Monday, 14 January 2013

Tools of the Trade

As regular readers may know, my sister and I have spent the last few months clearing our family house in preparation for its sale. The house has been in our family since it was built at the beginning of the 20th century, belonging to our Great Uncle Will before our grandparents, parents and us. Most of our ancestors were simple, working people so we have no costly family heirlooms to consider, nor do either of us have space for anything substantial so what we have kept is small, but in some way captures the essence of the person for us to remember them by.
Uncle Will was a cabinet maker. Dad had a huge heavy chest in his shed which contained all the box planes and chisels which comprised the tools of his trade. We were delighted to be able to pass these on to our cousin who has the space to keep them and the skills to use them but I couldn't resist keeping this one. It is only two inches long but has a proper blade in it and still works.
I love the patina of the wood and the fact that, as with all his tools, Uncle Will took the trouble to monogram it. I like to feel the connection with my ancestors who also made their living through the skill and creativity of their hands.

My next object, even smaller this time, belonged to my paternal grandfather, who was a quiet, gentle man from County Durham who I can just about remember although he died when I was quite small. He loved nothing better than to take himself off into the countryside and was, it turns out, quite an eminent amateur botanist. The object that I have chosen to keep to remind me of him is this, made in tortoiseshell and small enough to hang from a key ring and carry in the pocket.

It is the set of magnifying glasses that he used to examine the plants that he came across on his walks. I seem to remember it was most often used in our house for the removal of splinters but it reminds me that in my family there have been people who were happy in and curious about the natural world, and cared about the environment which is something that is very much part of my life. It also makes me think about my nephew's enthusiasm for watching birds and being out in the hills around his home. Thinking about this continuity makes dealing with the loss of loved ones much easier to cope with.
These objects give me a small amount of insight into where my creativity might come from, not just from my mother and grandmother who put the knitting needles in my hands but to all the other family members who made and discovered things with hand and eye.
It also made me wonder about the sort of small object that might remind people of me. A circular knitting needle? A ball winder? Perhaps. Useful, but not very pretty. Or maybe a lovely drop spindle, like this one from IST which, like the other objects on this page is intrinsically beautiful but also made to be used. Tools this handsome are a joy to use and I always have a drop spindling project on the go.

Do you have an object which encapsulates you and your creativity or that of a loved one?


Judith Assell said...

What a great idea. Made me think of one I have that encapsulates both my husband's and mine; it'a beautifulpolished wooden box he made for my paint brushes (can't show you though as it's packed for the move.)

Susan said...

I have a piece of wood that I shaped and sanded when doing woodwork at university. It's sort of kidney shape and I use it to get a rounded bowl in the inside of bowls when I throw them on the wheel.

Rose Red said...

Those are lovely items and so meaningful. I have my grandmother's crochet hooks and some of her 1960s knitting patterns, which she used to knit garments for her grandchildren, including a couple of my brothers.