Tools, Retooled

Tools, Retooled

Makers expand utensils beyond the utilitarian and into the realm of art.
Published on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. This article appears in the December/January 2019 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Deborah Lozier, Hand-me-down tools

Deborah Lozier created the nature-inspired tools of Hand-me-down.

Deborah Lozier

In 2005, jeweler and cross-disciplinary artist Deborah Lozier took a trip to Norway to visit her husband’s family. Far from her Bay Area studio, Lozier took to collecting distinctive sticks as a kind of creative outlet. Eventually, she began to wonder: “If plants grew tools, what would they look like?” Using remnants from her mother-in-law’s kitchen (who, since their visit, had died of Alzheimer’s), Lozier created the nature-inspired tools of Hand-me-down as a kind of memorial, testaments to both organic form and human ingenuity.

Joseph Pintz’s ceramic work centers on the power and meaning of everyday objects. In 2016, as part of a culinary event, the Missouri artist recast gardening tools as tableware, producing clay dessert plates in the shape of shovels. The plates, he says, help retrace the food’s origin – in the soil.

Lou Lynn, a Pilchuck-trained glass artist living in British Columbia, admits she is “a bit of a collector.” Among her lot is a series of unlikely, hard-to-parse tools, which she says possess “an implied function from some unknown task.” Lynn saw sculptural potential in these pieces and set about re-creating them in glass, and her project Tools as Artifacts was born. The pieces are “explorations of form and materials,” she says – the building blocks of creative expression.

“It used to be said that toolmaking sets us above the other beings on planet Earth,” Michigan potter and paintbrush maker Troy Bungart says. “We now know it’s not so clear-cut, but it is true that toolmaking is an integral component of human creativity.” Bungart’s brushes elevate that component: With hardwood or bamboo handles in a variety of shapes, ceramic ferrules, and animal hair bristles, they help others make their own art, but are also worth contemplating for their form alone.

Arizona metalworker Carson Terry has a knack for the things that fill in the background of life, such as eating utensils and combs. In Terry’s hands, these every day staples take on new heft and hand-hewn distinction. The steel of Folding Spoon and Fork Set (2018) is expertly forged, but without mass-produced perfection – reminding users of the maker’s hand that preceded the machine.