SERVICE is the story of craft and the military from the origins of the Army Arts & Crafts Program and the G.I. Bill to contemporary soldiers and veterans, SERVICE documents the power of the handmade to inspire, motivate and heal.

Ehren Tool cup, Madison Metro photograph

Ehren Tool, third generation Service member, Marine veteran of the Gulf War, and ceramic artist says his work is not antiwar. By making clay cups by hand and giving them away, his intention is to draw attention to war and its consequences. Since 2001, Tool has given over 14,000 cups to everyone from homeless veterans to President George W. Bush. “I make work that you can drink out of and hold. The images on the cups are often graphic and hard to look at. I hope that the cups can be a starting point for conversations about unspeakable things.” For Tool, peace is the only adequate war memorial. We follow the artist from home and work in Berkeley, CA to the Clay Studio (Philadelphia, PA) for a 40 hour endurance project, “Occupation” which speaks to his war experience as well as to his vocation.

Judas Recendez ceramics, Mark Markley photograph

Judas Recendez lost both legs in an IED explosion in Iraq. During rehabilitation at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, he refined his ceramic practice at the Army Arts and Crafts Center. “I came here to be treated and spent every moment I could throwing pots. Without this, I don’t know what I would have done. The Center changed my life.” Like many veterans, the G.I. Bill was important for Recendez who obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, DC) and now works from his home/studio in Virginia. “I was able to pursue something that I never thought I would do” says Recendez about his new career.

Peter Voulkos, Untitled Tea Bowl, c.1972, Courtesy of Forrest L. Merrill, M. Lee Fatheree photograph.

The G.I. Bill turns 70 years old this year. One of the most significant legislation ever passed, it has allowed millions of veterans to continue their educations to join the work force at a higher level. After difficult war experiences, many veterans yearned to create, and chose to study art making. Among these was Peter Voulkos, possibly America’s greatest ceramic artist, whose influence on the art world is undeniable. After serving as an airplane gunner in the Pacific in WWII, Voulkos graduated college and got his MFA in ceramics through the G.I. Bill. Today, Voulkos’s remarkable work is legendary, bridging the gap between fine art and craft.

Paper Dolls from "Paper Dolls: stories of women who served", Courtesy of Pam DeLuco.

Pam DeLuco, a papermaker and owner of Shotwell Paper Mill (San Francisco, CA) is the architect of the project Paper Dolls: stories from women who served, a fully-functioning paper doll book crafted by female soldiers on paper they made from their uniforms. Describing the acclaimed limited edition book, DeLuco says, “It struck me that while a uniform is not meant to be unique, the individual’s relationship with it most definitely is… Paper dolls have been in existence for as long as there’s been paper. Most everyone knows what a paper doll is; but not the lesser known experiences of women in the armed forces.”

Caisson at Arlington National Cemetery, Mark Markley photograph.

Respectfully and finally, we turn to Eugene Burks Jr., Saddler and leathersmith of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Fort Myer, VA, the Army's official ceremonial unit and oldest active duty regiment dating from 1784. Burks makes and maintains leather horse tack for the caissons that gracefully transport the remains of fallen comrades to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery and has done so for over 30 years. Burks explains “The craft is handed down from one generation to another. It’s a privilege to do this. Every one of us here is using our skill to honor those who served this country. Each funeral should be done the same way regardless if it’s Private Johnson or President Kennedy. The standard is the same every time.”

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Learn More

Watch a 30 sec preview of Craft in America: SERVICE, premiering on PBS November 2, 2014
On his last day, U.S. Army Specialist Tyler Meyers reflects on his service.
Ceramic artist & Marine Corp veteran Ehren Tool goes to Vietnam to make cups from red clay
Senior Horse Tack Specialist Eugene Burks Jr. shows the importance of the "Line of Draft".
Brigadier General Nolen Bivens introduces us to veterans who are using the G.I. Bill.
The Clay Studio in Philadelphia is a world class gallery and community outreach center.
U.S. Army farrier Charles Morrison shows how he cleans and shoes the caisson horses.
U.S. Army veteran Luana Ritch tells us of her experience in Korea.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jennifer Vollbrecht tells us about her Iraq experience.
U.S. Navy veteran Kelly McFarland explains the details of a Chief Petty Officer's uniform.

Related Content


Craft In America Educational Materials look further at SERVICE as a concept in craft. Visit the EDUCATION section to see what's available and download a Lesson Guide HERE >


Learn more about the artists in the SERVICE episode HERE >