It’s hard not to love a spoon.
From small to large, the spoon is the bearer of many good things – heaped with sugar, wrapped in honey, filled with soup or mounded high with sour cream, spoons contribute much to the life worth living. So much do we love the spoon that we’re decorating our walls with them.
In the month of July, Tomato Head Market Square will feature the functional art of Kellan Catani. Kellan’s exhibit does, in fact, include many spoons and other small kitchen wares like rolling pins, ice cream scoops, and cutting boards, along with some very special wall mounts; what binds these pieces together is their combination of beauty and simplicity as governed by Catani’s overriding principle: authenticity.
Catani works with wood, mostly walnut, and only with wood that’s sourced domestically and ethically. For this artist, beauty rests far below the surface and present manifestation of the piece – both the wood’s interior and its history are essential components of anything that Catani would call beautiful and authentic.
“To be authentic is to be just who you say you are. So [in my work] what’s on the surface is what’s underneath. There are no facades.” In addition to meaning that if the piece is made of walnut, it’s made of all walnut, core to surface, Catani also means that he doesn’t stain the wood. “If you stain a piece, then what’s on the surface is not what’s underneath.”
“Almost all of the pieces are dark, so people just assume they’re stained,” but they are not. Instead, Catani blends his own bees’ wax and mineral oil balm which makes a piece kitchen worthy without covering the wood’s natural beauty. Catani also tries to highlight the organic complexity of the wood’s grain by keeping the designs relatively simple.
In talking to Catani about his work, it’s easy to imagine him in a kitchen with walls hung with attractive, handmade kitchen wares that he takes down and uses. Time to chop an onion? Grab the cutting board off the wall. Catani’s passion makes him earnest about using beautiful, real things in what he calls “The artisan kitchen – if you’re making beautiful food, If you’re going to put so much time into making the food look beautiful having beautiful tools as you go along makes sense as a part of the journey.”
In addition to his functional kitchen art, this exhibit also features a unique reunion as some very special parts of the original Tomato Head come back home in an apt tribute to the final weeks of our 25th anniversary year. Catani lived downtown during our remodeling and, most importantly, at the time that the contractors were removing the flooring. “I’ve studied a lot of the flooring wherever I go, and downtown flooring is usually the coolest – because its patina is so good and old. Of all the flooring I’ve ever seen that [Tomato Head’s floor] was the coolest… The differences in color, its patina were really cool.” Catani was able to salvage much of the floor and to repurpose it in a fashion that we find aesthetically pleasing and beautifully nostalgic, too.
Kellan has used our old stomping ground, literally, to create several wall mounts that, for him, highlight the flooring’s unique colors and gradients. For us, it’s a poignant reminder of the many footsteps we’ve taken and the thousands of other feet that have traveled with us on this 25+ year journey.
Catani’s functional art will hang on our Market Square walls from July 4th through August 7th. He will then move to the West Knoxville Tomato Head from August 9th through September 5th. To learn more about the artist and his work, visit his website, purebredwood.com.