Ceramics Chop Mark

Visualizing mirror images is tough work. I remember a lovely moment, though, when, as a child, I attended my great-grandfather’s 90th birthday party on a bright, sunny day in Montana. His wife Minnie, my step-great-grandmother, showed me how to draw on a piece of paper using only the reflection of pencil and paper in a mirror. I couldn’t look down to see what I was drawing. It was hard but intriguing. To this day, I think Minnie was great because she took the time to show me this method of drawing and she knew something this neat. Somewhat related, I have difficulty visualizing a potter’s stamp, a reverse image. The stamp, also known as a chop, is something I want to use to ‘sign’ things I make. Interestingly, when I saw my father’s signature on a painting several years ago, I noticed that he used the exact same design. J.P.: same initials, too.  Frankly, it looks sort of like a cattle brand, but it’s striking and I’ve used it on all my artwork, clay, paint, or pencil, since I was a teenager. I looked at some of my old work and there it is…hasn’t changed a bit. Thus far, I’ve never made a chop. I can tell now that I’m going to have to sketch my stylized signature, look at it in a mirror, then draw what I see in order to get my reverse image because I just can’t visualize it. My stamp must be durable and I guess I’d better make more than one and several different sizes. And also make it as ergonomic as I can. ‘Chop’ is a colloquial Chinese term for ‘seal.’ I love looking at beautiful examples of calligraphy, then scanning the bottom left for the cinnabar border filled with Chinese characters, the artist’s signature. I have a lovely chop made of variegated soapstone, gold and red-orange. There is a lion carved on the top and it’s three inches long and one inch wide. I’ve moved it around with me since the 1970s and I love it. I suppose I could have my signature carved into it and use it for clay, but I’ve gotten so used to seeing it on the shelf of my secretary that I’d miss it. Best to make them out of clay, stick to the same medium. It seems like there are several ways to approach a stamp for clay work: symbolism, literalness, artistic design, legibility, language. I’ll go with my old standby that’s held me in good stead.

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About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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