What’s in a Signature?

Apparently, quite a lot! Rich started out throwing pots at New Mexico State University in 1978. He signed his first pots with a crudely scratched name on the bottom. He found out quickly that the clay tatters from scratching were sometimes rough enough to scratch a table surface. So, he switched to using a brush to sign “RICH” in iron oxide on the bottom of every pot. This technique worked well through many decades of potting…until one day last Fall when Rich thought he’d go back to his roots and scratch a signature in the bottom. When questioned about it, he said “No special reason, I just wanted to switch things up a bit.”

At last Fall’s craft fairs, a number of people came into the booth exclaiming—I found him! But the excitement faded when they flipped over a mug and saw, not “RICH” signed in iron oxide, but a barely visible scratched signature. After much explaining, folks realized this was indeed the same “Rich” whose mugs they had collected through the years. However, there was just about universal agreement that the distinctive rust-colored signature was preferred.

What’s a potter to do? The only logical answer was to go back to signing in iron oxide. And so–back by popular demand–all pots will henceforth be signed by the potter “RICH” in iron oxide. Now, what about all those mugs and bowls from last Fall that have a scratched signature? The best hope is that in about 20 years, owners of those pots will be richly rewarded for having unique collector’s pieces from Rich’s “neo-scratch” period : ) And if not, those mugs and bowls should still work pretty well for coffee and soup.

Rich Hepp: A Lifetime at the Wheel

Rich Hepp is a master in the art of wheel-thrown pottery. A native of New Mexico, he learned his craft at NM State University at Las Cruces. After graduating in 1979, he built his 4000 sf shop and home from adobe. From there he ran his pottery for almost 20 years before moving his shop to Pennsylvania in 2001.

Rich has recently returned to the Southwest where he reopened his pottery shop in the high-desert town of Concho, AZ. He continues his long tradition of creating beautiful, functional kitchenware featuring hot, molten glazes. Each piece is made from scratch and bears the distinctive look and feel of a one-of-a-kind work of art.