Don Green - Diamond Willow Canes 

Master: Don Green, Rapid City
Hilary Cole, Garold Engel and Gary Teaney, Rapid City
Art Form: Diamond willow cane carving

Diamond willow cane carving is a specialty of the Upper Midwest and western Canada, where certain varieties of willow form diamond-shaped blisters after their branches are infected by a fungus. Don Green of Rapid City says he’s always had a gift of manual dexterity and an artistic eye, which he used in his business as a metal fabricator and later in a wood carving shop he owned. 

Don started carving in about 1980 and was influential in starting the Hay Camp Woodcarvers Club of Rapid City. For his apprentices he chose three other members of the club—Hilary Cole, Garold Engel and Gary Teaney—who expressed interest in learning this regional art form. 

The four men, all retired, spent many happy days exploring in the Black Hills and around Belle Fourche for willow sticks, and then working together on carving techniques. They use power drills with various bits to carve around the diamonds and highlight them, then add other carvings of their own choosing—animals, leaves, flowers or geometric designs—to express their own artistic vision. All of them emphasize that the canes or walking sticks are made to be used, and Don did use one of his canes after hip surgery in the spring of 2003. 

Although Don passed away in 2007, Don's apprentices have started teaching other members of the club about diamond willow carving, so this tradition is alive and well in western South Dakota.

Four men standing together (from left Garold Engel, Gary Teaney, Don Green and Hilary Cole) holding canes upright
Garold Engel, Gary Teaney, Don Green and Hilary Cole

Pair of hands holding a cane (close up of Don Green)

Don Green uses an electric dremel tool to carve around the diamonds on his willow canes.