Lesson One, Stamp Carving

I’ve tried to carve stamps a few times before, but I never had the right materials. I used corks and erasers and an xacto knife, and none of them looked great. When Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (whose website is a literal treasure trove of info) released her book Carve, Stamp, Play, I knew it was the stamp book for me. I’ve had the book and the supplies for about a year already, and this is the first time I have carved any stamps.

I had a 4×6 piece of rubber that had a corner taken off of it for some reason, so I decided I was going to carve as many stamps out of what was left as I could. I started with the first lesson which was carving a simple heart. You draw or transfer the design to the rubber and then color in either what is staying or what you want to cut out. For the heart, I just drew it then marked out what to cut away. There was actually very little carving with the speedball carver because you basically just cut the whole outside off.

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Then I had this little corner piece and I improvised a corner stamp with it. Also, I made a repeating pattern stamp.

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I had to use a few different sizes of carving blade to do the repeating pattern one. The yellow is the first printing and there was a lot left to carve – you can see the extra lines. That is the look you want if you want a faux-woodcut, I think (which I like and will probably do often). I carved off more rubber and then printed in green. There is still a little that could be taken off, but in general I’m happy with it now. You see how you just join them up and they make a repeating pattern?

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I can see that learning to carve thinner lines will be a challenge. You can see how much more finely carved Julie’s repeating pattern is. Mine is kind of clunky, which is a style that I like, but I don’t want to always make big clunky stuff just out of laziness. And there are a lot of stamps she shows that are very intricate and would need careful carving to be able to see the design.

I really enjoyed the process of carving the stamps. It was very meditative, like some people say they find zentangling or knitting. I think after making these three stamps I can carve an alphabet no problem. What I would really like to make are these interlocking stamps – you see in the upper right corner how there are three stamps to make the woman print (hair, shading and line)?

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I have five more 4×6 rubber blocks, so my goal will be to carve it all within the next week or so, and hopefully I will understand the process pretty well by that time. I can tell that this is something I could be good at and will want to incorporate into my work in some way.

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