Who are you calling ugly?

by Kitty Drake in November 2021
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Art & design Craft & making

Tools is a juicy new French magazine about a distinctly un-juicy subject: manufacturing techniques. Every issue is devoted to a different industrial process (eg. joining, sheering, forming), and this debut release is all about moulding. Featuring a luscious plastic roller skate on the front cover, part of the joy of reading Tools is its elevation of the ostensibly ugly (plastic water bottles, foam casings, hoovers, watering cans) into grand works of art. The first shoot in the issue is a series of delectable shots of moulding-in-action: we see thick dribbles of green paint oozing into a palette; glass fired until it looks like a sheet of brown caramel; and tire moulds so fat and creamy they look like great wheels of cheese.


The uneasy relationship between manufacturing and art is central to Tools. One illustrated essay in the magazine, entitled ‘Casting from nature’, tells the story of how Rodin produced his statue of Saint John the Baptist in 1878 with deliberately enlarged proportions, in order to defend himself against accusations that he was merely “copying” by creating a mould directly from a human body. Another great piece traces the history of plastic, and how it was re-marketed in post-war America as having aesthetic value in order to stimulate the economy. The magazine as a whole is a document of how “beauty” might be a quality that is more assigned than intrinsic.


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