The signature 'Yuan' on this brush pot very likely refers to the official Liu Yuan (fig. 1), who served as the Minister of Justice during the Kangxi period. The Qing Court Collection contains a Duan inkstone inscribed with the signature 'Liu Yuan' with a Kangxi date followed by the seal 'Yuan' (fig. 3). The seal on this inkstone compares favourably to the one carved on the current brush pot. Interestingly, the inkstone is contained in a zitan wood box which is carved on the cover with an inscription and the seal 'Yuan' (fig. 4). The calligraphic style on the wood box is almost identical to that of the inscription on the current brush pot, and was mostly likely written by the same hand. The resemblance of the seals and calligraphy found on the inkstone, wood box and the current brush pot is a strong indicator that they are related and refer to the Qing dynasty official Liu Yuan. The inkstone is now in the Palace Museum Collection and illustrated in The Four Treasures of the Study - Writing Paper and Inkstones, Hong Kong, 2005, pl. 62.
Liu Yuan was known to be an accomplished painter and calligrapher. Several of his paintings are now kept in the Beijing Palace Museum, such as (fig. 2). According to Qing shi gao, 'Manuscript of Qing History', published during the early Republic period, Liu Yuan devised several hundreds of design of Imperial porcelain pieces following the re-opening of the official kilns in Jingdezhen during the Kangxi period. According to another source Zaiyuan zazhi, written by Liu Tingji who was a contemporary of Liu Yuan, many of the scholar's objects and works of art made for use in the Imperial household were in fact designed by Liu Yuan, including ink, lacquer, porcelain and wood carvings.
From the sources above, it is possible to deduce that Liu Yuan was an extremely talented 'designer', who was the mastermind behind many of the works of art made for the inner court. The current brush pot, which bears an inscription and seal of Liu Yuan, is also very likely to have been designed by him as reflected by the well-balanced composition and intricate rendition of the details.