A lot of spoon carvers put their name, initials, or a maker’s mark on each spoon they make. I don’t. Here’s why.
First, signing each piece would add time to the production process without adding monetary value. I know that sounds crassly commercial, but I do this for regular income (on top of a regular, full-time job), so I have to economize on time wherever I can without compromising the integrity of the work. If I put more time into each spoon than I currently do, I have to either raise the price or earn less when I sell it. Most customers aren’t interested in paying a higher price for a signature.
More importantly, I have to ask myself who those initials are for. Who do I expect to read them and know whose name they stand for?
Not for me, certainly. I know my own work when I see it.
Are they for my customer? If my customer doesn’t remember where the spoon came from, then a couple initials aren’t going to help, and my full name is far too much work to put onto each spoon. Plus, I think a giant maker’s mark on a spoon handle just makes a handmade object look mass-produced. I have many repeat customers, and they find me when I show up at the same local markets again and again. (I also give out business cards for those who need a name to remember.) They remember the quality of the spoons themselves, and that brings them back.
What about future generations? If someone in a future generation does pick up a spoon I made, an initial might be an interesting clue to who made it, but even then, I think the craftsmanship should speak for itself. If some conservator two hundred years from now appreciates one of my spoons, it doesn’t matter if he or she knows my name. What matters is that he or she recognizes that my work is good and worthy of preservation. And in that case, a date (or at least a year) would be far more valuable to a conservator than initials.
I do sign larger pieces such as boxes, tables, and bookshelves. Because they take me longer to make, and because I’m seldom making them to sell, the minute it takes me to sign the piece doesn’t significantly add to the production time. I can also scrawl a signature and a year in an inconspicuous place, such as the bottom or back. With a spoon, there is no inconspicuous place, so a signature or maker’s mark must be carefully designed and neatly placed every single time.
If you’re a spoon maker and you sign your work, I’m not telling you to stop. I think it’s great that you can take the time to do that. If you feel it adds value to the work, please keep doing it. But don’t expect to see my name or initials, let alone a business logo, on any of my woodenware.