It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s actually a good question! Continue reading When is a stamp not a stamp?
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.
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!).
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.
Although all has been quiet on the TangleBlog-front of late, anyone who has been watching the TangleStore will have seen a flurry of activity throughout January. I’ve been going stamp-notebook crazy with more of the Machin patchworks as seen in my December post (every colour of the rainbow now available! 😉 ) and then expanding my repertoire to include older vintage stamps from around the world, and a slightly different style of collage. I’ve also added some frameable postcards to the range:
Venturing out into a different corner of the postage stamp world definitely has inspired me. The colours, styles & production values and all my (ongoing) postage stamp projects culminated in the design of a brand new TangleStamp – and anyone who is familiar with my previous TangleStamp designs will see that this has been a big change of direction for me!
This journey is documented in the equally brand new issue of MailCraft #3, which follows through these projects and thought processes. It also includes mini-tutorials for very simple postage stamp collage, if you want to give it a try yourself. MailCraft #3 is currently available as a standard 24 page edition with plain kraft cover and self-adhesive TangleStamp insert OR (while stocks last!) a numbered, limited edition of 10 copies which has a bonus outer cover which can be transformed into a postcard with your own collage, plus a gummed (lick & stick), hand-perforated TangleStamp insert.
(The special editions will be listed one by one, as they are sold, so don’t despair if you don’t see one in the TangleStore when you look: the next numbered issue will be re-listed within 24 hours of a sale.)
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.
She 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:
” 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.”
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… 😉
Since 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
Due 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
This 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
Thicker 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! 🙂
Recently I posted a comparison chart of perforation methods for faux postage stamps, and the results thereof. But today, while I was sorting through some excess real postage stamps for clearance, I came across this lovely (tiny!) stamp from Ghana. I have no idea of its age, but I assume its quite likely that more recent stamps from the same region have the ‘perfect’ perforations we generally associate with postage stamps; but I truly love the imperfection of this little sample. It was sold & sent exactly as you see, and I’m sure no-one once questioned why the perforations were not pristine.
Why am I bothering to share this? I just thought it might help assuage doubts if you are afraid your own faux postage doesn’t look ‘professional’ enough. Clearly it does! (And anyway, in mail art, the individuality of your stamps is what makes them more interesting. So there.)
Please click through to the shiny new Friends & Faux blog – it lives! And we have updates on the first postcards, already. 🙂
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 (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. 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:
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.
A 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!
I first hosted Friends & Faux back in 2010 and although slightly fewer project postcards made it home due to my moving house (twice) than might otherwise have done, it was still an awesomely fun project to co-ordinate. The project postcards feature ‘gallery’ spaces for 8 artistamps/faux postage stamps, and are filled up as they are passed from one mail artist to the next before the completed card finally returns home. I recently compiled 3 mini-zines showcasing the completed postcards that arrived home safely. And I’ve also been preparing for a re-launch of the project…
Friends & Faux (version 2) has a new logo, plus its very own blog where I will be posting regular updates on postcards sent out into the world, progress reports from participants as they add their artistamps, and, of course, the homecoming celebrations! I will also add random faux postage/mail art snippets, on occasion. During F&F Version 1, I was alerted to the fact that some of my handmade postcards did not withstand the rigours of multiple mailings too well (peeling surfaces etc) so I have had the new postcards professionally printed to hopefully avoid a similar fate. And if I move house again (please join me in hoping not!), I have implemented a new way of accessing the postcard return address, so hopefully I will be able to keep on top of any unexpected changes much better this time around..,
As of yesterday, the first 20 postcards are on their way out to who knows what adventures in the world, and more will follow in the near future. If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit the F&F blog, and if you would like to join in the project, you will find a brand new Friends & Faux Filately section in theTangleStore. In fact, you can request an F&F postcard as an absolutely free add-on with any purchase at all from the TangleStore or ETPrintworks. More news to follow, as it occurs! 🙂
Since I listed the first mini zine and badges for Project Dissimulation, in aid of Beating Bowel Cancer, I have been able to make two donations to the charity:
- May 29th: £37.50
- August 21st: £21.25
It might not sound like a huge amount, but I’m really happy to be able to make a difference – however small – for this good cause.
Since I began this project, I have added a second zine (bird-themed artistamps) to the series, as well as some packets of used postage stamps for your own crafty creations. Please stop by the TangleStore’s Project Dissimulation page to view all current offerings. There are lots of Etsy sellers out there trying to make a difference, so if you want to help them out, too, see some of the stunning items available in the Delicious Ambiguity Treasury.