Don’t be a tool

Just some things to consider:

A friend picked up one of those fancy Sherrill Do-All trimming tools for me and the different design made using it as if I were almost a novice potter again. I have been so familiar with my Kemper loop tools that using them was like an extension of myself. I could express what I wanted how I wanted. Its what I knew how to do.

The interesting thing is that the new tool stopped me from expressing those things. Isn’t that interesting? I could no longer get from A to B as confidently. I no longer had the assurance that what I wanted to say could be said.

And then it occurred to me that I had become a cypher of my tool’s expression. By accepting the Kemper as my designated means of cutting feet I became a victim of its limitations and an exponent of its graces. I was making the feet that this tool allowed me to make. I was becoming a tool of my tool.

The question is, are we bigger than the tools we use, the language we speak? Yes we need a certain amount of framing for our questions to even be questions, but are they the limit of what we are allowed to speak? Are they among the inevitable permutations?

Sometimes picking up a new tool lets us know how beholden we were to the old tool. At times a tool can become our excuse for actually expressing ourselves. We say what we know how to say. The tool itself can be the vehicle for our expressions. Its limits are our limits. It can become more than the cart being led by our horse. The tool can sometimes become the horse itself. The tool can be what leads us forward, sets the tone and pace, and justifies what we do. We end up serving the tool’s qualities and abilities.

And when the ‘tool’ is the master, who precisely is the tool?

Just an interesting question to ask 🙂

I am looking forward to using my new Mud Tools trimming tool and exploring the things that are uniquely possible with it. Because, the freedom to choose between different ways of doing things means that I am not the victim of a single technical possibility.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Tentative efforts with the new tool. Mostly I was using it to complement the old Kemper, attempting to learn what things it does well, what things it does better. The aesthetic aim is similar, but the foot itself is more wedgelike. The hardest part so far is figuring out how to make the broad cutting edge function.

Tentative efforts with the new Sherrill trimming tool. Mostly I was using it to complement the old Kemper, attempting to learn what things it does well, what things it does better. The aesthetic aim is similar, but the foot itself is more wedgelike. The hardest part so far is figuring out how to make the broad cutting edge function.

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Peace all!

Happy potting!

Make beauty real!

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About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
This entry was posted in Ceramics, Clay, Creativity, Imagination, metacognition, Pottery. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t be a tool

  1. Real nice post Carter. Raises many philosophical questions for me Thinking Hegel’s dialectic and Heidegger on tools Anyway I am too late already to leave for my trip to Wabonsee (should have left and not yet packed) to say more but just had to say something. All best Meg

    On Sep 23, 2016 9:40 AM, “CARTER GILLIES POTTERY” wrote:

    > Carter Gillies posted: “Just some things to consider: A friend picked up > one of those fancy Sherrill Do-All trimming tools for me and the different > design made using it as if I were almost a novice potter again. I have been > so familiar with my Kemper loop tools that using the” >

  2. Scott Cooper says:

    Yeah, man! I had the exact same reaction when I got mine, but it grew on me to the point where now I don’t want to use anything else. It has so many angles and edges to it, that I seem to keep finding new ones to use. An amazingly well designed little piece of metal.

    It’s like a good new tool can let you find out who you’ve secretly been wanting to become.

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