I have mixed feelings about grading my work. I love that grades relate how I feel about any one of my pieces. On the other hand I dislike grading in that what really matters is how someone else feels about a piece. It’s all so subjective. My only consolation is that I absolutely refuse to require that a piece’s price be determined solely by grade. All of that said, over the past twenty-five years my grading system has evolved and simplified into four grade levels and one special designation. There is also a special heightened grade for pieces made from Caneel, Bali, and Simba. They are as follows.
PREFECT: this is the base level. They are often smaller simple shapes. They share the same level of craftsmanship as higher grade pieces. If they didn’t they would never leave my shop. With the Prefect grade there is reduced pricing. There are no seconds.
MIKADO: this is the majority of my work from freehands to the myriad of re-occurring shapes that I have created over the years. Pieces are mostly more aesthetically complex and are most representative of what I do. When I create a Mikado grade piece there is a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
DYNASTY: Dynasty grade piece make up maybe ten percent of my work. The Dynasty standard is a simple one. There is absolutely nothing I would change about the piece if I could. It is a “perfect” example of what it should be and what I set out to do.
APEX: only one, maybe two pieces a year earn this grade. Some years there are none. Put quite simply, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The tamper takes on a life of its own. It’s hard to describe but I know it when I see it.
ULTRA: this is the single heightened grade used for pieces made from the very rare Caneel, Bali, and Simba materials. It is the equivalent of an Apex grade for these three very special materials.
GEM DESIGNATION: this secondary designation can be applied to any grade piece. It’s applied most often to smaller pieces, but, size is not a limiting factor.
It’s for when a piece, to my eye, has a special gemlike quality. Another case of knowing it when I see it.