I’ve been throwing pottery for ~19 years. Since 2006 I’ve kept a journal of my pieces to help me track them through the multi-staged process and remember what I’ve done for each piece.
I started doing this when I was throwing in teaching studios to track pieces going in and out of the kilns. In teaching and community studios everyone’s dry pieces get put in the same rack to get bisque fired. If you didn’t keep a record of what pieces you had getting fired you would lose them! Similarly everyone’s glazed pieces would get put on the same rack before getting glaze fired which could take many weeks and it was easy to forget what you had coming out of the kilns.
I quickly started adding what glazes I used on each pieces as well, so if something came out particularly good, or bad, I could remember what I had done for next time.
Since I’ve become a home potter I’ve also started keeping track of the clays I’m using. This was less of an issue when working with teaching or community studios where they often only have one white/porcelain and one blush.
As an example, here is a small bowl that I threw recently and the markings on the bottom:
The stylized K (actually a K made with a C — KC, get it?) is my potter’s mark so I know that piece is mine. The pot has the year it was made and a number that I increment for every piece in the year. This was the 18th piece I threw in 2021.
Here’s the journal entry for the piece in the 2021 section:
My handwriting is horrible, but it includes the number (18), a short description (small bowl with foot), the clay (SEA Mix 5), the dates that it went into the bisque (BI), out of the bisque (BO), a missing date for when it went into the glaze fire (GL), and a final date when I got the finished piece back (F). Perhaps most importantly it includes the glazes that I used (Snow with a splash of Mulberry under) and what I thought of it (Lovely!).
Pieces get added to the journal after they’ve been successfully trimmed since that’s when their life really begins.
While the journal is for me, one of the side benefits is that I will often encounter a bowl that I made for someone and turn it over to see when I made it. And while it’s rare, there have been times where I’ve wanted to replicate (or try to replicate, this is pottery, let’s be realistic) the glazing of a piece and I’ve had the records to duplicate it.
I also laugh at myself thinking that sometime in the far future some art historian will be cataloging my pieces and be able to quip with gusto “oh, a 2013 — this was his black on porcelain period”!