Artist Statement

“…to craft a work of art with a single tool immediately prompted me to think about the most fundamental elements of working wood.”

“…chopping out a log for a utilitarian function is, at heart, a primal and strangely logical act.”

“I quickly discovered how fortunate I was to have such a sophisticated, well-engineered, and well-conceived little blade.”

“Rather than being a limiting assignment, the one-tool act was, in fact, quite liberating and inspiring.”

Jon Prown   |   Milwaukee, WI

The Tool At Hand premise—to craft a work of art with a single tool—immediately prompted me to think about the most fundamental elements of working wood. The gut reaction was not to cleverly figure out the most versatile, complicated tool that would allow for the most possible crafting options. Rather, the desire was to develop a working relationship with the most rudimentary tool used for working wood—in this case a bark covered log—in its rawest harvested form.

The timing of The Tool At Hand project corresponded to a period when I was particularly fascinated with traditional Scandinavian wooden spoon and bowl carving. One defining trait of this time honored craft tradition is an unusually powerful bond between maker and artifact. Even when using specialized chopping, sawing, and carving tools the work is laborious and extremely physical. Yet chopping out a log for a utilitarian function—be it a canoe, a chair, a totem pole, or even a spoon—is, at heart, a primal and strangely logical act.

My specific decision was to carve several spoons from a hard oak log with a small, curved-edge knife. Rather than feeling constrained by the lack of a complete tool kit, I instead found the process very freeing and easy. Compared to makers in millennia past who were forced to do such work with coarse iron tools or even crude cutting tools made of stone, I quickly discovered how fortunate I was to have such a sophisticated, well-engineered, and well-conceived little blade. At first it allowed for the most brutal cutting strokes to reduce the log, and then was effortlessly adaptable to do the type of fine cuts and even scrapes that refined the surface of the spoons. Rather than being a limiting assignment, the one-tool act was, in fact, quite liberating and inspiring.