Tools & Talismans #29 — Drusilla Cole

My grandfather had a wood shop and as a young kid I spent lots of time there with him.  I wasn’t allowed to use or touch most any of his tools — too sharp, too dangerous, not for young children was the oft repeated refrain. But I’d sit and watch him work, and he’d give me the whisk broom to sweep up wood dust and shavings and at the end of his day I’d watch him pick up his tools, clean them and put them all away.

Sometimes I’d tip-toe into his shop by myself, open the drawer with the wood handled chisels in it, and just look at them. The shiny metal, the wooden handles with the varnish dulled from use — I didn’t have the words then, but now I realize that they had that look that things have when they’re used and loved and cared for.

There’s something about well-used tools that makes my heart go pitter-pat. The handles on Drusilla Cole’s tools are worn and stained and darkened with use and I think they touch me so deeply because they bring me back to the days in Gramp’s wood shop.

I have always drawn — as a child I remember drawing on the wallpaper behind my bed! Later I was given the backs of my father’s notes to draw and paint on (this was the 1950s). I recall the paper was often yellow or a pinkish color. So a pencil is a priority for me — plus a good quality pencil sharpener!

These days I consider myself to be a print maker and my chosen medium is lino cut. Hence three of my favorite cutting tools. They are made by Pfeil and are Swiss and top quality. I chose to show a small gouge, a flat gouge and a medium gouge. I have put little bits of paper on them to help recognize them quickly and /or to alleviate the pressure on my forefinger as I use them to cut.

To print I use ink and a roller (brayer). I've chosen to show one of my favorite rollers, made from Durathene, a durable yet pliant substance which happens to be a beautiful translucent green in color. It rolls the ink out perfectly and is a very useful size, as it can get into corners or edges of a design. It has a nicely turned beech wood handle and was rather expensive. I drilled a hole in the end to insert a hook so I could hang it up on the workbench.

I am also showing one of my many scalpels. These sharp knives are the tools of surgeons, and although I joke that I am a frustrated brain surgeon, I use it for cutting paper and occasionally card or tape. New blades — size 10A — are fitted regularly to keep it very sharp. I have learnt over the years to keep my fingers out of the way of the blade, although once , many years ago, I sat on it and the blade sunk into the flesh of my bottom! Luckily no lasting harm came from the incident!

Drusilla Cole is an artist and the author of some of my most favorite books on pattern.


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I’m documenting {in watercolor} the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — I'll be sharing a new painting with you every Wednesday.

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