Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Understated Beauty @ Society of Arts and Crafts

In visiting the Society of Arts and Crafts to see their 2012 Artist Awards Exhibit, I was captivated by Abigail Anne Newbold's work, particularly her excavation tools.
Homemaker Series, Transportation with Excavation Tools
Bike and panier with accompanying tools
Paniers: leather, sheepskin, and linen
Tools: walnut with found steel tool heads, brass
©Abigail Anne Newbold
Her combination of finely crafted but old, forgotten (and reclaimed) steel tool heads with gorgeous hand-made wooden handles is simple in concept and understated in execution but stunning to experience. If you get a chance to look at them up close or, better yet, get to touch them, they really are memorable.
steel and walnut
Pickax (closeup)
These textured surfaces that she has uncovered from what must have been discarded and rusty tools are just wonderful. In most circumstances, they would probably be overlooked, but she has brought new life into them by celebrating their years of neglect and combining them with beautiful new handles (you can feel their hand-made facets as you hold them).
steel, walnut, and brass
pitch-rake? (closeup)
She has also added some fine brass elements to the pitch-forkish rake-like tool (pitch-rake?) above as well as the shovel below. Along with the walnut lumber, it provides an interesting contrast of impractical elegance against utilitarian design.
shovel (closeup)
shovel and mini-hoe(?)
steel, walnut, and brass
 I like how the steel raps around the handle on this hoe. I think it reminds me of some kind of old-fashioned candy but I'm having trouble remembering exactly what it is, hard candy? taffy? toffee? I'm not sure, but the style definitely indicates care and fine craft in its making. I think it is wonderful that Abigail could combine it with something impractical so that the work could finally (after so many years of toil and abuse) be appreciated for what it is rather than what it can do.
mini-hoe(?) (closeup)
Whether intended or not, I read her work as a metaphor for life. How scars and toil can be transformed into beauty and how people (not just tools) can and should be appreciated beyond their "practical" value. It is subtle work but I read a real powerful message behind it. 

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