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signatures and stuff--but long

updated tue 13 feb 01


Lili Krakowski on mon 12 feb 01

When I started out, although neither of my teachers, of blessed memory,
was Japanese, or had been trained in Japan or ever had met Bernard Leach,
we as students assumed that The Unknown Craftsman bit was the way to go!!!
Well of course, many of us did remain unknown craftsmen ! Whoopdidoo.

>From the get go my husband thought this stupid. I realized soon enough
how right he was.

For one the Unknown Craftsmen of the past were NOT unknown. They lived in
small places, in very circumscribed worlds, they generally worked
communally in the workshop of a Master, their work was sold at fairs where
everyone knew that this load had to come from Master So&So's shop and so
on. In other words their anonymity was not really "true"; there were
plenty of clues that would lead a buyer to the right village and so on.
Even if some eccentric anchorite (is that redundant?) made pots, as soon
as they were out in the world someone would say "Ah yes; made by that
anchorite at X convent."

Other times, smaller world.

Then, my husband pointed out, there is a tremendous false modesty
involved. Because when you do not sign what you are saying is:" I am so
superior, so unique, that anyone worthwhile will recognize my work!!!!"

Many women have married and been widowed or divorced and then remarried
and kept on using their no-longer-applicable surname because it already
was their established name /business name.

I have name stamps in different sizes to use on different size pots. On
very small ones I need to apply the stamp to the outside of the foot not
the bottom of the pot. I also use a stamp with a turtle decoratively--
on the end of some pulled handles, and as sole signature for pots I make
as gifts, where I add a stamp with a crane on it. Those familiar with
crane and turtle know they represent a Japanese good luck wish.

If indeed your name is not rare, add something else; a symbol--a turtle?-

Buttons make good stamps and you can get buttons for children's clothes
decorated with a relief cat or anchor or somesuch. Or carve your own.
Remember. If you carve it into plaster and take an imprint, fire the
imprint and push it into clay which you fire, and again use to imprint,
your seal gets smaller and smaller. YOU DO NOT have to carve it small
enough for final use.

The point --for all those who worry about what your pots say--is that the
clear siognature will say: I am the one who made this. I am proud of my
work. This is a clue to how to beat a path to my door. It also will help
the Christmas help who does NOT have the delight of knowing you identify
your work/you to a customer who would like to know a bit about you.

Which brings me to: What does your work say? Who knows?
When the piece leaves your hand it should mean a great deal to you; either
that you have been a production potter for 40 years and this is pot
that you made this pot as one in a series that involve some deep thought
that is occupying you.

We all pot for such different reasons! And if you think that what you
mean to say will be "heard" by the buyer ...Yah, well, sure. Most buyers
come in wanting to spend as litle as possible on as impressive as possible
a gift as they can find; or because there is this leak in the siding that
the contractor can't fix without removing all the siding and windows
and roofing on that side (you are looking at $15,000 here) because the
leak keeps peeling the paint on a particularly high-visibility window
sill. So your wonderful, meaningful platter, that represented a
full-moonlit Summer night with Very Significnt Other on the banks of a
lake, becomes a disguise for a stained window sill.

As my friend Mary says: Get a grip; get over it.

Pots are an extension of all you are, what you stand for, what you want
them to be. If that particular blue looks great on someone's bathroom
shelf, and they would have bought anyone-just-anyone's pot if it
were the right color, see "Mary" above. C'est la vie.

Lili Krakowski