Working with his hands to build something beautiful and functional comes naturally to Indianapolis artist Bill Bradburn.
“I am a descendant of generations of Hoosier craftspersons, ranging from German cabinet makers to a Scottish tool-and-die maker,” Bill says. “It is on their shoulders that I stand; and if better, then only because of them.”
With a talent for handcrafting in his blood, Bill began creating beautifully designed writing instruments a few years ago, after working with wood and other materials for years. A 4-hour pen-making workshop led to more advanced classes, and today he continues his studies in the niche art form.
“Basically, it is fusing the utilitarian with the attractive, the substance with the style, or the mechanical with the aesthetic,” Bill explains. “Materials have to pique my curiosity. What can be done with this or that?”
“It involves fashioning a raw piece to best show off its inherent appeal, or to make some mundane feature compelling,” he adds.
Named Master Woodworker by the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in 2019, Bill says a variety of materials can be incorporated when crafting a handmade writing instrument, but each one is unique. In fact, anyone who owns one of his Penchant 4 creations — ballpoint pens, fountain pens, dip pens, and rollerball pens — will never find similar writing instruments anywhere else.
“Fundamentals of the Hoosier character are simple honesty, hardiness, and a quiet dignity that is not pretentious,” Bill says. “These are qualities I try to incorporate in the items I craft.”
Bill says it’s an honor to be juried in as an Indiana Artisan in 2020. “Not just to me, but to my lineage,” he says. “Additionally, it elevates the benchmark to which I must hold my work.”
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