W. A. Ehren Tool

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Artist’s Statement

“I just make cups” is the only statement I am comfortable making about my work.

In the Marine Corps, the gap between what I thought I was doing and what I did was vast and painful. I joined with a desire to serve and I still have that desire. I don’t think anything I do will change the world, and nothing in the world releases me from my obligation to try. Making cups feels like a pretty impotent gesture, in the face of all of the horrors surrounding us. Peace is the only adequate war memorial. Any other “memorial” is at best a failure and usually a lie, promoting war as a good and noble thing. War is not a good thing. I still love the Marine Corps and Marines, which makes it harder to watch young Marines kill and die. Wars never end they ripple and echo forever. After serving in the “91 Gulf War” I have lost my ability to point fingers. The line between good and evil is a line in every human heart. We choose every day. We live with the consequences, even when we are ignorant of how our actions affect others. I believe there is some kind of judgment or karma, even if it is not the satisfying cinematic ending many people might picture. Judgment is not mine.

My opinions about my work and what I do feel unimportant. I just make cups, and if they are ever anything else it is because of the generosity of people who take the time to look at the cups. The cups are only something more if something resonates with the viewer or, better yet, the user of the cup. I am very grateful to people who see something in the cups.

I have given away more than 21,500 cups since 2001.

I hope the cups can be touchstones to start conversations about unspeakable things. My father and grandfather never talked about their wars until I came back from mine. I didn’t understand why they didn’t talk until my son asked “how come you were bad and now you’re good? You were a soldier right?” I didn’t say anything. I changed the subject and held back tears. To be demonized or idolized for something you did or didn’t do in a context you can never explain, by someone you love, is too much. It seems easier to just not talk — to “suck it up” and “move on.”

I just make cups. Making ceramics means I have five hundred thousand to one million years to find a receptive audience for my work. I hope a few of my cups will make it through these times. From my hand to your hand to some point hundreds of thousands of years in the future. Cheers!!! I hope you always have enough to eat and drink….I love you. Blah blah blah

Strength to love, + E

W.A.Ehren Tool was born in Charleston South Carolina in 1970. Raised in Sunny South Central Los Angeles, South Dakota (3 years), then back to Los Angeles, Tool joined the Marine Corps in 1989, serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Gulf War One). Tool was a Marine Embassy Guard in Rome and Paris, 15 months each, and was Honorably Discharged as a Sergeant after just over 5 years of active duty. He attended Pasadena City College, received his BFA from the University of Southern California in 2000, and his MFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 2005. Tool has made and given away over 21,500 cups since 2001. He is married and has one son.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.