why I don't use a makers mark
Many spooncarvers go through this rite of passage called finding a makers mark. The idea is that it is a way to sign your work so that people will know it was you that made a particular spoon (or bowl or whatever). Potters do it. Painters do it. I think it is a load of bunk.
At best I find the marks a mild distraction. At worst, I feel like it is symptomatic of a territoriality that marks the spooncarving community. I am sure it is not limited to spooncarvers (for instance I have found the same pissing matches in the scything community), and I deeply hope that as a community we can create a culture where credit is given where it is due but is not demanded. This is a tricky thing, and I have been on both sides of this scenario. I recently failed to give Pat Diette due for a term for wood that has sat around in the log for awhile. He let me know that he felt strongly that I give him credit for the term, largely as an opportunity for folks to learn that he exists. On the other side of that coin, I was asked by a prominent spooncarver if I would make him some blanks which he would then finish and sell. I said I would, provided he mentioned (not every time, just once, in some way) that I had made the blanks. He pushed back and ultimately backed away from the deal. This whole thing left me feeling upset, since it is one thing to fail to acknowledge an idea or shape that you are trying out; it is a whole other thing to fail to acknowledge someone else's work that went into what you do.
Now, as a general rule I am not territorial. I borrow ideas from other makers and expect others to borrow from me and I am fine with that. I don't consider any ideas as being unique to me. Perhaps because of this, I feel like my spoons should go out into the world without a mark. Because ultimately, I am just their beginning. A good spoon has a life that has nothing to do with me. It does what it was made to do, and the relationship built with it and around it are not my story, and usually one I will never know. I don't need to insert myself into that. The act of carving a spoon (and getting paid for it) is the important thing, not the spoon itself.
I would hazard a prediction that what our movement needs is fewer makers marks, not more of them. Fewer designs that are off limits, fewer areas where we need to tread lightly, afraid to ruffle the feathers of someone more linked into the scene. And I would also predict that if we let all of this go, if we stop scrabbling out little territories and carving our name into the barks of trees to say we were here, that our work would be the better for it. I like to think that my work is recognizable because of a million details and an overall gestaldt, not because I sign it. This recognizable style doesn't come from setting out to carve something that is my own style. It is setting out to carve what works, over and over and over again, exploring, tweaking, never thinking I've locked it in, but always pushing forward towards simplicity and function and elegance. It is born of the process and the history of my process. There are no shortcuts to this. You just have to cut your way through.
6/27/2017 09:35:15 pm
HA! This is really funny to read Emmet. At least the part about me asking you to sell me blanks you were offering for sale. I just wanted you to make them to a shape I'd prefer.
6/28/2017 03:26:49 am
Thanks for the response Jarrod. I am sure that we were not seeing eye to eye, and had we approached that conversation from a different starting point we might have come to a different conclusion. I am sorry if I left you feeling as upset as I was. I don't ever think that killing a hero gets anyone anywhere, and I don't feel starving for attention. I do think that I am hustling to make a living for my family: I don't do this exclusively, but the stuff I post on Instagram does account for three quarters of my income, between the carving and the scything and the teaching and the tree farm. So yeah, I mention that I have things to offer, because I have not been around long enough to be a hub of the wheel like you.
6/29/2017 06:11:35 pm
Wow. Two terrific posts in one! I think you both have excellent points and I have even more respect for you both. And I could figure out which Jarrod this was from the prickly fine, part off his appeal. I enjoy both your works.
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