Makers & Tools: Exhibition at the Old Fire Station, Oxford

A project which explores, if not celebrates, how diverse and unique the inner workings of a makers mind can be.

Makers & Tools is an ongoing project which explores the relationship between craft makers and their tools.

The project, coordinated and curated by Melody Vaughan, presents new work from six makers; Christabel Balfour, Harriet Elkerton, Tim Evershed, Rachel Jones-Jones, Angie Packer and Katy Welsh.

Their collaborative outcomes are the focus of an exhibition at the Old Fire Station, a contemporary arts venue in Oxford’s City Centre.

Collage mural by Katy Welsh

For the project Melody devised an open brief, asking each maker to create a tool. Following a circular exchange, each maker received another’s tool, which they were invited to use to create an object.

The exhibition layout mirrors these two stages of the project, with the tools and their kindred objects presented in pairs. ‘Conversations’ from the makers feature in print alongside, reflecting on their relationship with tools, and outlining the journey they took to reach their object.

Tool by Christabel Balfour, object by Tim Evershed
Tools by Harriet Elkerton, objects by Rachel Jones Jones

By its nature (and Melody’s clever coordination) the project invites a discourse between makers of different disciplines, working with wood, metal, textiles, ceramics, glass and print.

I find it refreshing that, no matter how eloquent or comprehensive the accompanying literature is, there are still exciting gaps for the viewer to find, and questions to ask oneself when observing the work. After all, every artefact on display is swathed in unfamiliarity (even to the creator), and is the result of a process which follows a logic all of its own.

Object created by Christabel Balfour
Tool created by Tim Evershed
Objects created by Katy Welsh

I left the exhibition feeling a balance of inspired excitement and quiet contemplation – musing about how diverse and unique the inner workings of a makers mind can be. This a simple yet powerful revelation, and perhaps one that craft as a medium can best make.

By valuing play and experimentation over perfection, the Makers & Tools project promises an intriguing next chapter. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Foreground: Tools created by Katy Walsh, objects by Harriet Elkerton

Makers and Tools 2019 is an expansion of a project piloted at Clayhill Arts in Somerset two years earlier. This exhibition follows a residency in April 2019, at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester, both which invited a number of events including talks, workshops and networking events. It is supported by Arts Council England.