The Queue: Thomas Little
The Queue: Thomas Little
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.
Based in Clinton, North Carolina, Thomas Little dissolves iron from guns into ink and pigment for use in his—and others’—artistic practice. Kimberly Coburn wrote about him—along with Lead to Life, James Brenner, and Combat Paper, who also transform weaponry and materiel—in “Material Alchemy” in our Summer 2022 issue.
How do you describe your work or practice?
I am an ink and pigment maker who works primarily with iron pigments derived from firearms I dissolve in acid. I use these colors to make drawing and printing inks for use by other artists, as well as in my own work. I am fascinated by ink as information technology.
The past couple of years have presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
My work specifically engages transmuting instruments of violence into the more subtle tools of communication. I am grounded in my practice knowing that, in a very small way, I am part of shifting the world away from reactionary harm and more towards the slow and contemplative. Herein I find beauty.
The theme of the current issue of American Craft is “Forge.” Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I find the theme forge rather humorous, considering that I am doing the literal opposite in returning iron to its natural form of iron oxide! But destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. Some things must be reduced to ash before their redeemable qualities can be found.
What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
The challenge lies with balancing doing what I enjoy and making a living from it in a manner that is congruent with my values. I believe in accessibility with art, and I often undersell myself to accommodate this idea. So in that sense, I am my own biggest barrier, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
What’s one of your favorite tools in your toolkit that the world should know about?
The ability to remove myself from the vision of the world—whether through meditation, movement, or art—and dilate my consciousness to further perceive connections that are otherwise not noticed. It is more than a tool for vision—it is also medicine for a hyperactive world.
What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that’s kinda cool, and why?
The work I have been doing with slime mold is endlessly fascinating! I have been feeding Physarum polycephalum—yellow slime mold—my iron pigments and letting them create patterns on paper. They respond to certain herb extracts in the ink and create almost anatomical pictures. It is an interspecies collaboration.
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