February 24, 2008

There's No Tool Like an Old Tool

Work In Progress - FALLING TO PIECES IN VERMONT from the Vermont Place Settings Series - Pique Assiette mosaic from recycled dishware on "green" MDF board. Some of the tesserae (grass and tree leaves) have been cut, placed and glued. Still n
eeds to be finished, grouted, sealed and framed.

I have a life long love affair with tools and technology. I grow truly excited by any and all contraptions — large and small, simple and complex, old and new, fancy or mundane — that promise to do something, (anything really!) that will make my work better, my day easier or my life simpler. And while I do find myself instantly attracted to tools and technology out of hope that they will deliver on the promises they make, honestly, I’m into them for the novelty, the curiosity and the wonder of it all.

A Few Good Tools -
Cutting (rather than breaking) old dishes into tesserae requires (from right to left) gloves, goggles, tile nippers, my favorite leponittes and p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e. (Wearing shoes is always good, too!)

Whether it’s old tools at garage sales and flea markets that perform some function no longer a priority in today’s society, or old technology discovered in the back rooms of thrift stores and found discarded at the dumps because it has been replaced by something a million times faster, or the very newest, latest and hottest techno-tool trends, I want it — or at least the chance to play with it.

I find the tools and technology beautiful to behold, fascinating to contemplate and wondrous to feel in my hands. I not only want to own them all, I want to use them all; try them out, stretch their boundaries, take them apart and see how they work — then leave my husband to put the peices back together again... I derive hours of entertainment and frustration from this preoccupation because the reality is, that as fascinating as new technology is, I really do quite well with my work, and usually in my life, with what I already have — a few very simple tools that work remarkably well and some moderately current technology that, as it tends to find some balance point between causing me utter frustration and providing me with complete bliss, I continue to use rather than replace.

What I have always known about m
y work, regardless of the latest techno trends, is that my most useful tools are my hands. Simple, (and rather small in my case!), multi-jointed, five-fingered hands with clever little opposable thumbs and calluses tough enough to stop a leponitte blade. It’s true my hands are growing ever so slightly clumsier as I age, and lately I have noticed they are occasionally sore in the mornings after I’ve spent the previous day cutting up tiles and tesserae. However, they are the most amazing and fascinating piece of technology I have access to, as well as my most valued, most favored and most often used tool — and one look at them will prove it!

WORK IN PROGRESS - (detail) FALLING TO PIECES IN VERMONT from the Vermont Place Settings Series

Despite the fact that I have several pair of work gloves, various nippers, tweezers, probes, sponges, scrapers, etc. , and that I do actually understand all the safety ramifications, when it comes to getting my work just the way I want it, I seem to need to feel my way. So, I strip off my gloves, set aside the nippers, tweezers, probes and files, drop the sponges and dig right in with bare hands and naked fingers. This is, of course, why my hands look like they’ve been through several medieval wars. They are covered in scars, often full of glass chips (it’s hard to feel them with all those calluses) and the nail beds are perpetually stained by whatever color of grout I used on my last project. The point is, I have the tools, the technology and (presumably) the intelligence to use them safely, but I just don’t. I like the feel of my fingers on my art work and to me it's just not my art without that part.