IT WAS a serious car crash in which he miraculously walked away unhurt which prompted Keith Pickering’s change of career.

After being diagnosed with epilepsy out of the blue in 1998, Keith suffered a blackout while driving.

The accident left him with a badly damaged car, but also the courage to follow his dreams. He was officially launch as The Stick Man at the beginning of September 1999.

Keith, who is 59, was previously working full-time as a trout farm manager; although he had been hand-carving sticks as a hobby for a few years and even selling a few at country shows to “test the water”.

Based in the craft workshops at Helmsley Walled Garden, when Keith first started out he worked almost entirely to order and each stick would take a week or more to make.

A family affair, Keith’s wife Jacky joined him in the business after a couple of years.

Now, a large part of the business is selling components - stick shafts, antlers, horns and carving blanks - to the growing number of people who make sticks as a hobby.

He also works with several trusted stick-makers, who work from their own premises to supply sticks for the shop, as well as a handful of commercial producers, to make sure the shop is never empty if visitors pop in.

Keith said: “If I’m being honest, I didn’t think we’d still be here 18 years on.

“I thought interest from the public might dwindle after a few years – but, actually, the exact opposite happened.

“Stick-making as a hobby is more popular than ever and not just in the UK.

“We sell parts and materials to many countries around the world. Just last week I took an order for more than £1,000 worth of carved sticks and horn handles to go to a customer in Spain.”

Keith’s craftwork has also made it to the television and cinema screens.

He made the famous magical stick held by actress Emma Thompson in the Nanny McPhee films. Sticks have also been made for the TV shows Emmerdale and Heartbeat and numerous stage shows.

Elsewhere, Keith has provided walking sticks for stars, sportspeople and royalty, and even created a Staff for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us, including, of course, my wonderfully supportive wife Jacky and my many loyal customers.

“Many buy from us again and again so hopefully we must be doing something right.

“Helmsley is a great place for us to be based as it’s such a supportive community.

“The efforts of our Helmsley in Business group, chaired by my wife Jacky this year, have made an enormous difference to visitor numbers and since we won the Britain’s Best Market Town award a couple of years ago it’s become an even more popular place to stay or visit.

“It definitely helps extra people find their way to our workshop.”

Keith added: “I’ll be 60 at the end of next year and I ‘hope’ to be able to slow down a bit, maybe make fewer sticks myself and concentrate more on selling a bigger range of components and tools.

“Arthritis in my hands is making carving more difficult for me so, much as I love it, it will have to take up less of my time going forward.

“But working with almost 40 different suppliers and with business continuing to go from strength to strength, I won’t be sitting still, that’s for sure.”

For more information, and special birthday offers, visit the website

For more information about events and news in Helmsley go to or follow the town on Twitter @VisitHelmsley