A Potter’s Mark: Signing Pots

I just got a new stamp with my signature to sign the bottoms of my pots with. I ordered the stamp at NCECA, and it arrived in the mail last week. Todd Scholtz, owner of claystamps.com was set up at the Brackers Good Earth Clay, Inc booth.

He had me sign a piece of paper to get the right signature. I think that I wrote it about 40 times to get the feel and look that is most consistent with how I usually sign my work. The 10th signature ended up being the one that I used.

He then scanned the chosen signature into a computer and resized to my specifications. He then engraved the stamp and added a nice wooden handle. I am really happy with the results. It stamps beautifully- wet, leather hard, and even a little past leather hard all come out clearly and easily. If I want another stamp- smaller or larger, I can have the same signature, just resized. If you have some other sort of mark, it would work as well- whether you have it as a digital image already, or you have Todd scan it in for you.

I’ve tried to figure out a good signature stamp for years. I don’t like the chunkiness of a clay stamp for my signature, and the fragility always worried me. Rubber stamps are easy to have made, but they aren’t deep enough or firm enough for stamping the bottom of a trimmed, leather hard piece. This stamp seems to be a good alternative.
Take a look at the results:

The flashing from the soda kiln on the bottom of this plate could not have been any more picture perfect!

I have always felt that it is important for me to sign my work. Here are some thoughts on signing or not signing pots…

  • It is an historical record of the maker. There are lots of books about the marks on old pots. I’m not saying that my mark is going to end up in a book, but the idea of being able to figure out who made a pot, a print or a painting is still interesting to me. Having a clear and identifiable signature would make that much easier.
  • I own several pots by different potters that aren’t signed (or it’s hard to make out). When I bought them, I remembered clearly who made them, but as time has passed, some of those names have left me. If I wanted more work by the same artist, I’d sort of have to wait to come upon it again at a gallery.
  • Ceramics Monthly has started including the stamp or mark of each of the ceramic artists that are featured in their magazine. This seems to be some sort of recognition of the importance of the stamp even in contemporary ceramics (as opposed to the historical documentation that I talked about above).
  • The Potter’s Council is asking for potter’s to send in their marks to create an archive of stamps and signatures. They can be sent to: Jennifer Poellet, 735 Ceramic Place, Suite 100, Westerville, OH, 43081.
  • Over time my signature or stamp have changed and evolved. All clearly are by the same maker, but it is a way that I can sort of “date” my pieces, without actually recording a date on them.
  • I come from a family of artists, and the bold signature of MURPHY is something of a common occurrence on our work. Here is my dad’s signature (Jim Murphy) from one of his paintings:

I think that this blog entry will be the first of many about signing work. There is much more to talk about. I’d love to hear your ideas about signing or not signing pottery, or what your method is.

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12 thoughts on “A Potter’s Mark: Signing Pots

  1. Why stop at your last name?
    How about:

    1. Your web/e-mail address.
    2. Brief pot info: food safe?, cone X fired?, clay type?, glazes used?
    3. Personalized message to the buyer, if possible.

  2. Don’t know if this character will show up, but it is the kanji I stamp my pots with:

    Lit is Li in Japanese, as close as you can get to Lee. It means plum tree and is pronounce Ri in Korean. My favorite pottery is Korean Yi. Yi is the same character.

  3. have to tell you a true story. i visited a large craft show and found a neat stoneware plaque of three birds, mom pop and baby. the potter’s name was bird and i was giving it to a friend for christmas. their name was also bird.

    when i noticed after getting it home that it was not signed and knowing how my friend valued signed work, i signed it in magic marker. iknow, i know it was a crime.

    when my friend unwrapped the item, she said it was just right and immediately turned it over to see the signature. THEN, she smiled at me.

  4. Thank you so much for the information! I have really good friends who are starting to think about stamping their work. I’ve passed the link on to them already!

  5. Thank you so much for the information! I have some really good friends who are starting to think about marking their pottery so this was just perfect. I’ve passed the link on already!

  6. i think some of the magic is the ability to actually ‘hand sign’ the item. i have never seen a notable ceramic artist in japan use a stamp… except the production, no name stuff…

  7. Greetings Emily and Jim! Thank you so much for keeping Clay Stamps out here on the blog. We are still making lots of Custom Stamps for potters all over the world. Sincerely; LeRoy Grubbs

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