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 firstname.lastname@example.org