[Clayart] making hand tools, story

mel jacobson melpots at mail.com
Sat Jan 21 14:15:33 UTC 2023

As I have said many times, if you buy one size fits all, it will fit no one perfectly.
One of my favorite past times here at the farm years ago was going to a farm auction.
There was always a big table full of old hammers, wrenches and hand tools.  The patina
on the hammer handle was was like "old gold watches". I now own about 15 of them, can't get any more.

When I visit a school, the room is always loaded with old Kemper tools.
the cut off wire is 3 feet long. It is generic. Yes, it works, but has no meaningful purpose.
You can usually find a box full of those cut offs all knotted together.

For new people to clayart, my song is "make your own tools".  First buy a used 1 inch belt sander.
A new one is not expensive.

One day at the high school a kid came in dragging a queen foam mattress. We cut it up in huge chunks
and made a sink full of clorox water and soaked the pieces.  We stashed the big pieces of foam in the store
room and had sponge for about ten years. Kids would pull off a piece of foam and attach it to an old paint brush
handle. Electricians tap pulled tight and then a coat of epoxy. (or kitchen silicone)  We got scrap hard wood from
the wood shop and I then cut it into random strips about 4 feet long, 1 to 3 inches wide. Every kid made 45 tools and other sculpture
tools with that wood and the belt sander.

Every kid in my program had an ice cream pail full of tools. When they graduated, it went home with them. There were
local college programs in clay and the teacher would say.."you came from Hopkins with Mel, right?'  they brought there
home made tools with them...with patina. The teacher knew he did not have to teach throwing or other techniques to that kid.

Kids used to send me the "what to do to get an A in this class from college clay programs".  It was one day of making pots
for any of my grads. Often kids in college from my program would make all the "to get an A" pots in one sitting. Show them to the
teacher and say.."can i get to work now?"

One of my former students went to the University of Chicago, pre med and from a long line of Doctors family. He was a solid
potter. In the basement of the art building he found a gas kiln. It had not been fired many times. The new clay teacher said she
"would not touch that kiln,"  He called me at home that night. "Mel, can you teach me how to fire that kiln over the phone?"
Sure, it is a standard Alpine..Can fire that in my sleep."  So, he actually took over that kiln, fired it dozens of times and
formed his own clay class with serious students. His Dad bought him a new desk phone, and a 100 foot phone cord and Eric would
plug the phone into a office plug and talk to me when firing. Of course now Eric is a well known heart surgeon, living the life
in Miami. I am sure he will retire soon. ( he does have a clay studio at home.)

Many of you remember that I ordered an entire bamboo tree from a business in San Fran. 6 feet long and about 12 inches round. IT came
to me as one piece with a ups label attached with my name and address. I have made hundreds of Japanese style tools from that bamboo.
(fishing poles are no good, too thin.)  Bamboo is used to hold up grape vines, and is a huge business in Napa and beyond.

"Again, it is like we say..."The craftsperson likes to be in charge of all phases of the craft." So, the only way to have your own
"voice" is to do everything, make everything and fire everything. It is the joy of being an independent artist craftsperson. The "hard part
can be the best part."    "PAINT BY NUMBERS IS NOT PAINTING"  And you can bet your last dime that Paul Lewing does not use "shortcuts"

website: www.melpots.com

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