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#1 anagama

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 07:27 PM

I've recently had a conversation with my wife about the future of my work. Currently, I do not sign my pots. I have never signed my pots... I would like to think that my approach to this topic comes from two distinct, yet contrasting, belief systems. One: I tend to side with the philosophy of Shoji Hamada (who never signed his pots) that the work itself, when hand-made, is naturally and utterly signed by the maker at each stage of it's production... and from a more humble perspective, that my work has not yet matured to a point where I feel comfortable signing my name. I have always believed that people should buy my pottery because they like it, not because it has my signature on it... and only once have I encountered a person who did not purchase my work strictly because it was not signed. I have often joked with my students (I'm a ceramics teacher) that I do not sign my work because I often envisioned people trying to hock my wares at the antiques roadshow, claiming they had a "Martin" original because of the signature... knowing full well that it was a fake... because I "never" signed my pots.
My wife thinks this line of reasoning doesn't fly anymore, and that I must start signing my work... and all that supportive "you're good enough" mumbo jumbo...

So... My question to all of you is... "how do you approach signing your work?" and when did you start? if you always have, how has your signature changed... what do you do, symbol or hand-sign? What is your "philosophy" about this topic?

I know its something that everybody approaches differently... I'm just curious... and think that it's a good topic for conversation from the beginner to the professional... let me hear what you think...

and I appreciate anything that you have to say.





#2 Chris Campbell

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 07:56 PM

I sign my work, but never date it.

First of all, I am proud of my work so I put my name on it to communicate this dedication to quality for my customers.
It's my personal guarantee so to speak.

Pottery with chops and gewgaws and symbols tell me nothing ...
Who are you? Why did you make this? What is your story? Why are you hiding?

Perhaps in an ancient culture not signing meant some wonderful thing but you are not living then ...
Your work does not speak for itself in North America in 2011 ... it needs your pride, your voice, your story.

Listen to your wife and be brave ... Sign your name with pride that it is the best work you can do right now.
Tell your students to sign theirs too ... This could lead to fewer firings of marginal work! :>)

Chris Campbell
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#3 GEP

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 08:11 PM

I agree with everything Chris said about taking pride in your work, and understanding the times that you live in.

And I'd like to add, easy for Hamada to say! He was super famous. I bet it's very rare for someone to buy his work without knowing who made it. Those of us who aren't Living National Treasures need to identify ourselves on our pots.

I stamp my pots with a small elephant, which abstractly matches my company's logo. I market my pots under my company's name far more than my own name, therefore this makes more sense to me. Why don't I use my own name? Because nobody can spell it or pronounce it :-) However, most people can remember my company's name.

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#4 JBaymore

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 08:15 PM

Hi anagama.

Warner NH.... we're neighbors. Likely we know each other, at least in passing.

The "Mingei thing" and the actual relationship to Hamada-sensei, Kawaii-san, Yanagi-san and others is too easily looked at and made into something that is/was not. Yanagi-san's writings are wonderful. But it was a snapshot of a time and place that was already endangered when he wrote about it. It was a cry to not totally lose all of the values that used to be.

The Japan of the books written by Leach and Hamada-sensei and Yanagi-san is long, long gone. I wish it weren't so, but everytime I return there, I see more and more changing. Even the village of Onda Sarayama, probably the closest thing remaining to a "Mingei" pottery village, is sorely impacted by the modern world and commercialism (for an interesting read on that, see Brian Moran's social anthropology book).

While Hamada-sensei did not sign the pieces themselves, the important work (not the work that was considered the "kilns' work") had/has wooden boxes that act(ed) as the descriptors and the "pedigree papers" for the works. Significant Japanese pieces have these boxes...... and without the box for a piece, the value of the piece goes down to about half... even if the piece is clearly recognizable stylistically. So even to them back at a time closer to the writing of the books, ... the signature was clearly important. It was just moved off the piece itself, and onto a "document" (the box lid).

Hamada-sensei, Kawaii-san, Tomimoto-san, (Leach), et. al. were not Mingei craftspersons; they were well educated and traveled artists who were strongly influenced by the aesthetic qualities of unspoilt folkcraft. They knew the value of their work, and charged appropriately. And they worked very hard at controlling and increasing the value of their work. A lot of the writings are specificallty targeted at accomplishing just that goal. They were very smart businessmen. Because it was business.

In Japan pottery is a "serious business"; there is actual money potential involved. (A lovely fluke caused by the confluence of the violent and uncertain civil wars, warrior culture, Zen Buddhism, and the Tea Ceremony.) When in Japan for certain things, like many Japanese potters, I have been known to don a three piece suit; you don't often find that here in the States at a clay event. One tends to treat pottery with respect there.

I do sign my work. I have since college undergrad days. For some pieces I also have wooden boxes made and those are signed and stamped also. Part of what I am selling is "me". It is about the story as well as the work itself. Hamada-sensei knew that concept VERY well. I learned that idea from studying his lead. Hamada-sensei and Leach were good at promoting themselves and their ideas. Their ideas were unique for the times, and that uniqueness was part of the sizzle that they were selling with the steak.

While my ceramics business has a name (River Bend Pottery), I really market in my own name rather than focusing on the business name. I am not making pottery commodities...... like Noritake, or Wedgewood.... I am making more individualistic art pieces. They may be functional, but I do not look at them as "tablewares" in the sense of the ones that you can buy at a US department store.

My signature has changed over the years. At the moment is is scribed into the works with my first initial and last name. I want it to be able to be read. A logo is not a good marketing tool if you are "selling" your own name as an artist. On some smaller pieces, occasionally I still use a stamp which I made in Japan back in 1996 when a Japanese potter friend taught me to how carve it out of stone (took hours to do.... probably because there was a lot of sake involved). That stamp is my first and last initials, similar to how I write them. It is also used with red ink on the box lids.

Hope these thoughts help.

best,

.......................john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#5 Lucille Oka

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 05:08 AM

I've recently had a conversation with my wife about the future of my work. Currently, I do not sign my pots. I have never signed my pots... I would like to think that my approach to this topic comes from two distinct, yet contrasting, belief systems. One: I tend to side with the philosophy of Shoji Hamada (who never signed his pots) that the work itself, when hand-made, is naturally and utterly signed by the maker at each stage of it's production... and from a more humble perspective, that my work has not yet matured to a point where I feel comfortable signing my name. I have always believed that people should buy my pottery because they like it, not because it has my signature on it... and only once have I encountered a person who did not purchase my work strictly because it was not signed. I have often joked with my students (I'm a ceramics teacher) that I do not sign my work because I often envisioned people trying to hock my wares at the antiques roadshow, claiming they had a "Martin" original because of the signature... knowing full well that it was a fake... because I "never" signed my pots.
My wife thinks this line of reasoning doesn't fly anymore, and that I must start signing my work... and all that supportive "you're good enough" mumbo jumbo...

So... My question to all of you is... "how do you approach signing your work?" and when did you start? if you always have, how has your signature changed... what do you do, symbol or hand-sign? What is your "philosophy" about this topic?

I know its something that everybody approaches differently... I'm just curious... and think that it's a good topic for conversation from the beginner to the professional... let me hear what you think...

and I appreciate anything that you have to say.





In the best case scenario your ware will be around for a long time. 1,974 years from now (chosen at random) there will be a professor standing in front of his/her class teaching the Art of Ceramics- 101 ‘The Introduction to the History of Ceramics from Prehistory to 3985.2’ (I like Star Trek). She will of course not be able to tell the students who the maker of the pieces was because they are unsigned. 'It may be a 'Martin' but we aren't sure.' Ascribing the ware to a maker, a place, in an era, or a year gives the work provenance especially if its good stuff. Even if it’s not so good you will be showing how your work had developed and grown. There will be a slide show.
Also think about those poor archeologists, anthropologists, sociologists and all of the other ‘ologists’ who will need help identifying and verifying some important piece of data. By not signing your ware you are creating a void or ‘black hole’ in Art history.


Sign and date your work help out your future fellow educators and collectors. Let the world know this is your work so they can say ‘it was made by ‘Martin’ at the period in his life when he…, or they…, or the world was...’ Since your work will be a part of history anyway you may as well let the future know where, when and who you were.

By the way, I sign and date my ware but the 'signature' has changed from time to time.









John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life".

#6 Arnold Howard

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 07:42 AM

I've recently had a conversation with my wife about the future of my work. Currently, I do not sign my pots. I have never signed my pots...


I bought a stoneware bowl for my wife, Sandi, this weekend from a small gallery in Garland, Texas. Sandi loves the beautiful, delicate little bowl. She turned it over to find the name of the potter, but all we found was an initial, which tells us nothing. It would be nice to know who made the bowl.

Sincerely,

Arnold Howard
Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA
ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

#7 Denice

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 08:37 AM

I've recently had a conversation with my wife about the future of my work. Currently, I do not sign my pots. I have never signed my pots... I would like to think that my approach to this topic comes from two distinct, yet contrasting, belief systems. One: I tend to side with the philosophy of Shoji Hamada (who never signed his pots) that the work itself, when hand-made, is naturally and utterly signed by the maker at each stage of it's production... and from a more humble perspective, that my work has not yet matured to a point where I feel comfortable signing my name. I have always believed that people should buy my pottery because they like it, not because it has my signature on it... and only once have I encountered a person who did not purchase my work strictly because it was not signed. I have often joked with my students (I'm a ceramics teacher) that I do not sign my work because I often envisioned people trying to hock my wares at the antiques roadshow, claiming they had a "Martin" original because of the signature... knowing full well that it was a fake... because I "never" signed my pots.
My wife thinks this line of reasoning doesn't fly anymore, and that I must start signing my work... and all that supportive "you're good enough" mumbo jumbo...

So... My question to all of you is... "how do you approach signing your work?" and when did you start? if you always have, how has your signature changed... what do you do, symbol or hand-sign? What is your "philosophy" about this topic?

I know its something that everybody approaches differently... I'm just curious... and think that it's a good topic for conversation from the beginner to the professional... let me hear what you think...

and I appreciate anything that you have to say.
I started signing my work before I started selling it because the people that I gave work to were disappointed that it wasn't signed. Like you I wasn't sure my work was to a point that I thought it should be, but everyone else loved it. I realized that I would go through periods in my life that I just hate my work and I tear through my studio and throwing it all away. Sometimes I would go into relatives houses and steal work that I had given them. Saturday I was at a estate sale of one of my customers homes and I was hoping to find my work there so I could buy it back so no one else could see it. So sign your work for you customers and make them happy and hope you don't turn into a maniac like me. Denice





#8 Chris Campbell

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 10:34 AM

Oh Denice ... I wish I had thought of stealing it back!! I only got as far as wanting to replace it with something better.

The reason I stopped dating my work is I had a lot of resistance from customers about buying "old" work ...
even if I made it in December and they saw it in January it was last years news to them.

but strangely they would ask to buy really old items from my personal collection ... I guess I should have learned to market that idea better.

Chris Campbell
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain
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#9 Up in Smoke Pottery

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 07:37 PM

Sounds like a conversation my wife and I had 15 or so years ago. I used to never sign my work, after many discussions with my wife and family I started signing and dating each piece with the year. About 2 years ago I dropped the year, since I was running into the same problem that Chris did with i't being and old pot. I even had a few sculptural pieces would construct, but took me a few years to find the right finish for them, and by the time they came out of the kiln they were "old."

Now I actually sign each piece twice. Once as the person who threw the pot, once as the one you finished the pot. I do this since I sell a couple hundred vessels unfinished to a "make and take studio" that way they know who threw it in case they get orders for more and also I get paid for them.

Chad.

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upinsmokepottery.com

 

 


#10 Denice

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 08:37 AM

Oh Denice ... I wish I had thought of stealing it back!! I only got as far as wanting to replace it with something better.

The reason I stopped dating my work is I had a lot of resistance from customers about buying "old" work ...
even if I made it in December and they saw it in January it was last years news to them.

but strangely they would ask to buy really old items from my personal collection ... I guess I should have learned to market that idea better.


Chris I have noticed the trend towards older work also, I don't know how old you are but I have pieces sitting around from the late 60's through with 70's that are remnants of my high school and college years. When my son who is 30 is over with friends a gravitational pull takes over and they are drawn to my old hippie work. I'm thinking about heading back that direction when I get finished with the project I'm working on now. Denice

#11 Brandee Ross

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:41 PM

I sign and stamp: http://4clay.com/examples.htm

That's actually my image at the top of the page, but I am not affiliated with the site (just a happy customer). Since my signature is illegible "artistic", having the website is a nice addition. I generally only put a date on unusual or especially unique items.

#12 Idaho Potter

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 05:20 PM

I, like Chris and others, sign but don't date my work. My signature has three forms: 3 initials for small work; 2 initials and last name for medium size works; first name, middle initial and last name when it fits. Only started using a stamp this year because it took me 30+ years to come up with something that satisfied me. No date because any of my work--in clay, bronze, wood, stone or other--when produced, is looking for a new home.

I believe that art should not be given an expiration or production date unless it is by centuries. When anyone asks me how long it took to produce a piece of art, I tell them I started drawing at age three and everything I've learned since has gone into the work they have in their hands. Do we ever stop learning? Don't think so. Therefore--as with our lives--today is the sum total of what has gone before. Dating is to help historians--leave the date off and they may have to work more diligently. Buyers need to feel that the work that captured their eye (and possibly heart) was waiting just for them.

#13 Dinah

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 02:37 PM

This is a thought provoking topic. Sign/chop your work, and make it legible so that you can have a repeat visit from the customer, or one trying to seek you out. I know it's a bit of a romantic stance to still put oneself forward as 'the unknown craftman', but for many reasons cited in these postings I also think you should sign. I use a small lead type d or a capital D + a screw head in varying sizes depending on the size of the piece. (Dianthus Ceramics and it's registered in potters' marks book or at least it used to be when I lived in UK.)I also sign the bottoms of large plates and bowls with *D Steveni*, just like I sign my paintings.
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#14 pent19

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 09:50 AM

I have always signed my work a dated it. Having only been in the ceramics field for 8 years (college and now) I enjoy seeing a pot from my early years, chuckling to myself on how far I have come and how awful my glazes/trimming/heavy my old pots are. My signature is an M with a circle and the date at the tail (alot like the [email=""]'@'[/email] sign). I also like the idea of someday beingwell known and someone coming across an early piece of mine. My work is evolving so i like to date my pieces. I may someday decide not to date, but for now the date and 'm' will be on all my pottery.

#15 JLowes

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:10 PM

I used to sign and date my work, but the signature was "by John". Not too descriptive and the date issue mentioned by others was a problem. Now I do one of two things. On all my work I use a chop that is a stylized set of my intials JL. On work I think will deserve a greater price, I sign with my first and last name in....cursive..... and add the chop. So the chop is probably less descriptive than the "by John", but the cursive signature represents well. If I am someday I become a well known potter, it will probably be because of the chop only work and the anthropologists will wonder why I signed my worst work in full...lol.

#16 Chris Campbell

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 11:04 AM

I think you should sign your work so people can find you again if they are curious and want to know more about you, if they want more of it or if someone else wants to buy some.

I have a lot of pottery and I try to be super conscious of who made what ... but I have a lot of work where I have no idea who made it. A chop tells me nothing ... Unless I pop onto the Potters Council site and they happen to have it in their collection. I have single names where I don't know if it's their first name or last. I have bowls that I would love to have four more of but have no idea who made them. Beautiful mugs with nothing on them.

Maybe it's time to progress from the mystical 'unknown potter' into the 21st century realm of easy to Google potter.

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#17 soursop

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 01:52 PM

I feel a bit differently than most who commented on this. I feel you should sign if you want the advertising. Your signature or stamp is a way for people to find out who made "this pot" that they love so much and gives a lead on how to find you. Since most of us will never be a Shoji Hamada, it is very difficult for our work to speak for itself without the signature, there are so many potters and styles out there, we need to accept that few if any of us will have the exposure to have our pots easily recognized by a broad audience.

But truthfully, what does it matter. I think Hamada, Yanagi and the bunch were not just being idealistic in their approach, they REALLY BELIEVED IN THIS, so in the end, I think it comes down to you personally. I do sign my work with an SS stamp for Soursop Studio, and occasionally sign a piece with my initials when I feel it fits into the design of the pot, but if you truly believe in the idea of the unknown craftsman, then more power to you! Perhaps it will be your pots in a hundred years from now that everyone is scrutenizing over trying to figure out who this master craftsman was.

In the end it is personal, I appreciate that there are people like you out there who believe in this and practice it, but don't ever do it because you are not happy "enough" with your work, do it because you live your beliefs.

#18 CarlCravens

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 04:03 PM

On one hand, I like the look of the mysterious chop or initials... but on the other hand, the rubber stamp with the name and city of the pottery makes it easy to remember who made that mug I bought at the renfaire a few years ago. I haven't progressed to the point that I sell my work, so I haven't made a decision on my work, but I realize that I turn over pots to see who made them and am disappointed when I can't tell. (Or it says "Made in China exclusively for Wal-Mart".) And I'm glad of the pots I own that clearly indicate where I got them from. Yeah, it removes the mystique of traditional chops and signatures, but it's doing me, the consumer, a favor when you clearly mark your ware with information that lets me find you again, in addition to doing yourself a favor.

Maybe I'll get a rubber stamp of a QR code and embed a website url along with my information.
Carl (Wichita, KS)

#19 phill

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 11:46 PM

I don't sign my work, but i do stamp it with my own stamps i made.

I have struggled with the hamada ideals as well, always questioning whether i should stamp or put my name on pots or not. I stopped stamping them for a while, but i was disappointed in a way.

I have changed my stamps a few times now. They used to be big stamps, and i would stamp the bottom part of the handle (something i thought was cool when i was in undergrad). Then i started hating it, and made a new stamp, still too large. i stamped with that for a while (by the way, the first stamp was of a "p", the first letter of my first name and the second stamp i made was just of an image totally unrelated to my pottery but just because i liked it).

after having images inside the stamps, and initials and such, i finally took them all out and just started stamping with a small square, almost to say that i am not stamping my person on that pot, but still doing it. a little weird, but i liked it. i also had a circular "p" that was smaller as well, and sometimes i would stamp wiht both the p stamp and the blank square.

however, i have had so many people say they like the "p" and because i guess i dont care as much anymore, i do the small p stamp only. i keep switching and dont know if i will ever be satisfied with my insignia. oh well.

#20 Pres

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 10:49 AM

I've recently had a conversation with my wife about the future of my work. Currently, I do not sign my pots. I have never signed my pots... I would like to think that my approach to this topic comes from two distinct, yet contrasting, belief systems. One: I tend to side with the philosophy of Shoji Hamada (who never signed his pots) that the work itself, when hand-made, is naturally and utterly signed by the maker at each stage of it's production... and from a more humble perspective, that my work has not yet matured to a point where I feel comfortable signing my name. I have always believed that people should buy my pottery because they like it, not because it has my signature on it... and only once have I encountered a person who did not purchase my work strictly because it was not signed. I have often joked with my students (I'm a ceramics teacher) that I do not sign my work because I often envisioned people trying to hock my wares at the antiques roadshow, claiming they had a "Martin" original because of the signature... knowing full well that it was a fake... because I "never" signed my pots.
My wife thinks this line of reasoning doesn't fly anymore, and that I must start signing my work... and all that supportive "you're good enough" mumbo jumbo...

So... My question to all of you is... "how do you approach signing your work?" and when did you start? if you always have, how has your signature changed... what do you do, symbol or hand-sign? What is your "philosophy" about this topic?

I know its something that everybody approaches differently... I'm just curious... and think that it's a good topic for conversation from the beginner to the professional... let me hear what you think...

and I appreciate anything that you have to say.


Right from the start of college days we were trained to always sign our drawings, paintings, sculptures etc. Pottery for me came in the same frame and was always signed. I developed a signature for my work that involved my two initials and last name. I didn't date. In the last few years though I guess I have been feeling the years. I have started to date the work so that I could answer for myself when I did that. I like most of you have gone through many changes and documentation of the work for me was not good, I wish I had documented better, and dated my work. To go into a home and see a pot you made, and not be able to place the time is sometimes disconcerting. Especially if the only way you recognize the pot is by reading the signature on the bottom!


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/





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