I said that I would tell you about the mark on my owl piece, down by the trunk.
That little mark is my cipher, my signature. It consists of the three initial letters of my name and the last two digits of the year in which I finish a piece. The first and last letters ‘H’ and ‘M’ follow the lines of the middle letter ‘A’ and share the legs of the ‘A’. This makes the grouping follow a curve.
Rule #1: Always sign your work. It will help identify your oeuvre – your body of work – all that you have made. It will help future generations to be able to say, ‘yes, that was my great-grandmother’s piece’ or historians to catalogue the place and time period. Think of all those ancient samplers we have where we know the creator and from that we learn so much about her era and how frustrating it is not to have this information.
To design your own mark, first decide what you want it to say. Putting the year or even the month and year is a good start. Next choose how you want to identify yourself. Initials only, first name, full name, a nickname? To get ideas for fonts, open your word processing program, input your letters and try out some different styles. A Google image search for monograms can give you plenty of suggestions of ways to group your initials. You can now use graph paper to play with your ideas, like I’ve done here. (Please excuse the wrinkled paper – one of my cats sat on it.)
Remember that even on a large embroidery your cipher will be quite small. On the owl, mine is about 1cm by 1 cm (just less than 1/2 an inch) while the whole piece is 11 1/2 cm (4 1/2 inches) and on the black coffin, each part is only 1/2 cm (0.2″) wide by 1/2 – 2/3 cm high. The coffin itself is only 7 cm (2.8 “) long, and the panel which houses the cipher is 2.5 cm (1″) x 2 cm (0.8”), which should give you some idea of the size ratio.
Note, however, that while my signature is obvious when you are looking for it, it is subtle enough to disappear when you look at the overall piece. The colours match the background or fade into the piece.
Now that I’ve given you my ideas on ciphers, have a look at Helen M. Steven’s gallery and you’ll see her unique signature. She doesn’t follow my rules at all! While she puts her whole name and the cipher is fairly large and it is in a contrasting colour to the background, it is never distracting. It is just like the way a painter signs their work.
Here’s my cipher from the black coffin I did earlier.
This one is just my first initial and the year. I use whichever of the two designs works best on the piece. My signature is always subtle and doesn’t distract from the main embroidery, but it is always there. You work hard on your embroidery or quilts or whatever you make. Make sure that it’s signed.