Every day our community grows in unexpected and delightful ways. For our Fresh Shops series, sellers who have been on Etsy for a handful of months or are waiting for those first few sales introduce themselves. Here’s a warm welcome to all our newbies!
Hej! I’m Erik Kraft, shopkeeper and maker of all manner of thingies at HandwerkBlumen; world headquarters, Chicago, Illinois. My shop name — from the German words for “hand tool” and “flowers” — is completely made-up and born of a lifelong envy for the way German speakers can just jam syllables together and make a new word that exceeds the sum of its parts. I mean, weltschmerz? That’s a stone classic! Anyway, “hand-tool flowers” pretty well sums up the original, very simple idea that animated my project.
Last summer, I found myself spending significant time in the hinterlands of central Illinois on a property with the most fantastic outbuilding, filled with nearly a century of rusty hoardings. They were not, alas, mine for the taking, but I did start rescuing the odd treasure from dusty obscurity — a grinder wheel here, a giant bolt there, a who-knows-what-that-wrench-was-for — and making some assemblages. Initially a lark, these explorations and assemblages seemed to trip a switch in my brain: I became obsessed with both the forgotten stories and the aesthetic possibilities of old rusty tools.
Later that summer, I acquired a classic whatsit piece (which I now know to be an old Mexican sugar cone mold) on the cheap at an antique mall. It was an old wooden block, painted white, very well-worn, with three conical holes bored in the top. The shop had put dried flowers in it. Not really my speed, but the flower idea stuck, and one afternoon I just grabbed some old tools, masked off all but the tops, and spray painted them in the primary color palette I love. It turned out I’d made HandwerkBlumen Prototype One.
To say I caught the making bug would be an understatement. That fall and winter I put together about 35 objects. Some kept to the tool-flower concept and some, well — this endeavor has had a knack for springing annexes left and right. My process is to not really have a process. That might sound Zen, but really, I’m just going where my curiosity takes me and trying to bring three-dimensional form to the things I see in my head.
Lately I’ve been making some lamps I’m really happy with, and I’ll soon be starting a Chicago-centric line that both celebrates the local maker community and memorializes our former glory as toolmaker to the world. I hope a certain sensibility comes across whether I’m assembling painted tools or making a mutant piece of furniture. If it’s me and a spray can and some rust, it’s HandwerkBlumen.