of furniture and objects of whimsy. It was popular primarily between the years 1870 through 1940.
What’s really interesting here was that Tramp Art was a true democratic art form. Anyone with the drive could do it, countless men, women and even children were known to have contributed to this movement. In the United States alone, there were over 50 documented ethnicities creating it. Tramp art was mostly created at home and by men in such occupations as factory workers, farmers and laborers. Both tramps and hoboes were known to have also contributed to the movement, but not in the numbers that the name suggests. The name is a contemporary invention and is really not linked to the art form as a whole.
Tramp art does not get the recognition it is due, yet it is a significant movement in our culture. However, it is still not on par with other movements. It is really a testament to the ability of a common man untrained in the arts to produce objects of immense artistic integrity. Their movement was one of the first to use discarded materials to make objects of art as well as utilitarian objects for everyday use.
“I’m tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work. We are supposed to work it.”
Attribution to TrampArt.com, The Velvet Fantastic