John Econmaki and Bridge City Tool work
“Quality is Contagious” showcases the work of industrial designer, innovator and entrepreneur John Economaki, founder of Bridge City Tools of Portland, Oregon. It establishes that hand tools can and should be beautiful to look at and comfortable (ergonomic) to hold, and is appropriately being displayed at Boston’s North Bennet Street School, highly respected as an arts and crafts instructional epicenter providing training in fine craftsmanship and creative entrepreneurship.
The exhibition features a selection of nearly 100 items: exquisitely finished precision tools, wood furniture, design and preparatory sketches and instructional videos showcasing Economaki’s career over a 30-year period.
Along with the physical display, there’s a 204-page “coffee table” style catalogue, which is a collaborative project with advertising photographer Joe Felzman. The artists have been working together for nearly 40 years, and their book serves to promote (and sell) their individual crafts and skills.
The display of tools in an exhibition format as objects of beauty encourages a challenging question: Can an indus- trial tool ever be an objet d’art worthy of individual display? Can and should Economaki’s sensual-looking plumb-bob (plummet tool), for example, exist dually as a functional and decorative object?