Pittsburgh Artist Registry

Jen Costello Custom Carved Canes

Jen Costello Custom Carved Canes

Artistic Category Artist
Career Level Emerging
Experienced With Speaking engagements, Public art, Teaching engagements

I was struck with childhood cancer in 1973 and am a 44 year survivor and one of the oldest childhood survivors of Wilms Tumor Cancer. At the age of 4 cancer was difficult to cure and the treatment was experimental. The treatment consisted of a large amount of chemotherapy and radiation that destroyed most of the muscles in my left back. This treatment caused numerous chronic health conditions but I refuse to allow these problems defy who I am. As the years have gone by my disability increased with numerous bulging disks, nerve damage in both legs, and difficulty walking. I was forced to wear leg braces to keep me from falling while walking. The medical canes made me feel uncomfortable and depressed. The need to decrease these feelings and I searched for functional but stylish canes but found nothing. The carved canes and walking sticks on the internet was more for show and didn’t provide the medical support I needed. The need to find a cane that was unique made me upset at the little selection. I woke up on day stating “screw it I’ll make my own cane”. Keeping in mind I have no experience in art or wood carving. With a trip to the local craft store and low end carving knifes, masking tape and lots of sandpaper I started my first cane. I used old banister wood that I had in the house and I continue to use recycled materials. To my surprise it was functional and had some style. Over the next month’s my mother and wife bought me real carving knifes, gloves to reduce the amount of cuts on the hands, and many roles of masking tape. The canes provided positive feelings toward my disability and I became encouraged to use my imagination to create fun canes. Totally amazed how the canes distracted people from looking what was wrong with me and focused on the artistic canes. With a new sense of pride for my disability I started to create and donate personalized canes to others suffering with disabilities. Most of the time I didn’t know the individuals that I would make a cane for and I would pick someone I would see out having problems with their disability. It is easy to see when someone is unhappy. At first people thought I was joking that I would make them a personalized cane but I always followed through and the cane brought joy to myself and the person receiving it. At this point I have given half of my canes away and each time it is like giving a piece of my with them. I stay in contact with all the people I have gifted and made really great friendships. So learning to carve a cane was a talent that was inside of me just waiting for the right time to come out.


jeannette , Pennsylvania 15644
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  • Functional
  • Craft
  • Sculpture
  • Public Art
  • Painting
  • Mixed-media


  • Acrylic paint
  • Carving
  • Engraving
  • Etching
  • Folk
  • Other
  • Pop
  • Recycling /green
  • Wood
  • Woodcut