Tool Tales

2 July – 14 August 2016

With tools we make and mend, create and shape. Although tools are defined by their function, they also connect us to others, and bear their own story.

Tool Tales brings together works by the artists Lenka Clayton and Lee John Philips who have both used the object of the tool to explore familial relationships and histories – scissors in the work of Clayton and the entire contents of a shed in Phillips’ work. Through modification or documentation the object of the tool articulates these stories.

Displayed alongside these works is a temporary collection brought together for this exhibition. It includes tools from people living or working in Helmsdale, each shown with a related story which make visible the connections between people – whether family, community, or strangers – that can be formed or described by the objects we own.

The exhibition has been programmed in parallel to All Objects Great and Small – a display in Timespan’s Community Workshop which sees the full collection of nearly 2000 objects opened up to the public for the first time.


The Shed Project, Lee John Phillips
2014 – ongoing / originals: pen on paper; exhibited here as wallpapered digital prints

The Shed Project is an ongoing project documenting and cataloguing the contents of the artist’s grandfather’s shed through the process of drawing.

Handel Jones was a miner with a passion for fixing things and his shed accumulated tens of thousands of items. Since his death more than 20 years ago, the shed and its contents has remained largely untouched. In 2014, Phillips decided to document each of the objects within it, creating a record of each nut, bolt, screw and rivet, and in doing so also creating a particular portrait of his grandfather.

In addition to the collection of tools, bolts, nails and jars accumulated within his shed, Handel Jones also collected in a more traditional sense with a particular interest in the mining paraphernalia of his earlier working life. Some of this collection has also been documented by the artist and two watercolour paintings are displayed here alongside The Shed Project, showing the formal and informal collections that we might amass during our lives.

All the Scissors in the House Made Safer, Lenka Clayton
2014 / scissors, wool roving

All the Scissors in the House Made Safer is a work made during a self-initiated Artist Residency in Motherhood begun by the artist following the birth of her first child. The residency frames motherhood as a valuable site for making with the fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time and countless distractions of parenthood as well as the absurd poetry of time spent with young children seen as working materials and situation, rather than obstacles to be overcome.

In All the Scissors in the House Made Safer, Clayton makes visible the absurdity of an overproctective approach to danger within domestic spaces. Every pair of scissors in her home (36 in total) has been made safe, though unusable, through a process of wet-felting – the application of raw wool, hot water, soap and hours of handling enclosing the scissors in a tight woollen skin. /