Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Favorite Tool?

by Mary Ellin D'Agostino
Technical Advisor

I admit it. I am a tool junkie. I love looking at tool catalogs and love ordering and getting new tools. Budgets being what they are, I can’t buy nearly as many new gadgets and gizmos as I would like, but I still have a pretty good collection.

What is my favorite tool? Most of the trade magazines or online lists ask the favorite tool question regularly. At least once a year I get asked or see a survey on this or similar questions: What tool or tools do I use the most? What is the most valuable tool in my slightly vast collection? And why?

These are really tough questions for many of us. What is that most indispensable tool? Sometime back when someone asked me what tool is my favorite or “must have,” I really stopped to think about it.

My first thought was that it varies over time. For a while, I will use one particular tool extensively. Then it will get misplaced or lost under a pile of something-or-other in my slightly very messy studio. I pick up another tool and that becomes my favorite for a while. Or I go through my drawers and find something that I haven’t used or seen in a while and go with that. So do I even have a favorite?

After thinking long and hard, I was actually able to answer these questions and my answer has remained the same through the years, no matter what new toy tool I am favoring at the moment. I have two three eleven one favorite tool.

My best working tool that I never loose and use the most when working with any medium is actually a matched set - my hands and fingers. I smooth clay with a damp finger. I roll, manipulate, and shape the clay in my hands. I hold other tools for fine work in my hands. I use them to modify and shape other tools. I can use them to make brand new tools. And they don’t get lost. I give you HANDS™ the truly indispensable tool that you already have and don’t have to rush out and buy.

But then I remember seeing, reading, and hearing about artists who have disabilities. They don’t always have working hands. A painter who is quadriplegic uses his mouth. An artist with no hands uses his feet. A right-handed person with a broken arm learns to use her left hand. I had to learn to use the mouse with my left hand when I got tendonitis in my right. Hands are not the be-all-end-all in the tool department after all.

What directs the hands? The artist’s mind. No matter what tools you have or don’t have, your best resource is to think about ways to create. How to use that stock of tools you have. How to make do with what you have when you can’t, or choose not to, afford that new expensive gizmo everyone is talking about. And when you do get that expensive and complicated do-hickey, you have to use your brain to figure out how to use it.

The best tool money can't buy: your mind.

So here it is: My most valuable tool, the one I use the most and cannot do without is inside my head. Even when I think I have lost it, my mind is working on the problem. It will eventually help me figure out what to do and will direct my hands and fingers to do what I need them to. Sometimes it takes a while or I have to trick it into working on something I am avoiding, but my mind is my most important and favorite tool. Hopefully, I use it all the time.

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