Pliers Plus Wire Equals...Bonsai?

Jun 14, 2012

During the course of a day, most of us use more than one tool to get what we need to get done…done. But what if you had to finish a normal day's work - with just one tool?

A copper bonsai tree, a la Wisconsin artist Kevin Iris
Credit Gianofer Fields

If you’re a baker, say, do you choose the bowl, cake pan or oven? Or if you're an auto mechanic, do you use just one car part?

Last spring the Chipstone Foundation challenged artists from around Wisconsin and the world to create a work of art using only one tool. In March, artists displayed their creations at an event, called the “Tool at Hand Challenge,” held at Sweet Water Organics in Bay View.

Kevin Iris is a sculptor from Neenah whose lifelong fascination with trees drives him to re-create them in metal. So Iris rose to the Foundation's challenge and decided that he would create a Brushed Copper Bonsai Tree - using only pliers. In a room filled with artists, laptops, hatchets, heat guns, and a sewing machine, material culture contributor Gianofer Fields found Iris sitting quietly on a folding chair, weaving a small tree.

Wisconsin sculptor Kevin Iris molds wire into a tree.
Credit Gianofer Fields

Fields produces and curates the series, "It's A Material World." That project is funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts. Fields is a material culture student at UW-Madison, and she met up with Neenah-based sculptor Kevin Iris at the Chipstone Foundation's Tool at Hand Challenge held in Bay View this past March.