What is The Tool Appreciation Society?
In winter 2019 I undertook a significant research trip to Japan funded by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. The purpose of the research was to investigate ‘The Lifecycle of Tools in Japanese Culture.’
I (linda, hi 👋🏼) conducted this research under my banner of The Tool Appreciation Society. This is a gentle split that I give my artistic practice and my research into tool use internationally. This split was really useful for me (and something I regularly employ) between my work as an artist and that as a researcher of tools. As an example I would visit museums and become inspired for my own studio work for thing to make and ideas, but I would also visit crafts people as TAS which is a method of cataloguing tools and making internationally.
Throughout my career, in visiting many artisans and craftspeople internationally, I continue to be convinced of the importance of sharing these stories of the regionality and specificity of tool use.
Why me & why Japan?
Japan is unique in its combination of quality and ceremony regarding tools; directly feeding into its respect for tradition, regionality & mastery of technique. At the hands of their skilled owners, different tools can be seen to come to life (Tsukumogami), have a death (Kuyō), be dedicated to technical mastery (Intangible Cultural Heritage asset), or shared with general public (Factory Festivals). I have been making & researching tools within my artistic practice for over 10yrs. Acts of Care Bit more about me and what I do.
In 2018 I made a body of work called Silent Apprenticeship for the exhibition ‘Footnotes’ [link] where, from the inspiration of a single Geta I worked in the shadow of the original maker, understanding the scars that his tools had made to recreate his movements and ultimately make a copy of his final shoe alongside imagined replicas of his tools.
Doing the research for the project I became aware of the tool ceremonies in Japan and started to look deeper into them and their origins. Also in 2018 Japan House put on the award winning Biology of Metal exhibition which highlighted the fascinating metalwork from the Niigata region of Japan and gave me my first introduction to the remarkable world of Gyokusendo’s copper workshops.
Preparation, preparation. preparation
The planning stages of my 7week trip around Japan were extremely involved. For a few months prior, I exchanged weekly correspondence with the people I would be meeting as requests for further information came to me and we got to know each other better.
This speaks to how much care and consideration I was given and the feeling I had throughout my travels; that my work was important and that we were now in this quest together. This is why in writing up my finding, I’ve decided to publish here on the TAS website, so the text can be translated easily and I can share the information widely including my new friends and colleagues in Japan. Sharing my findings is in the spirit of both The Tool Appreciation Society and WCMT. Being in new places aways brings with it lessons from the sharing of knowledge. We in the UK have a lot we can learn from Japan about regionality, tools and skills. I set out in these essays the areas I think should be looked at and how I think we can work with these strategies here in the UK.
My approach to research the ‘The Lifecycle of Tools in Japanese Culture’ was to split my research into sections: birth, life, death and afterlife. This was to ensure my research was rigorous and that I pushed myself to look at areas I wasn’t as knowledgable in. I didn’t want to only rely on workshop practices where I am most comfortable and I wanted to ensure I gave time and energies to all areas.