ABOUT THE ARTIST AND THE ARTWORK
“I just make cups.” He has made over 16,300 since 2001.
I have chosen cups as my primary medium for a few reasons. When issues of War and violence are discussed, the issues are often accompanied and confused by hyperbole and grand monuments. Cusps are on the correct scale to talk about war. No matter how many die in war each individual loss should be acknowledged. The idea of one of my cups going had to hand to some point hundreds of thousands of years in the future is also interesting to me.
I usually don’t display or even photograph many of the cups I make for Veterans and their families. Outside of the context of the Veteran family I think the cups can sometimes read as “war pron” or propaganda. I think many people see images of soldiers as puppets in funny uniforms. Some people cannot see fathers/mothers, daughters/sons, or even people in uniform.
I don’t want to make war souvenirs and I think peace is the only adequate war memorial. I believe a person should do what they are called to do. I feel compelled to make and share the work I am making. Looking back and realizing that I have made and given away over 16,300 cups since 2001, I realize I many have crossed the line between productive and obsessive. I have resisted the idea that my work is therapy or healing but I do believe in what I am doing. Making the cups seems a worthwhile expenditure of my time.
Going to college after having been a Marine in the 1991 Gulf War was a surreal experience. I was in college looking for something to do with my life that I believed in. Ben Sakoguchi was my first Art teacher after the Marines. Mr. Sakoguchi and his family had been in a US internment camp during WWII. He said all Art is political. He gave me the freedom and encouragement to make Art about my experiences coming home.
My work initially was autobiographical. As I have continued, older Veterans and their families have shared their stories. Now unfortunately, the work is also overlapping with younger generations of Veterans and their families. Most of the cups I make will only ever be cups. Some of the cups are picked up by people who understand and identify with the images on the cups. The cups that make that connection are something more, to me. I really feel like it is an honor and privilege to make and share cups for people.
He was recently featured in the most recent release from Craft in America and aired on PBS — Service. To learn more about the episode and see blog posts about Ehren Tool go to http://www.craftinamerica.org/episodes/service/
The newest episode SERVICE, part of the PBS veterans initiative Stories of Service and CPB initiative Veterans Coming Home, is the story of craft and the military. From the origins of the Army Arts and Crafts Program and the G.I. Bill to contemporary soldiers and veterans, SERVICE documents the power of the handmade to inspire, motivate and heal. Ehren Tool is a featured artist on the program.