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good tools, handmade tools

updated wed 4 may 05


Kate Johnson on tue 3 may 05

"A man who does not make his own tools does not make his own art."

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Oooh, nice, Eric. That was something I was going to add to the discussion
on cheap tools...I've made my own brushes, my own pens (both quill and
reed), my own paints, my own paper, AND my own potter's tools. They were
all, by definition I suppose, "cheap," but quite satisfying and unique...

Sometimes we make tools because we can't FIND commercial ones to do what we
want them to! Our creative vision is far out ahead of the market...

I love some commercial tools, it's true--I've had my favorite modeling tool
for 35 years at least, NO idea where it came from, and I've never found one
as good. Orangewood, I think...smooth, tough, responsive...

But as to inexpensive brushes, it depends on your discerning eye and hand,
more than price. I wouldn't order a set of 25 brushes for $5 unless I were
just planning to dust or scrub with them, but for my watercolors, even my
miniatures, I'm just as happy with a synthetic brush as a Kolinsky sable
(BLASPHEMY!), _if_ I choose carefully, with intelligence. Sometimes
happier, and in ways that have nothing to do with price.

As several here said in repsonse to the "which brush is best" question, it
depends entirely on what you're doing with it. I've written many articles
over the years, in The Artist's Magazine and Watercolor Magic as well as in
my books, comparing brushes and their uses...there is no one "best.," only
suiting the brush to the job at hand.

Kate Johnson

Art, History, Nature and More at Cathy Johnson's Cafepress--

Graphics/Fine Arts Press--

Cindy in SD on tue 3 may 05

People shouldn't feel that they need a stable full of expensive tools to
make pottery. You can make pottery with very few tools. If you are going
to buy tools, however, it's no good buying poor tools. You'll just throw
away good currency.

Sometimes we can make our own tools, and sometimes we can't. My husband
and I built my studio ourselves. I believe it is much higher quality
than it would have been had we hired the wrong builder. If we were going
to hire a builder, we would have had to go for quality more than for
price. Building materials are too costly to entrust them to someone who
will do a slovenly job. I'm too picky to let someone else build my
studio, so we did it.

Handmade does not necessarily mean cheap, though it may mean
inexpensive. No one I've read so far on this topic has implied that
handmade tools were a bad thing--only that cheap tools were a bad thing.
There's more to *cheap* than price. The word cheap implies, for me at
least, poorly made. If you're lucky, you might get a good tool
inexpensively at an estate sale or something, but you really do not want
a *cheap* tool.

I like to make my own tools, but I don't have either the expertise or
the tools to make my own HVLP sprayer or power drill or rotary tool. I
can make pottery without these things, of course. I can make pottery
with nothing but clay, my hands, and a camp fire. Additional tools
(tools that work, I should specify) widen my possibilities, but I have
discovered to my sorrow that additional *cheap* tools do nothing more
than lighten my pocketbook.

Best wishes,
Cindy in SD