Tools of the Trades

In archival terms, this assemblage of objects is known as “realia”- ie. three-dimensional objects (man-made or naturally occurring) such as coins, tools, and textiles and anything else that cannot be described as a document. Librarians may roll their eyes at what to do with materials like these, but as an archivist, I genuinely enjoy the artefactual part of my job, and the process of determining how best to preserve and position them in the collection. From a design historian’s perspective, the value of realia is that it has the potential to provide a fascinating glimpse into the inner creative life of a designer. Kalil’s realia presents a snapshot of a person who not only had a collection of handmade craft materials, but he also found creative use and perhaps even inspiration in the small, often quirky detritus of commercial manufacture. Kalil’s interest in the made-made and the natural world, and his spirit of exploration, tinkering and play definitely emerge in this part of the collection.

We made the decision to retain samples of each skein of intensely saturated embroidery thread and the fabric samples. Also, we have ample physical evidence of Kalil’s interest in weaving and textiles via a small loom, several weaving tools and a variety of fabric samples. Along with this we have two cigar boxes chock full of bits of commercially made small metal parts (and interestingly, an Civil War era Union soldier belt buckle!), and also a small set of modular cardboard maquettes.

Interestingly, there are also some slightly enigmatic, “non sequitur” objects as well- there is a rough string of purple beads, terminated by a metal cube  in a talisman-like mini sculpture, and a creme colored billiard ball that fits perfectly into a delicate cylindrical, celluloid box. Who knows? These seemingly trivial yet imaginative combinations of objects could have perhaps led Kalil to brainstorm an articulated, real-world design idea at some point along the way.