The tools, with their mysterious and graceful forms, are stacked box by box in their thousands.
Their edges worn down over time, handles worked and warmed in to chestnut browns.
Arranged in their boxes they lie dormant, like ghostly reminders of their use and the trades they belong to.
(Photos taken by Inna Allen)
The way these tools were collected and categorised by Raphael Salaman intrigued Katy Gillam-Hull, as he seemed to be lovingly rescuing these beautiful objects, taking them from abandoned workshops and buying them from desperate tradesmen. By preserving these tools he also retained with them a history of their trades and skills, passing that knowledge on through his extensive dictionaries and writings.
It is Salaman’s caring and personal approach to the tools that has inspired Gillam-Hull to make work that reverently refers to them. Through simplifying the elegant curves of chisel handles and pliers in to delicate wire works, Gillam-Hull carefully teases out the beauty of the forms. As well as reflecting their appearance through her making, Gillam-Hull has also continued to discuss the tools uses and relevant trades through several object handling sessions in public spaces like Homebase, but also with relevant community groups and makers. Reflections from these conversations also impacted Gillam-Hull’s making, with quotes from the conversations etched in to the surface of copper. The copper left oxidised and worn down reflects the used and loved old tools, the form only revealing its meaning after a closer look.
The project was part of an Arts Council England funded project to engage artists and new audiences in fresh aspects of St Albans Museums’ collections. And was specifically timed to follow the closure of the Museum of St Albans and prior to the opening of the New Museum and Art Gallery at the Town Hall. Katy Gillam-Hull’s contribution forms part of a series of three artists’ projects, co-commissioned by UHGalleries and St Albans Museums.