Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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Gulf War veteran depicts the horrors of conflict 

UC Berkeley ceramics mechanician molds cups into visceral anti-war message
Ehren+Tool+throws+a+cup+during+a+demonstration+at+Laney+College+Ceramics+studio+on+May+8.+Tools+renowned+work+cannot+be+bought%2C+only+give.+Photo+by+Alice+Robinson.
Ehren Tool throws a cup during a demonstration at Laney College Ceramics studio on May 8. Tools renowned work cannot be bought, only give. Photo by Alice Robinson.

Ehren Tool, a ceramics mechanician and self-described “kiln bitch” at UC Berkeley, came to the Laney College ceramics lab May 8 to talk about his personal odyssey. Joining the marines led him to serve in the 1990 Gulf War. At the time of his honorable discharge, he was a Sergeant. Next was graduate school, then to presenting his carefully crafted cups all over the world.

Tool doesn’t claim the title “artist.”

“I just make cups,” he said.

He even created a cup with those words floating above a sea of skulls. The skulls are strewn together as if in a mass grave.

At least 25 people, most of them ceramics students, intensely watched Tool as he molded new cups for future designs and talked about his travels and the new experiences his passion for the cups has brought him.

These include meeting other artists and toiling in new workshops. So far, he has been to Oregon, Washington, D.C., the city of Verdun in northern France, and China.

To illustrate, Tool showed personal photos, images of his shows and pictures of past art he’s created, in a slideshow.

Tool often gives the cups away and hopes his work will eventually be passed down to a younger generation.

“I’ve made and given away more than 21,000 cups since 2001,” he said.

Some cups depict soldiers who were killed in wars dating back to last century. Additional tumblers show the gruesomeness and savagery of war through images and collages. One sports a baby with a bright red gash on its face.

In the presentation, Tool projected a photo of yellow land mines on the screen. His message about them carried strains of caution and disgust.

“If you stepped on that, there wouldn’t be anything left to put in a coffin,” he told the crowd.

It’s true that Tool hesitates to call himself an artist. But his work shows an attempt at grappling with horrors that defy the imagination. His cups are meant to serve as symbols, whether he calls them art or not.

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