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Thursday, June 1 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Wood Working Tools as Art

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For many years I have made woodworking tools in order to explore alternative and "ethnographic” methods of working wood, to teach those concepts to students in art conservation, and to create my own works of art. Initially, these tools were more strictly functional, though carefully finished and ergonomic. In time, the tools became more obviously sculptural, though the utilitarian aspect was never lost. In recent years my tools have become zoomorphic and sculpturally sinuous, using natural and found materials, and incorporating hand-forged blades. Materials include tool steel, "Damascus” steel, various types of wood, stone, glass, cordage, leather, ivory and bone. This approach is informed by many cultures worldwide that have produced elaborately decorated tools, sometimes to the point that function can be perceived as compromised. The spiritual power of tools and their master-users in other cultures will be touched on. This paper will present a selection of my sculptural tools as well as their inspiration, including those based on the "crooked knives” of Native Americans, axes and adzes of Pacifica and the Northwest Coast of North America, bow drills of Africa, the "spear plane” of Japan, and scorps and chisels of more innovative design not obviously derived from ethnographic prototypes. My methods of work will be described. Fine points of form following function will be detailed, as will other subtle aspects of hand tools. Use of the tools will be linked to the actual objects that were made using them.

avatar for Jonathan Thornton

Jonathan Thornton

Conservation Professor, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department State University of New York College at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo State)
Jonathan Thornton has taught objects conservation at the Art Conservation Department since 1980. Following an earlier career as an artist/silversmith, he studied conservation in this department when it was still located in Cooperstown, NY, and received his M. A. and Certificate of... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 11:30am - 12:00pm CDT
Acapulco Ballroom Level, West Tower