Former Marine creates art to combat civilians' insensitivity to war

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

The 393 cup floor installation is a major focal point of the show as it takes both a lot of space and emotion.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Tool's show includes over 1400 cups in various installations, photographs, and a video piece.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Ehren Tool, former Marine, makes handmade cups in hopes of creating a community through "war awareness". "The idea was to take a bunker of clay bags down, make cups, give the cups away, and through the cups create some sort of abstract community," Tool explains.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Inside the show is a bulliten board where viewers are urged to share how war has affected their lives. Tool has been working on cups outside the show for the past few days and has talked and cried with many about the effects war has had personally on so many.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Over 1100 finished, glazed cups fill the wall space.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

The cups Tool creates show imagery taken both from war and from pop culture, showing the collision between the military and civilian lifestyle.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Ehren Tool, former Marine in the '91 Gulf War, is showing hadmade ceramic cups based on "war awareness" in his show, Production Or Destruction, at the Craft and Folk Museum through September 9th, 2012.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Here 393 cups were thrown, decorated, fired, and glazed. Then they were shot to represent the causalites of the second Gulf War. Tool is emotional about this, as this war makes him question his own successes and failures during the first Gulf War in '91.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Currently working outside the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Tool talks with people passing by, as well as gives away some of his cups. "Within like three sentences we get to like ‘oh my friend died’ or ‘my Uncle committed suicide’ so there’s been a little crying going on out here as people share their stories and I get to make cups for them," Tool says.

Ehren Tool

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Tool used the clay found in Vietnam, where his father served, to create these cups, dedicated to the Vietnam war.

"I came back from the ’91 Gulf war and during that war I wore a gas mask thinking that the air was poison and I came back and it’s a toy now.," Tool says. "My son is seven and I still haven’t talked to him, how do I talk to him about war? So a lot of the cups are that collision and collusion between military and civilian cultures."


After seeing combat firsthand in 1991, artist Ehren Tool was shocked at how living life as a civilian means being surrounded by war.

“I came back from the ’91 Gulf War and during that war I wore a gas mask thinking that the air was poison," Tool recalls. "And I came back and it’s a toy now — for ages six and up."

Ehren Tool served with the 1st Marine Division during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After he came back to California, Tool attended Pasadena City College and the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill. In 2004, he received his Master of Fine Arts in Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley.

His new exhibit "Production or Destruction" is an autobiographical project made up of hundreds and hundreds of handmade ceramic cups, decorated with ceramic decals from pop culture and combat. There are 1,100 cups lining the exhibit walls, and 393 cups sit shot and shattered on the installation floor.

They're exhibited in units based on military formations: squads, platoons, companies. Each serve as a visual reminder of a Marine within a unit.

Tool refers to his work as “war awareness” as opposed to “anti-war."

"A lot of the cups are that collision and collusion between military and civilian cultures," he explains. "Like a World War I toy soldier. In World War I, 10,000 people a day would die, and you make a toy of that? I think if you’re making toys out of that, then war’s pretty abstract to you."

The former marine will sit outside the Craft and Folk Museum in Los Angeles until June 16, creating cups and giving them out to anyone who comes up to him.

His work will be on display at the Craft and Folk Museum until September 9.

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