Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Hand Carved Stamps 2006 to Now

I decided to share all my hand carved stamps to date as I realized I’ve never blogged that before.

I entered the world of hand carving stamps in the summer of 2006.

I wanted to try hand carving rubber stamps for quite a while. I was not seeing the supplies in my local craft stores. I had no idea what this would cost or how to get the supplies. I also was on a tight budget so although I know I could have gone looking for those supplies on the Internet I didn’t. With me and spending it is better to not “window shop” lest I make an impulsive purchase that I should not be buying anyway (if sticking to the budget).

One day I was in my local big box craft shop and suddenly saw they had a new shipment of some rubber stamp carving supplies. It was such a surprise! I happened to have a 50% off coupon in my hand and when I saw the beginner kit of tools and a 5x7 sheet of pink rubber could be had for $5.50 I bought it. The kit was by Speedball and included a small beginner’s instruction kit.

When I got home I got to work immediately. In the middle of making my first stamp my younger son approached and begged me to make him one. So in that first day I made two: the Connecticut love stamp and the Smiling Skull stamp.

The Connecticut love stamp originated because the first thing I did before carving was to open my mail. In the mail was a letter from La Leche League of Connecticut. Their letterhead contained a black design in the shape of the state. I used that at its original size as the template for my first stamp. I was also supposed to be making ATCs for a themed swap that was called “Proud of Where I Live” and I thought about how I’d always lived in Connecticut and I do love it here. (These feelings emerged when at one point we seriously thought we would have to move out of state for a new job for my husband.) Using the carving tool and my free hand I made the heart shape. I was going to carve it out completely but decided to leave it scratchy so that it was clear this was a hand carved stamp.

The second stamp made for my younger son was a Smiling Skull. I used for this design, a label from a Pirates of the Caribbean t-shirt that we had just bought. I left off the handkerchief headband. It was hard to make the teeth. I would never make this design for me but it is what he wanted. He was five years old at the time and he liked Pirates of the Caribbean and all things pirate related.

My next experiment was to take photos that I had taken, alter them in Photoshop to black and white and to increase the contrast so that they looked more like rubber stamp art. I then printed those off on my toner computer printer and used Citrasolv to do the transfer of the design onto the rubber. This worked excellently.

The carving of the photos was difficult. Remember this was my second day hand carving. Now that I look back on it I realize this was very ambitious of me.

I did the bust of my older son and that was fine.

When I did the bust of my younger son I slipped with the tool and cut off most of his smile. That stamp is ruined. I thought for this blog article I’d show it anyway.

My next stamp done the same week was my two boys standing up, again taken from a photo. The one of my older son came out great, I think, it is very accurate. The one of my younger son, I slipped with the tool and the smaller second foot disappeared. Oops.

Next I bought a sheet of the white Speedball rubber that is about 8x10 inches. Wow that carves so differently than the pink rubber. It is more buttery. It is also thicker and easy to put a stamp on each side if I wanted. I was only able to find this at Michael’s Craft Store and again used the discount coupon. Unfortunately after buying one sheet the store staff said they discontinued carrying it. It was odd as they had just started carrying it then quit.

I wanted to get a feel for carving in that rubber and being more at ease with the tools. I made the doodle of the curlicues which is something I doodle on paper all the time. I have used this to decorate envelopes with such as envelopes I use to swap out ATCs with.

At that time I did the face doodle stamp. I was inspired to carve my common doodles and this face is something I often doodle. The more I look at it, though, the more it bothers me that the woman’s eye has no eyelashes. Oh well. I have used this design on an ATC, printing on colored card stock and using colored ink and having this cover the whole ATC. I thought they looked good.

I wanted to play with carving words. “Simplify” is a word that has inspired me for years. I carved it then I just made the lines. Here I was still trying to get a feel for the tool.

I wanted a stamp that said Swap-bot on it to use on the envelope for my Swap-bot mail art swaps. That is why I did that stamp. I did make one slip on the “B” and so it is not perfect either.

The smiling face is another doodle I do without thinking about it. I decided I should hand carve this stamp to have a little fun and goofiness in my hand carved stamp supply. I like the guy. I left the extra lines to show this is a hand carved stamp.

I often doodle boxes, and have done so since middle school. Using a scrap of left over rubber, I carved the line of boxes.

On another scrap I did the little lips.

The thing that looks like a squiggle are my initials as I sign them when I have to initial something for legal purposes. I used a little scrap up and figured maybe I could use this on the label to my ATCs since at the time I was typing up a description of the ATC and adhering that to the back of my ATCs.

These last ones were done by my children. I have a hard time making art without the kids joining in. I will share that with regard to hand carving stamps I draw a line. These supplies were not in my budget and so to use them on my children is not a good thing. They often will start a project; make a simple mistake and then want to throw it out. Well the rubber is too expensive to just do that.

I do let them carve some at times. The rocket at the upper left was my older son’s first attempt where he forgot to transpose the number to be backwards in order for it to stamp right. He did the second one (middle, top) on another day. I think I helped him clean up the edges.

The one on the upper right was done by my younger son as his first attempt.

The one at the bottom (two stamped images) was done by my older son.

Over time a few things have happened. Sometimes I want to carve but have been so good about putting away my craft supplies that I have forgotten ‘the right place’ that I picked to put these supplies. Other times I had the itch to carve but didn’t have the blank rubber.

My local big box craft stores go in and out of carrying these supplies. When they have them and when I have a coupon in hand I would buy a blank rubber sheet. Right now I have the larger white Speedball one waiting to be carved.

There is a big difference between the white and pink Speedball sheets. The pink is more hard and dense. It is hard for me to get the carving tool to vary the thickness of the lines. I have to push quite hard just to make a decent carving. When I carve the lines are pretty shallow. When I use that same pressure and technique on the white rubber it is very different. The white rubber is more pliable and ‘buttery’. With just a bit of difference with the pressure I can go very deep or too deep. There is a big difference with the depth and width of the carving with very little pressure. The white rubber is easier to work with if you ask me. I do notice some crumbling on the edges of the white stamps after they are cut to size. Due to this I am leaving a bit of space there. The pink rubber is so tough that it is hard to cut the edges to be nice and clean, a small movement of the scissor can leave a ragged edge.

While at an independent rubber stamp store a few months ago I saw that they carry the Strathmore big, thick white sheet. They sell it for $35 which was out of my budget ranger. I have read that this is the best quality rubber to carve on and that it truly is like butter. I have also read that this brand does not break off or crumble at the edges. As with everything, quality is key and I will pine for a sheet of this rubber.

I would have hand carved more art stamps if I had the supplies. I am not afraid of this process and I enjoy thinking about which designs would translate into rubber stamp art well. I plan to continue hand carving rubber stamps and hope that my skills improve over time!

How great would it be to have unlimited money supplies to just buy all the art supplies I think I want and to have it all at my disposal? It would be heavenly. I feel that I have not carved as much as I would due to not having the supplies to do the projects.

Now that I have uncovered from my supply stash, my carving tools and the blank sheet of rubber (they were stored separately) I am planning to make some new designs. I am thinking of doing an alphabet in a larger size than the stamps I have that were store bought. I’d use them in my journaling and maybe also on fabric to decorate t-shirts with.

I have not been to the big box craft stores since before Christmas. I wonder if the stores are back to carrying hand carving supplies or not….

I have tried hand carving a few pink rubber erasers that I already owned. I found them very hard to work with. Some, I think, were dried out and I could not carve into them with my tools as they crumbled and the blade didn’t move across them “correctly”. Note these same blades work fine and great on the other rubber sheets. Other times due to the small size the tool was slipping and I almost cut my fingers by accident. So I am not a fan of carving on little erasers.

The book that was and still is my inspiration for hand carving stamps is “Art Stamping Workshop: Create Hand-Carved Stamps for Unique Projects on Paper, Fabric, Polymer Clay and More” by Gloria Page.

In order to get the code to include a link to this book on Amazon I went to the Amazon site and for the first time learned that Gloria Page is battling Cancer. Read more about it in this other blog entry of mine.

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christinemm said...

I received this by email from Cathy:

I love your stamps! Thanks for sharing.

christinemm said...

And Lissa emailed me this comment:

Thanks for sharing that. I especially love the stamp of the boy in
the striped shirt.