Head Hand and Heart

Ruth Singer

intrigue, curiosity and a sense of history

This new series has, like all my work, grown and developed through research in museums, through technical practice and through thoughtful development of narratives. My “Precious Objects” collection has its roots in 2012 with work I made around my grandfather’s gardening tools. I initially worked with outlines and shapes based on his tools and later worked directly and thoughtfully with the tools themselves; adding subtle embellishments inspired by the man who owned and used them. All my work is imbued with my love of history and of human stories of everyday life. I began my professional life working in museums and this continues to influence what I make and the way I make it.

Hand work is fundamental to my making process and I enjoy creating very detailed and delicate work in textile, metalwork and beading. With this collection, I try to approach each piece as a new research challenge. The choice of intervention, of addition and embellishment is very experimental and organic in development. I consider each object and try various ideas before finding one which works. Then the process of making that idea work on the complex 3D surfaces of the tool is a second challenge. For me, each tool has its own past story and its own new story to tell.

I try to create intrigue, curiosity and a sense of history with this work. Each piece tells a story of the person who made the tool, who used it, kept it, threw it out; and I continue the story by rescuing and transforming these objects into new curiosities. I hope that the way I treat these old objects conveys reverence and respect for the hand-making process, for the work that was done with these tools and the personal lives they represent.

I have loved making each of these pieces and I love hearing and seeing the reactions to them – people recognising tools their parents or grandparents had, men in particular admiring the tools themselves, and the transformation from beyond-use to art object. In all my years working with textile I have never had so much response and enthusiasm from male buyers.