In this lesson, students will explore the work of ceramic artist Ehren Tool, who creates clay cups on the potter’s wheel and embellishes them with military images. Tool gives away his cups and to date has given away over 14,000 in an attempt to provide a catalyst for conversations between veterans and those who have not served in the military. In this lesson, students will engage in research in order to gain what Tool describes as “war awareness,” a sense of those in their community who have performed military service in the past and a recognition of the Americans who are currently serving in the military and where they are stationed. Finally, students will make a ceramic form that features imagery of a chosen veteran or service person.
I think most people who’ve been through a war, they don’t talk about it. So sometimes I think the cups can be that little spur to start a conversation that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
– Ehren Tool
Grade Level: 9-12
Estimated Time: Two 45-minute class periods (research) & Five 45-minute class periods (studio work)
Ehren Tool is a ceramic artist and Senior Laboratory Mechanician at the Ceramic Department at the University of California, Berkeley and Marine Veteran of the 1991 Gulf War. Tool was greatly influenced by American expressionist ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos. Tool says of his own work, “The images on the cups are often graphic and hard to look at. You may be for or against a particular war, but I think it is too easy for us to look away. I think we as a country and as humans should look at what is actually going on.” Tool received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley and BFA from the University of Southern California and has exhibited his vessels at the Oakland Museum of California, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Berkeley Art Center, the Bellevue Arts Museum, and The Clay Studio among others.
• The United States Armed Forces have an historic tradition of recognizing the power of crafts to restore veterans to post-war civilian life.
• Crafts can be used to create awareness of social issues.
• Crafted objects can be catalysts for difficult conversations.
• In what ways have the U.S. Armed Forces used studio crafts to restore veterans to civilian life?
• How can a crafted object create an awareness of social issues?
• How can a crafted object be a catalyst for difficult conversations?
• Comprehend the historic connection between the U.S. Armed Forces and crafts.
• Demonstrate awareness of current U.S. military service involvement around the world.
• Locate veterans in their community.
• Create a clay object that represents current U.S. Military involvement or that represents a veteran.
G.I. Bill, socially invested, vocation, military culture, civilian culture, catalyst, didactic, scale, repetition.