Curatorial notes




The structure of the project

“Makers & Tools was created as a circular conversation with all the makers connected through the exchange of objects. Although some of the makers are not directly linked, something occurred within this structure so that similarities and connections within the work can be seen.

When I selected the six makers I wanted to represent a range of material disciplines within craft and also a range of approaches to making – practices that are more design/product-focused, that are studio-based, those that are mostly digital or that have a fine-art approach. I was interested in seeing how makers with different material concerns and different perspective on making would affect each other’s practices.

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The project began in January. There were 2 making phases - the creation of a ‘new’ tool, which lasted for 7 weeks, the tool swap, and then making a response to the tool, which lasted for another 7 weeks. All the work was completed by late April.

Making the tools

As part of the brief to ‘create a new tool’ I didn’t tell the makers who the tools were intended for. In the absence of a defined context, the makers have almost produced self-portraits of their own practices, reflecting on what they use or create, how this could be disrupted. I wonder if things would have been different had I told them who their ‘tool’ was destined for – the making would be aimed at someone else and not just in a vacuum. But, would that tool have led the makers to question their own tools, their own established methods of making? Would it have led to these interesting things that seem to occupy a half-way place between tool and art object?

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Responding to the tools

Some of the makers chose to try to use the tool they were given directly, but soon came up against issues of functionality within the tools themselves – they often weren’t physically able to be used, or were designed to be difficult to use. The others rejected the notion of use as a direct application and instead explored where thinking about the tools (aesthetically, materially) led them. Both approaches were appropriate.

A definition of a tool as ‘something we use to help us do something’ means that, in the context of making, a tool can be used at any stage – the ideas/conception, testing/refining a process, production, finishing. And, even if the tool isn’t used at all during the physical making, that doesn’t diminish its role as a tool, as part of the process of creation.

What interests me most is not the application of the tools, but the thinking that went on. Why the makers made the choices they did, how they found a way through uncertainty into making, how these choices ultimately tell us a lot about their approach to creating work and their relationships to their tools.”

Melody Vaughan, project curator

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About the Exhibition display furniture

The exhibition display furniture was created in collaboration with the Makers & Tools project partner Rycotewood Furniture Oxford. Students past and present were involved in the design and manufacture of the tables, shelves and wall panel. These materials, once the show was over, were returned to the students to be re-used or re-purposed according to their needs.

Tables, shelves & wall panel - made by Nick Wright

Desk top - designed by Hattie Speed, made by Richard Illingworth

Thanks to Joe Bray, Course Leader at Rycotewood Furniture Oxford & thanks to New Brewery Arts, Cirencester for funding this aspect of the project.