Each handcrafted piece by MacKenzie-Childs has a unique signature of its own, since no two pieces are the same. That is what makes MacKenzie-Childs unique. The evidence of an artisan's hand is highly prized by collectors, and defines every piece MacKenzie-Childs creates. The letters on the bottom of your piece is an artisan's stamp or mark, which shows his or her contribution to the piece. In some cases, the contribution is a stage in the process, as in ceramics and in others, the application of decorative surface treatment may be the start-to-finish responsibility of one artisan.
Though every piece is handcrafted and decorated, not every piece has a stamp. Some products (like furniture) have a colored dot to indicate the completion of a stage of the process by the artisan.
Whether it has a stamp or not, every piece produced at MacKenzie-Childs carries the signature individuality of the artisans who created it.
Artisan stamps usually include two letters of the artisan's initials. The ink used for stamping is a potter's ink, which is made from the same materials as the glazed used in applying decorations. After it's fired, the ink becomes permanent. There might be a single initial on your piece, which is used by an artisan in training in the Decorating department. Upon completion of training, the artisan will receive and use a two initial stamp.
Most pieces are stamped. Small pieces, such as finials, may not be stamped by the decorator as the stamp overpowers the delicate decoration on the piece.
If you own an older piece of MacKenzie-Childs, turn it over and you might be able to identify the date range of its creation.
In the Spring of 1988, after moving one mile up the road and what is MacKenzie-Child's present production studio, stamping/initializing was stopped altogether. Stamping soon returned and the following is a rough timeline of the changes that have occurred over the years.
1989-1991 The decorators were identified by stylized single letter stamps embedded into the soft clay during the finishing process.
1991-1992 The decorators were identified by a single block letter embedded into the soft clay during the finishing process.
1992-1994 The decorators marked pieces during the decorating process by applying a small dot of color onto the glaze near the exposed terracotta foot of the piece. Each decorator used a different color.
1994-1995 The decorators hand-painted a small single initial onto the glaze next to the exposed terracotta using a brush and black stain. The single initial was either the first initial of their first name or the first initial of their last name.
1995-present Due to the inconsistent size and look of the hand painted initial, the decorators began using rubber stamps with two initials.
Stamps and Stages
Stamps are applied during the finishing process. The stamp will include the year in which the piece was made followed by the initials of the artisan responsible for performing the finishing of the piece. The initials are usually embedded into the piece while the clay is still damp and soft. If the clay is too dry for an embedded stamp, a black ink stamp is used instead.
The following initials are used for the Slip Cast process: 2014 JT 2014 JB 2014 SH 2014 CD
The following initials are used for the Ram Press process: 2014 LS 2014 SB 2014 PR 2014 WR
For the Glazing Department, stamps are applied directly to the bisque as a black ink stamp. The stamp is the artisan's initials only. The following initials used for the glazing processes (both hand-dipped and spray applications): JS JB MJ
For the Pottery Decorating Department, the black ink stamp is used. It includes the artisan initials only, and is applied to the unfired glaze next to the foot of the piece where the glaze and terracotta meet. The pottery decorator initials are the only initials that appear on the glaze. All other initials are applied to the terracotta. Pottery decorators stamp on the glaze as, at this point in the production process, wax has been applied to the exposed bisque during the glazing process, making stamping on the bisque impossible. Decorator initials will appear on bisque for those pieces which do not have wax applied during the glazing process or if the decoration is applied after the kiln firing. The following initials are used for the Pottery Decorating process: EW------DH------DJ SC------AH------CK RD------MS------CS JC------CR------VP JB------NG------JQ
For the Decal/Transfer Department, the black ink stamp is used. The artisan's initials are applied to the terracotta during the decal application. The following initials are used for the decal/transfer process: DH
For the Lustre Department, the black ink stamp is used. The artisan's initials are applied to the exposed terracotta of the piece during the lustre application. The following initials are current for the lustre application process: CK
For Quality Control, the artisan responsible for reviewing the quality of the piece will black ink stamp their initials on the exposed terracotta once the inspection of the piece has been completed. The following initials are used for the inspection process: KS