Meet our Visiting Artist: Ehren Tool

Ceramic vup by artist Ehren Tool

Ceramic artist Ehren Tool will be heading to Contemporary Craft this fall! Ehren has a unique approach to art-making and pottery because of his background serving in the Gulf War and as an Embassy Guard. His work explores themes of war, violence, and PTSD. He utilizes the cup as his canvas to share his war-time stories.

Ehren will be teaching “Decal Cups on November 14th, 2015 in our Studio. During this day-long workshop, students will apply personal images to a uniquely crafted cup. Please join us in the Studio and meet this unique and talented artist. Learn a little bit more about Ehren’s background and practice from our interview below.

CC: Tell us a little bit about your path/background: education, training, mentors, etc.? How did you become you?

Ehren Tool (ET): One cup at a time. After serving in the 1991 Gulf War and as an Embassy Guard, I used the GI Bill and went to school Pasadena City College and studied with Ben Sakoguchi and Phil Cornelius. Then I transferred to USC and studied with John Mason and Ken Price. I then came to UC Berkeley and studied with Richard Shaw for grad school. I got my MFA in 2003. I am now the lab tech in the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley.

Ceramic artist Ehren Tool

CC: Can you talk about your conceptual inquiries? War and violence seems to be common themes.? Can you discuss these themes in more detail? Have these themes remained?constant or have they evolved over time?

ET: Concept with out craft and craft without concept are both boring. When I got back from my war I found that sharing a drink is a good way to share a story. I started talking about my war and now the new wars are all overlapping.

War and violence are for sure part of my work. Unfortunately the wars seem to keep coming there is always something to make work about. I think I am a little obsessed. I can’t seem to look away. I am always thinking about the young guys in harms way.

I hope the cups have gotten better over time. Some things have changed around me. There is a mold of a GI Joe gas mask that I have been using for years. When I started using the mold, people recognized it as the mask I wore in the Gulf War, and recently people think it is a mold of the masks police wear. I have made work about the defoliants used in Vietnam and now the same companies in the US are making pesticides that are poisoning the land. The bugs are becoming resistant so the companies want to spray more and more poisons. It seems like the same kind of thinking that surround talk about war. “We have come to far to stop now. Treat the symptoms and not the cause.

Cups by ceramic artist Ehren Tool

CC: Why ceramics and more specifically pottery?

ET: I think clay is a good material to use when talking about clay. War is so immediate we must defeat “______! Or western civilization will be destroyed. The consequences of war last generations. The same way clay is very immediate but once it is fired it will last hundreds of thousands of years. I think cups are the correct scale to talk about war. Hand to hand story by story.

Cup by Ceramic artist Ehren Tool

CC: Is there a correlation between your chosen imagery and your process as an artist?

ET: Many of the stamps I use are made from other Veteran’s insignia that collection (of molds and stories) has grown.

CC: What advice would you give young artists?

ET: Make work. Prepare yourself for the long haul. You should only do it if you have to. Keep your CV up to date answer emails quickly. Apply to every grant you can. Avoid debt.

Ceramic artist Ehren Tool