Tools of the Trade

Ehren Tool, ceramicist and veteran of the United States Marine Corps, shares personal views about war from his experience in the service. This November, Cypress College was able to host Tool, who provided a ceramics workshop in the campus art gallery during an exhibition of veteran’s art work called¬†A Different 1%.

At a towering height of over six feet, Tool does not seem as if he would sit at a small pottery wheel for hours a day, building ceramic cups. After noticing his overalls covered in old clay, however, one immediately realizes that Tool is an artist. Tool’s passion for ceramics automatically draws people into his work and shines through every last cup. In the gallery, students surrounded Tool, their faces wide with astonishment as they witnessed him work.

Tool shared his creative projects and showed students hands on, step by step, how he creates his famous cups. The ceramicist builds cups by throwing them on a potter’s wheel and engraves them with homemade stamps he has made, including stamps with war messages and printed images to communicate with his audience.

Tool has traveled all over the world to share his artwork with one goal, hoping that “…conversations flourish between veterans and the people who are close to them. I also hope that some honest conversation can happen about war and its causes.”

Tool threw dozens of cups in the ceramics studio on campus the same day as the workshop to be able to decorate the cups in time. Tool uses a technique of throwing these cups on the potter’s wheel known as “throwing off the mound”. This technique involves the potter starting with an large amount of clay on the wheel and molding the cups at the top the resulting mound, creating new cups and then cutting them off one by one until all clay is gone. Tool made a massive amount of cups in only about an hour, which showed off his obvious talent.

Tool is a Marine veteran who served in the 1991 Gulf War and currently works in the Ceramic Department of the University of California, Berkeley. The ceramicist has made over a total of 16,000 cups, all given as gifts.

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