Sunday, October 6, 2013

Artist's Statement

My friend Michael, head of the Visual Arts department at Dana Hall, wants to exhibit my work in the school gallery.  I am pulling together some of the spoons, cups and bowls for the exhibit, as well as various tools.  Michael even wants to install the lathe in the gallery and have demonstrations!  Should be a lot of fun.  Anyway, in preparation for the show he asked for an "artist's statement."  I was not sure what such a statement looks like.  I am certainly not an artist, and hardly a craftsperson, but I banged out the following for the purpose.

My interest in making spoons, cups and bowls for family and friends really comes from my interest in stories. There are moments in our busy lives when we have the fortune to interact with meaningful objects. We sit in our grandfather’s chair, or slip on the sweater a loved one made.  And in those instances a significance and a narrative enters our everyday lives. I think people today crave those stories more and more.  We want to know where our clothes were made or where our food was grown.  We can all eat a delicious meal in a restaurant, but what many of us crave is a homemade dish.  Why? In part I think this is because we live in a largely mass-produced society, filled with objects made a world away and destined for the landfill.  It is hard to cozy up to an Ikea bowl and think, “Wow, this bowl was made by machines in China, shipped to me in a container ship, and when it breaks I will throw it away and think nothing of it.”  That is not a memorable breakfast narrative. 
Yet many mornings in my house, as I rush around preparing my kids breakfast and packing lunches, I find my six-year-old daughter Mae calmly pouring her glass of milk into a small wooden cup I made her.  Of course she could have just as easily drunk the milk right out of the glass I served it in, but she wants the pleasure of drinking from “her cup.” 
“This morning, I drank milk from the cup
that dad carved for me.”
Those are the moments I am seeking out more and more these days, and hand carving spoons, cups and bowls is part of that.
Each of these objects is made from specific bits of wood: birch and beech cut from my home in New Hampshire; cherry cut from my mother’s back yard; Norway maple salvaged from the trees recently felled on the Brook Path.  Each object is made with hand tools only.  All pieces bare the marks of their making, and none are sanded.  And each piece is made for a particular person or occasion.  Many of my spoons are now in the hands of family members, and they won’t give them up: baby spoons for my brother’s new child; anniversary spoons for my in-laws; serving spoons for my mother.  Those items that did make it to this show are used daily in my house: breakfast bowls, coffee cups, special spoons.  Eating with wood is “quiet, warm, and comfortable,” as one craftsman put it, and the utensils grow more beautiful the more they are used. 
               I hope you enjoy them, but do it quickly, because Mae wants her cup back.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic statement Eric! You bring the feeling across - not just the thoughts. Well done. Best of luck with your show.