Artist Statement

“I think it is interesting that you ask if the tool has personality. I don’t really think that it has a personality—but it does have presence.”

“I feel it watching me.”

“This tool has such a repertoire for something that is ostensibly designed to thin-down metal. It can do so many things.”

“The marks have all been made the same way—but they look different…”

Helen Carnac   |   London, England

I wanted to record something from my studio environment and so I chose my rolling mill to make prints/imprints of other tools and objects that I keep there.

I think it is interesting that you ask if the tool has personality. I don’t really think that it has a personality—but it does have presence. At my studio, when you enter, you immediately see it sitting there—it really has a presence and it kind of overlooks everything I am doing. I feel it watching me.

This tool has its history. The rolling mill is part of an amazing cache of tools I bought from a retired silversmith who worked in London. Post-WWII he had bought a lot of scrap; lost and found metal objects like cutlery and coins from London ‘sewer hunters’, and fixed and polished them before putting them back into circulation. I’m really interested in his tools because they carry something of him—of how and where he worked.

For this project, I gathered some objects from around my studio and recorded them by pushing them through the rolling mill and taking their imprints on paper. There is no ink here. I used different types of paper—heat resistant and light-sensitive papers to pick up the marks. The marks have all been made the same way—but they look different—some of them look photographic, some like drawings and others like prints. I made about 200 imprints and then spent a great deal of time sorting and assessing which ones worked together. Finally, I put them into archive boxes and named each set according to how they seemed to represent something of the original object.

This tool has such a repertoire for something that is ostensibly designed to thin-down metal. It can do so many things.