Tag Archives: James Shaw

“Making Guns”: pistol forms as tools for creation


Designer James Shaw’s Plastic Extruding Gun, photograph taken by Paul Plews, via jamesmichaelshaw.co.uk

Ah, those critical UKers! First Tony Dunne on the need for a designers’ Hippocratic oath, then Francis North’s Comfort Gun. And now I’ve found recent RCA grad James Shaw and his Making Guns, three gun-shaped tools for additive creation. Rather than spewing out speeding bullets, Shaw’s three homemade gadgets respectively shoot out papier mache, pewter, and blobs of recycled plastic.

But what’s really fascinating about these funky object-makers is what the use of the pistol form can reveal about human impulses and the desire for control. These guns don’t kill or explode or rend. They don’t make holes in anything. They’re objects used for creation rather than destruction. Yet, as Shaw acknowledged in a piece last week on Wired.com:

We have nail guns, spray guns, and handheld drills, Shaw points out, something he attributes to “our desire to dominate and master materials and our environment.”

Is the form of the gun–regardless of its purpose or design–an inherently agressive object? One that necessarily connotes control? I suppose the same question could be asked of any tool used to shape the world, from shovels to iPhones. But it made me wonder if the form of the pistol at its most basic and abstract could ever fully escape its associations with violence and human agression.

Shaw’s closing quote from the Wired piece also struck me:

“The exciting thing about making new types of tools is that they will necessarily allow new forms and types of objects.”

New tools also allow new forms of social interaction and understanding of human capability. It’s interesting to think back to an era in which firearms themselves were new tools, newly shaping the people and relationships that surrounded them. The material creations of these guns help make one think of the immaterial changes wrought by conventional firearms.

For more images of Shaw’s Making Guns and their odd creations, visit his website: jamesmichaelshaw.co.uk


Designer James Shaw takes aim with his Pewter Squirting Gun, photograph taken by Paul Plews, via jamesmichaelshaw.co.uk

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