From a statement from The Marks Project:
For the first time, ceramic artists have a place to call their own.
Martha Vida, creator and director of the nonprofit The Marks Project. States that In 1988, it was estimated there were 10,000 American studio ceramists whose work and marks were undocumented, “We are filling that void.”
Above image: Rudy Autio, Hippodrome (signature detail), 1994, Margaret Pennington Collection. Photograph by John Polak
Today, the unregistered marks of ceramic artists are likely to number in the tens of thousands. The Marks Project will whittle down that figure by providing an online research tool to aid in the identification and attribution of the marks, signatures, back stamps, chops etc. of American studio ceramists working during the period 1946 to the present day. Vida explains:
“There is neither a dictionary of marks nor any other tool available to assist in attribution of the marks of American studio ceramic objects of the period The Marks Project will cover,” public collections rarely have the resources to make photographic records of the artists’ marks or of the identifying characteristics of the studio ceramics in their collections.”
The idea of encouraging artists to register their marks to establish their authorship of work has enthusiastic support from a range of artists, educators and curators. Meredith Chilton, Acting Chief Curator of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, describes The Marks Project as “…a truly usable site [where] the artists and their marks are easy to find and the depth of information is excellent and extremely useful for research.”
Vida is encouraging ceramics departments at universities across the country to emphasize the importance of The Marks Project to the future viability of a career in the ceramic arts and she hopes ceramics programs will make registry part of their Professional Practices requirement. Educator and artist, Susan Beiner, Associate Professor at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona has her mark registered at themarksproject.org and says, “The Marks Project is a way for ceramic graduate students in my seminar class to begin their career by making their work easily identified and collected over the years of their career. In these days when genres and trends are the defining influence, TMP becomes a way for a student to create a brand and date their works from the beginning.”
“The advantages of registering marks with TMP,” Donald Clark, Project Manager, notes, “are greater accessibility to the buying public, a greater possibility of being discovered by curators and gallerists, consideration and inclusion in exhibitions, direct acquisitions, and commissions.”
“Determining authorship can be quite a challenge requiring exhaustive staff time and institutional resources to conclusively identify the maker and determine value for a museum’s collection,” says Beth McLaughlin, Curator at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. “The Marks Project is sure to streamline this process and help support our curatorial and acquisition activities.”
At its core, The Marks Project is a legacy database. Donna Corbin, Associate Curator of the Philadelphia Museum of Art calls it “a valuable resource in understanding the work of individual artists enabling historians to tell more accurately this chapter of ceramic history.”
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