Faux Postage Trials, Part 4

The lovely Britta (of JaguarSnail) has found yet another potential faux postage perforation solution for us to try and I, for one, am sold!

While rummaging in a junk/antique shop recently Britta came across a pair of rusty, slightly odd-looking scissors with teeth on one side, where the blade would normally be.  When she asked what they were for, she was told they were thinning shears, used in hairdressing.  Who knew?!  (Not us, but probably many other people in the world…)  Anyway, I tried out Britta’s shears and they did indeed make neat-if-square-ish perforations which tore off nicely, so I immediately ordered a cheap pair of (new!) thinning shears to try for myself.

New TangleStamp perforations
New TangleStamp perforations

Mine arrived this morning, and when I tested them out, not only did they make a lovely perforated edge to my new artistamps, but they separated them in the same swift movement, without any need for tearing!  (I’m assuming Britta’s shears only pierced holes because they had been dulled slightly with with age and use.)

I’ve just made a new series of artistamps, printed on self-adhesive label paper, using my most recent postage stamp collages as background images.  Here I’ve done a comparison test, first using a serrated pattern tracing wheel to tear off a stamp, and second using the thinning shears (not shown to scale!).

Faux postage perforation comparison
Faux postage perforation comparison

The auto-separation of the paper after using the shears means that rather than pre-perforating a whole sheet of stamps to tear off as needed, I will be cutting off one stamp at a time, but I like the clean edging so much, I’m pretty sure I can live with that compromise!

I designed the sheet of artistamps from notebook covers collaged in July.  This is my first notebook collage of August in a combination of some of my favourite colours: an imaginary landscape which only narrowly missed the window of joining the artistamps above!  Check out the TangleStore listing for more details.

The latest imaginary landscape
The latest imaginary landscape

For more info about faux postage/artistamps, please see my Faux Postage Q & A page, plus all of these previous posts!

Another rainy crafternoon…

As has frequently been the case in Derby of late, yesterday afternoon was of the rainy persuasion.  What to do with such a damp occasion?  Another crafternoon with Britta (JaguarSnail), of course!  I was mostly on the production line, folding envelopes in anticipation of a new version of the TangleClub to be introduced in June, making address labels to include as extras with craft fair goody bags, and then unwinding with a couple of new collaged notebooks.

TangleCrafts, as drawn by JaguarSnail!
TangleCrafts, as drawn by JaguarSnail!

Britta was working on a couple of embroidery samples from her new mini zine (coming soon to a TangleStore near you – but not quite yet!); then while I collaged, Britta drew me in action, using her new copic marker pens.  She was filling up gaps in an old sketchbook from her university days, hence the JaguarSnail trial business card shown (with personal info inelegantly edited out by yours truly) to the left of the drawing.  Flattered though I am by the portrait, I’m afraid it does err to the flattering side & my face is definitely not quite so hollow-cheeked…  The hair looks great, though!

Britta was having a ridiculously creative day, and after using some of my excess stamps to trial a little postal patchwork, she then took a different direction with them, and made this oh-so-awesome envelope design:

Presidential Mail Art by Britta Jarvis
Presidential Mail Art by Britta Jarvis

I love this ‘doodle’ so much!  I immediately scanned it, then printed out a sheet as labels, so that Britta can actually mail them (the original being trapped on a tea-stained page within the afore-mentioned sketchbook). Thinking of adding them as a label set to the TangleStore – what do you think?

I should have had even more of Britta’s mail art to show you, as she brought along a whole batch of pre-artified envelopes, ready for me to list in the TangleStore.  But I noticed (far too late in the day) that she had not signed her work, so they have temporarily left the building again, to return in the near future inc. JaguarSnail maker’s mark.

Yep, there was an awful lot of craft (and art!) afoot in Tangledom yesterday, and there’s still so much more to come!  I have new projects coming out of my ears, so please keep an eye on the TangleStore, Twitter, and of course here on the blog for all the latest updates. 🙂

Faux postage trials, Part 3

Oh, the trials & tribulations of faux postage perforation!  Well, today I bring you a potential solution, as discovered by Laura Werger of Demon Kitty Designs.

demon kitty stamps 1She says, “A while ago I was searching for the best, most realistic possible way to make faux postage stamps. I tried a lot of different methods, trying to get the best perforations – die cuts, spiky wheels, fancy scissors, but finally found the answer staring me in the face: margin selvage! The blank edge bits from sheets of old postage stamps. It looks exactly like real stamps’ perforations because it is real stamp perforations! I got a vintage stamp dealer to save it for me and now I have tons.”

As you can see, the results are pretty impressive, combining upcycled backgrounds with Laura’s unique illustrations and just-like-real perforated edges.  I was a little bit confused, though, as I have been using vintage stamps on my outgoing mail lately, and have acquired quite a lot of margin selvedge myself (recently donated to Britta aka JaguarSnail – looking forward to seeing what she does with it!) – but it is all very narrow, mostly no more than 1cm wide.  That would surely only make the teensiest tiny stamps!  But apparently there is an art to it:

demon kitty stamps 2” I often have to piece together bits and pieces from a few sheets to make one stamp, if I want the perforation on all four sides, though you can often find pieces that already have it on three sides. And it takes a minute to line up the perforations, but it looks much better if you take the time to do so.

Thanks to Laura for sharing this great tip & solution!  You can see more examples of her work in the Demon Kitty Etsy Store, and also on her Facebook page.

Thinking on from this idea, it occurs to me that if you don’t have easy access to stamp paper selvedge, it would actually be possible to use real postage stamps (either used or foreign) as a base for your faux postage: simply print your designs separately, trim to size, and glue over the top of the original image!  I have heard that you can even remove the original image by rubbing with a cotton bud soaked in nail polish remover – this would presumably also remove any stray bits of postmark visible around the edges of your design(?).  I haven’t tested this out myself (have you?) – but using a real stamp as a base is surely a fool-proof way of avoiding the ongoing DIY perforation issue…  Still, the trials continue… 😉

Click here for my original Faux Postage Q & A from 2010...

TangleStamps & TangleCrafts faux postage projects

Faux Postage Trials, Part 1

Faux Postage Trials, Part 2

Faux postage trials, Part 2

ghana stampSince discovering the imperfect perforations of the real stamp from Ghana, I have felt far less of a compulsion to achieve perfect perforations on my faux postage stamps.  Nonetheless, perforations are still an integral part of the artistamp process, so my experiments have continued.

Last time I compared 3 different perforation types: paper trimmer perf blade, serrated pattern wheel, and pin-type pattern wheel.  My favoured results at the time were achieved with the serrated pattern wheel.  The test runs first time around were all worked on plain, non-adhesive paper.  The new experiments compare  the serrated pattern wheel perforations from last time with a new, finer perforation from a pounce wheel, tried out on three  different paper types.  (Click on the images below for close-up views.)

  • #1: Kraft paper with peel & stick backing
    peel & stick faux postage samplesDue to the self-adhesive backing on this kraft paper, the perforating blades have 3 layers (paper, adhesive, peel-off backing) to penetrate rather than the standard single thickness of other papers.  It therefore took extra pressure for the pounce wheel to pierce through the paper.   The pattern wheel perforated with far greater ease and created a far more convincing visual effect before the mini sheet of stamps was separated.  The backing paper accentuates the ‘fluff’ around the edges when separated but both methods of perforation were successful.  I did prefer the appearance of the stamps with the larger, pattern wheel perforations, in both sheet & individual form.
  • #2: Plain gummed paper 
    gummed faux postage samplesThis gummed paper is very thin compared with Paper #1 and is therefore far easier to perforate by any method.  The paper isn’t quite as thick/shiny as the coloured gummed paper I remember from school, but prints & perforates well which more than compensates!  I found I actually preferred the finer, pounce wheel perforations on this paper.  The pattern wheeled mini sheet was pierced deeper than Paper #1 making the holes appear more ‘obvious’ but not as round or clean, whereas the pounce wheeled sheet separated very cleanly due to the closer perforations.  The edges are still clearly serrated, although the appearance is definitely not the same as a real perforated stamp.
  • #3: Plain, non-adhesive kraft paper
    kraft faux postage samplesThicker than Paper #2 but obviously not as thick as Paper #1, Paper #3 perforated cleanly with both wheels, but I preferred the appearance of the serrated pattern wheel, this time.  Both perforation types resulted in ‘fluffy’ edges, but this was due to the fibrous nature of the kraft paper rather than perforation type or spacing.  I wasn’t really keen on either of the separated stamps.

CONCLUSION:  I will have to do individual trials for each paper type I consider using, because there are clearly differences within the papers which affect the success and appearance of the perforations.  I also clearly have entirely arbitrary, personal preferences, not necessarily based on those factors alone.  (For example, I just love the stamplike lick-&-stickiness of the gummed paper, even though most real stamps these days are self-adhesive, and even though the recipient would never know which kind of sticky had been used for their artistamp, anyway…)

Of the latest experiments, my preference falls firmly with the gummed paper combined with fine pounce wheel perforations, even though this possibly has the less stamp-like appearance.  Of course, my opinion is quite possibly influenced by the fact that I find it far easier to control & run a straight line with the pounce wheel than the pattern wheel… 😉

In conclusion, if you are making your own faux postage, I advise trying out different combinations of whatever perforation methods and papers you have available, and find the one that works best for you.  I don’t think there is one magic solution that will suit us all, I’m afraid.  Have fun! 🙂

little red zine(Ironically, my latest faux postage design has faux perforations…)

Click here for my original Faux Postage Q & A from 2010...

Carved stamps and Christmas robins…

Britta (aka JaguarSnail) and I had another productive afternoon in the craft room, yesterday.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that she is a bit of a demon when it comes to hand-carving stamps?

A collection of hand-carved mail art stamps by Britta Jarvis

Britta's stamp-carving mini zine & airmail labels
Britta’s stamp-carving mini zine & airmail labels

Well, she has put together a tutorial mini-zine so that you can perfect your own demonic (I mean stamp-carving) skills.  The demo design teaches you to carve an ‘airmail’ stamp featuring a funky little arrow in flight – but as if this wasn’t enough to satisfy you creative mail artists out there, she has also pre-cut & hand-stamped a set of airmail labels from the very design featured, so you can start adorning your outgoing post while you are still honing your own carving abilities.

I went through a stamp-carving phase myself a few years ago.  I enjoyed it at first, while I was playing with new ideas, but I wasn’t really ‘a natural’, and eventually decided my time was better spent pursuing other…pursuits.  So while Britta & I were sitting companionably in my craft room yesterday (with popcorn & chocolate close to hand), I was somewhat relieved when she ever so kindly offered to carve a robin stamp for me, to illustrate the presentation cards for my new Round Robin upcycled postage stamp badges.

Round Robin badge with Britta's illustration on the card
Round Robin badge with Britta’s illustration on the card

(I know it seems early to be working on Christmas designs, but I thought better now than in a couple of months’ time when everything is too hectic to think straight & I don’t have enough time to put all my plans into action…)  Then on top of feeling relieved, I was equally fascinated to watch her turn swiftly to the task at hand, and present me with the cutest little (2-layer) robin stamp you’ve ever seen in what can’t have been more than 15 minutes!

Britta's robin illustration in pride of place
Britta’s robin illustration in pride of place

I loved Britta’s robin illustration so much that today I made a new batch of Round Robin badges giving her robin pride of place – and then I made some matching envelope seals, too!  I’ve had a soft spot for robins since first reading The Secret Garden, so working on these projects the last couple of days has made me happy… 🙂

Faux postage trials, Part 1

As you can see from my previous post, faux postage has been on my mind, lately.  A few days ago, I started work on a set of new text-based artistamps perforation comparison(right, still a work in progress!).  Inspired by Beanie Mouse & his tracing wheel I decided to think about alternative methods of perforation.  My fallback method is to print rows of dots – faux perforations – onto the sheet of artistamp designs, then either use the perforating blade of my paper trimmer to perforate along the rows, or just cut out by hand with scissors. fayc perforations There’s nothing wrong with this method: at a glance, the stamps do indeed look perforated, and when the paper trimmer is applied, do indeed tear off like perforated stamps; however the optical illusion doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, and as soon as the stamps are separated, the gig is pretty much up (unless stuck to a dark background, in which case the black of the faux perforation half-holes blends in nicely).

So I did some trial runs to compare visually the results of some different perforation types:

perforation flow charts

Results, from left to right:

  • Inarguably, the most successful method of perforation is the paper trimmer.  My only problem here is that the edges of the finished artistamp do not look sufficiently stamp-like (for my taste).  But it works, there’s no denying that.
  • Tracing wheel #1 has a pin-style wheel and I thought might produce cleaner, more holey perforations.  However, the spacing of the pins meant that the perforations were far too far apart, and when separated looked like the (less sharp) inverse of the paper trimmer’s perforating blade: marginally more stamp-like, but much rougher.
  • Tracing wheel #2 has a serrated wheel and was far more successful (I believe this is the type of wheel used by Beanie!).  The perforations were much closer together & far more stamp-like before tearing off stamps – an aesthetically pleasing start!  And although there is still an element of ‘fluffiness’ where the paper is torn apart to separate stamps, it is less obvious than with the pin-type wheel, as there is less paper between each perforation.  Definitely my preferred method of the three, although clearly has a more rustic ‘flavour’ than the crisp paper-trimmed edges!

A top tip, whichever method of perforation you use (with the possible exception of the paper trimmer) is to always fold and crease along the row of perforations before tearing, which creates a much neater edge, and minimises the fluffiness.  I tried using tracing wheel #2 on a variety of papers (the one in the picture is white kraft paper) in case the fluffiness was accentuated by the fibres of a recycled paper, but it made little difference – this kind of fluffiness you will always get along a paper edge when torn by hand, whether aided by perforations or not.

Artistamp by Sam Farman, AustraliaA similar result can be achieved by perforating paper using an unthreaded needle in a sewing machine – sadly I could not demonstrate this method as I have still not learned to control my tiny sewing machine sufficiently to achieve a straight line…  (But the results can be seen around the edges of the artistamp by Sam Farman, shown right.)

I have tried the tracing wheel method of perforation previously, and the only reason I didn’t use it for my original TangleStamps is because I like to add a self-adhesive backing to them, and this added thickness was far harder for the tracing wheel to perforate.  I’ve ordered some new papers, though, and will soon be experimenting with different methods of adhesion, so watch this space for Faux Postage Trials, Part 2!

Click here for my original Faux Postage Q & A from 2010...

Postage stamps for charity

Project Dissimulation bird badgesEarlier this year, a lot of kind people helped me out when I made a plea for used postage stamps featuring birds for Project Dissimulation (in aid of bowel cancer awareness, following my dad’s diagnosis).  Well, it suddenly occurred to me that it was time to pay this thought forward.

I have accumulated far more stamps than I will ever be able to use over the last few years.  I’ve shared some recently with Britta/JaguarSnail (see below) and I am going to send a big batch off to the RNIB mixed international(Royal National Institute of Blind People) next week.  I’ve chosen this charity because it is based in Benfleet, where most of my dad’s family lives.  While I was growing up, we always saved our stamps (I had lots of penpals when I was at school, so this was an area I felt I could help!) and gave them to my great aunt Rene when we visited in the holidays – she passed away several years ago, but I know she would appreciate my carrying on the tradition.

Britta (/JaguarSnail) does amazing things as a volunteer for the Air Ambulance Service – her job is to creatively re-craft plain items that have been donated for sale, so that they can be sold at a higher value and raise a greater amount of money.  She does lots of postage stamp collages which appeal to me for obvious reasons…!

Stamp Collages by JaguarSnail

There are so many great causes out there that need our support, though, so here is a non-comprehensive list of UK charities that are currently appealing for used stamps – please help them out, if you can!  (If you know of any other charities collecting donations of used stamps, whether UK or overseas, please feel free to add the link in a comment.)