Tin Men

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University of Illinois Press, 2002 - Social Science - 202 pages
2 Reviews
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For centuries, the history and lore of tinkers, tinners, tinsmiths, and their contemporary counterparts-sheet metal workers-have been represented through the creation of figurative sculptures known as tin men. In this vibrant exploration of tin men and their creators, the labor folklorist Archie Green links tinsmith artistry to issues of craft education, union traditions, labor history, and social class.Crafted from sheet metal and scraps in likenesses that include clowns, knights, cowboys, and L. Frank Baum's Tin Woodman of Oz, tin men have both utilitarian and aesthetic purposes. Some serve as sheet metal shops' trade signs or prove an apprentice's competence. Others are coveted in boutiques, antique stores, and folk art museums. "Tin men," Green writes, "equate with ballads, blues, stories, sayings, rituals, riddles, customs, codes, and other expressive forms. Although not easily apparent, the tin man serves as does any other artistic piece--as an outlet for creative energy, a mark of defiance, an affirmation of community, a summation of a worker's experience."In his quest to "see the unseen gifts of tinsmiths," Green has interviewed craftspeople, gallery owners, collectors, and Sheet Metal Workers' International Association officials. Blurring the boundaries between workers and artists, he compares expressive forms across craft lines and interrogates the systems of determining value in the contemporary art world. Enhanced by numerous illustrations, the volume also includes an inventory of the tin men located in sheet metal shops, galleries, and museums.

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Archie Green engages his readers by enthusiastically illustrating the culture and artistry of sheet metal workers over the centuries in Tin Men. The subject of these tin structures created for advertisement, displays of ability, and expression is something not many people would consider a form of folk art or folklore. But Green makes the case for these creations giving them a relevance to anyone who may pick up this book.
Tin Men also allows for discussion of other occupational folk art forms that people are familiar with in their daily lives.
It's a great book. Get it. Read it.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Great book. Love to see interest in this area. I grew up in Merced & remember seeing Carl De Wing's Tin Man at the County Fair. His Tin Man spoke and answered questions in a beautiful, resonant voice. My mother told me later that it was the De Wings' son, Carl Jr., providing the voice. He was a radio personality & later a news anchor person in Fresno.  


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