Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Makers Mark

Hi everyone,

For some time now, I have been trying to come up with some unique makers mark or cartouche to put on my work. I find that my signature can be a bit large, especially on silhouettes and other smaller pieces. I also feel like my work falls more philosophically in the fine-craft than the fine art category and I really like the decorative marks on fine furniture and ceramics.

I have studied craftsmen art and furniture for a few years now. I recently had the opportunity to visitn the JMW Gallery in Boston. I've seen the MFA and METs collection of Arts and crafts furniture and decorative arts, and JMW easily has a larger collection- and its all for sale. If you can afford it (I can't).

I've discussed it before (about a year ago on this blog), but I really love the aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) movement, and I am also am blown away be the entire philosophy that surrounds the movement. Essentially, the A&C period focused on a guild-like work structure where masters taught apprentices. The earliest craftsman pieces were extremely medieval in appearance.

Overtime, the movement developed it's own sense of style and focused on the use of simple materials (wood, metal, glass, leather, paper, ceramics) and craftsman skill. The kicker was that their work was so incredibly, unbelievably difficult to make, and they deliberately made things harder than they need to be simply to show that the work of a fine craftsman was something to be seen, appreciated, and celebrated. You can see this in Craftsman architecture where beams and support structure are exposed and over-complicated, yet still maintaining a clean look. You can also see this in furniture were joints and pegging is both exposed and emphasized to show the skills of its creator.

At this time (1880-1930) the Industrial Revolution was really moving into high gear producing goods cheaply and quickly. The Craftsman movement was a deliberate reaction to this loss of appreciation for hand-made goods, and presents this idea with an emphasis on exposed skill.

The furniture and decorative arts of this period have clean lines, simple decorations, earth tones, and most importantly, done as difficultly as humanly possible.

I've struggled for some time with where exactly my work falls- is it fine art, fine craft, or folk art? I think it's not really any of them and all of them at the same time. How's that for a cop-out? Seriously though, I find that my work next to paintings will never be appreciated by the general public as an equally-respected medium/style. Also, next to a beautiful raku urn or Roycroft desk my work may seem like simple wall-art. Plus, I have deliberately avoided the traditional folk art styles of historic papercutters.

So, what to do? I'm treating my work as a Fine Craft you hang on your wall like a painting. All great Craftsman artist have makers marks, and I've been wanting to create one that I can use to easily identify my work. I love antiques roadshow, and makers marks are seriously one of the best parts of the show. "Well, this would normally be a simple well-made oak desk, but this "R" in an urn makers mark indicates it was made by the Roycroft Craftsmen and is worth $30,000".

I really wanted to show the craftsman influences and ideas behind my work and was leaning for a while for a picto-gram, but couldn't come up with a plant or animal that significantly meant something important to me. My name wasn't especially symmetrical, however after playing with it for a while and using traditional Craftsman fonts, I came up with my very first makers mark. Drum roll please:

I'm going to keep it approximately 1/2 inch in size on the piece. I usually sign next to the piece, and I really shouldn't do that in case in the future it has to be re-mounted, the signature will be separate from the papercutting. No good. As soon as I get a white archival pen I will start marking my pieces with this mark, and signing the back of the papercut with my full signature. It won't be visible unless unmounted, but I think people always like to know their art holds secrets.

Wow, that was incredibly long and rambling. I need more coffee!


Mystey Artist said...
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Jessica said...

Wow Joe! I love the makers mark! What a great idea!