Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One-Off Makes a Better Trowel Than Money Can Buy...

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the opening of "Other Options", an exhibit at Goods & Services (aka Tent Show) devoted to explorations of alternative economic exchanges. Milling around the small storefront, I struck up a conversation with Kellen Fenaughty, who was sitting at a curious table with a set of metal alphabet dies, waiting for someone to ask him what he was doing.

"I am a maker of things" was the friendly introduction, after which Fenaughty described his project "One-Off". In his words (from a later email): "I make handmade, useful objects with sensual construction techniques that are rare at this scale. Each week I choose to make one object from the week's proposals, which is then given to the proposer the next weekend. The objects I choose are rarely made outside mass production, and are more personalized than something you could find in a store. Everything I make is meant to be well used, because the things we use everyday are more influential than something just for display."

Earlier in the day I had answered an email from a friend who, coming back to town from a long sojourn in North Carolina, was looking to round up some gardening supplies for the season. I had some spare seeds for her, a shovel and a maddock she could borrow, and (so I thought) a spare trowel she could keep. Unfortunately a quick hunt through my house determined that I didn't have that spare trowel after all...

That evening, pondering a potential One-Off project in the hotseat across from Kellen's notebook, I asked if he minded making a trowel that I would then give to my friend. He smiled and opened his notebook - and we then launched, believe it or not, into a detailed conversation on the pros and cons of various garden trowels the two of us have put a hand to throughout our lives. Why did certain trowels let us down, and others proved a worth which set them above the fray of pathetic, disposable tools? Turns out mass-produced tools are often crap!
Yesterday (a little past the one-week wait) I met up with Kellen, got the trowel, and passed it off to my ecstatic friend that evening. Truly the Excalibur of trowels (yes, I really typed that), this masterpiece features stainless steel blade, mahogany handle, and hand-hammered bronze rivets. Lifetime guarantee? Well, not in writing, but I will say this is one damn fine trowel - and yes, I still gave it up even though both of mine are bent and aging.

Kellen can be contacted at kellen@gmail.com

1 comment:

natasha said...

Great-looking trowel - and it may indeed last a life-time. I still use my father's, dating from the 1930s or 40s (possibly one of the earliest stainless steel garden tools?) and although the wooden handle is quite worn it still works better than any more recent model.