The Chop Challenge

Last week there was quite a buzz among the Postmark’d Art group about Chops. No, not the kind you eat, the kind you use to sign your art. Jane Davila had a wonderful story she shared about obtaining one while she was teaching in Korea earlier this year. That prompted the question of where one could find someone to make a chop right here in the United States. Sherry Boram found an on-line source which she shared; Kay Laboda found an article on-line with great history and how-to information and a second site which details how to carve your own Chop. Then Sherry remembered that Marjorie DeQuincy uses a Chop to sign all her fabric postcards. “So Marjorie,” wrote Sherry, “do you know any place on your side of the country for Chop-hungry artists to get their fix?”

Well, that did it for me. Marjorie lives near me so I picked up the phone and had a long chat with her about obtaining a Chop in China town in San Francisco. As always, Marjorie had all the inside skinny for me.

Armed with her insights, my husband and I headed to San Francisco last Wednesday morning. We landed parking on the street (unheard of!) and walked by these charming sea creatures. Not there strictly for aesthetic beauty, they keep the skate boarders from battering the cement structure they are on. Note the more blah fixtures on the cement structure just beyond the turtles.

I haven’t been to The City to explore for some time so I detoured to stop by the Ferry Building to see what they had that I couldn’t live without.

Bingo. . . I found a bottle of Sherry vinegar that I’ve been searching for. The trip was already a success! The Ferry Building is such an icon of this city. And so is the view behind the building — the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Onward…Marjorie was explicit about walking straight up Grant Street, the tourist entry to China town. Here we are at Grant and Bush Streets.

Just two blocks up the street I came across Vincent Zhao seated at a card table in front of 555 Grant Ave. He was working on a painted name piece for a woman named Colleen. His sign said $1 per letter but when he finished he announced, “Three dollars, please.” She got a deal! My turn. I told Vincent what I was looking for and selected the Rooster blank from his inventory on the table. I paid $30 for the Chop and a dragon’s blood stamp pad and agreed to return after having some lunch.

Just a little further we came across the Four Seas Restaurant. The menu looked interesting — Chinese cuisine plus dim sum. When I stepped inside the entry to the steep stairway that lead to the restaurant I saw this plaque and decided it was worth a try:

It was Wednesday so we assumed that the hubbub from the rear dining room was the Rotary Club. Another sign at the reception area said that the restaurant has been there since 1960. How could we go wrong? The food and service were good. And there was a delightful group — 40 elementary students plus four adults — dining when we arrived. The whole dining room joined in on Happy Birthday when it was sung for one of the students. When they left, they were in single file and alphabetical order, making it easy for the adults to ensure everyone was accounted for. Amazing.

When we were done with lunch I was eager to get back to Vincent to see what my Chop looked like. And here it is:


and the set:

and Vincent:

As we were leaving China town I noticed this window display:

I know that the color red is considered good fortune but sleeping pigs? I’ll have to look into this.

I’m glad I took the Chop challenge and I can’t wait to use my Chop!

8 replies
  1. maureenc
    maureenc says:

    Franki
    How come you didn’t adopt one of those sleeping pigs! They’re gorgeous.
    I wonder if Chinatown (Brisbane ) or more specifically Fortitude Valley might have some chop makers……and the pigs.

    • Franki Kohler
      Franki Kohler says:

      Oh, yes! Those pigs caught my eye big time. But with two dogs at home I decided to let sleeping pigs lie.

  2. jennyklyon
    jennyklyon says:

    What a great day in SF! This is intriguing to me-I want to see your next piece, with its Chop.

  3. Suzanne Lucy
    Suzanne Lucy says:

    Hi Franki…great post about chops! I’m visiting my son in San Francisco next month and will be heading to find Vincent. My questions to you are…did you design your chop ahead of time or did you just leave it up to him to design one for you? And what is the size…looks like around 1″ square? Both my husband and my son are potters, so I think we’ll all be getting one!

    • Franki Kohler
      Franki Kohler says:

      I’m so glad to hear you got some inspiration from my post! I knew what I wanted before I spoke with Vincent. My initials are the left side and the right side is my name phonetically spelled in Chinese. The chop is 3/4″ square. I meant to share that in my post — thanks for asking!

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