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Fresh Shop: HandwerkBlumen

May 29, 2014

by Erik Kraft

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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