Stamp carving experiment #3

(Firstly, a note to anyone who’s waiting for me to catch up with mail-outs, I’m finally feeling on top things here in the new house, and orders & subscriptions will all be in the post tomorrow or Saturday.)

Moving house was a horrible nightmare of packing, throwing away, unpacking, throwing away.  So many things I wanted to be getting on with just had to be put on hold – very frustrating!  But I’m now all unpacked & have managed to actually get rid of various miscellaneous extraneous ‘stuff’, & my new workroom is feeling like a very nice place to be.  The light floods in, which is great!  (& the house came with built-in wardrobes replete with numerous shelves and cubbies, perfect for storing all my crafting paraphernalia – hurrah!)

You know how when you pack and unpack you come across all sorts of stuff that you’d forgotten you ever had?  I made some great discoveries!  Firstly, I found a craft knife set – including 2 slightly sturdier knives than the one I broke during my last stamp carving experiment – and (even more exciting!) an unopened pack of anti-slip furniture/floor protectors. cork-tiles What? But yes, honestly this was an exciting discovery: I saw these miniature, self-adhesive cork tiles and instantly saw all sorts of wondrous possibilities leaping out at me.  Not least, a very definite premise for Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  After SCE #2, I invested in a (cheap) lino-cutting tool with a selection of cutting blades, so I was ready to roll.

  1. cork-stampsI started with one of the little round tiles, and drew my design straight on (oops, used a pigment ink pen rather than nice, quick-drying Sharpie – now I have very inky little fingers).
  2. I quickly discovered that lino-cutting tools make no impact whatsoever on cork, so lucky I found that other craft knife set!  I carved out along the lines with a craft knife.  Cork is very crumbly, & I just kind of nudged quite a lot of it out.  I quickly gave up on the prospect of perfect, clean-cut lines.  I took a second tile, & cut it into a rough flower shape with a pair of scissors.  While I was carving the first tile, I suddenly thought larger blocks of colour might work better, so worked the 2 tiles simultaneously, for the sake of comparison.
  3. It seemed almost wasteful, but considering the incredibly convenient self-adhesive backing, the logical thing to do seemed to be to mount the carved/cut tiles onto more of the same.  I cut a very quick stem from a 3rd round tile to go with the scissor-cut flower, and mounted on one of the larger tiles.
  4. flower-printsI was surprised by the results: I had expected the larger ink blocks of the scissor-cut flower  to stamp more smoothly.  The stem is very clean, but the carved ‘pinwheel’ flower gave a more consistent overall print.  The cork absorbs ink very quickly, which I think makes the surface texture more evident than printing with other mediums.  Probably a thicker printing ink would negate this slightly – but then, if you want a perfectly smooth print, there are other surfaces you can carve, instead.

ray1I was really pleased with the results, another happy learning curve.  In fact, given the success of the pinwheel flower carving, I immediately set to another.  I used the remainder of the tile I had lopped a side-curve off to make a stem earlier.  I decided starting off with straight rather than curved lines would be a quick way to get cleaner edges (lesson learned from stem of flower).  It is supposed to be a rising/setting sun, with rays outwards.  I really like how it came out, but depending on your perspective, it could probably just as easily be a beach ball, a shell,  or even half a daisy…!  Hmm, half a daisy? bat-rayA quick bit of photo-editing ‘magic’ and hey presto!    Um, not so much a daisy though, really, as what?  A bat, maybe?  Perhaps I’ve strayed back to the unintentional Egyptian theme, and it’s some kind of scarab…  And what is that creepy skull/face thing that has emerged in the centre?  This print really makes me think of those old Rorschach inkblot tests…!

So there you have it, Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  It’s definitely a learning process, but I’m enjoying it!  Next stage is a lovely smooth piece of lino (it’s sitting on the sofa, calling to me) – but it’ll have to wait a day or two: there are lots more things I have to catch up on, first.

It’s good to be back 🙂 – see you again soon!

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Stamp carving experiment #2

I couldn’t resist: I went out and bought the bargain pack of erasers, 7 for £1.  Nice little rectangles, approx. 3/4″ wide x 2″ long x 3/8″ deep.  I drew my pattern freehand onto the first eraser, with a fine point Sharpie (currently 5 for £1!).

needlestamp1With my craft knife, I outlined the pattern, trying to take care to angle the blade outwards from the line I was drawing.  Then I cut inwards from the outer edge, and sliced out chunks of the surface around the pattern.  At first, I was very impressed with how smooth and easy it was to cut.  Then I noticed how the once smoothly outlined lines were actually flaking off leaving little ragged edges behind.  On my first test print (above right), it is most obvious around the eye of the needle, and you can also see ‘feathering’ along the edge of the swirl of thread.

I decided not to worry about the flakiness, as this was just a practice run to get used to the technique of carving.  I just made sure to be as careful as possible to avoid knocking any bits off if I could help it, and tried to neaten up any especially ragged areas.  I carved away more of the background area and, in the end, just cut off the uncarved areas of the eraser – the easiest way to avoid them picking up & transferring ink in unwanted places!  This was when my craft knife broke…

needlestamp21I was really pleased with the next test print, though.  To be honest, I really don’t mind the ‘feathery’ effect where the eraser crumbled.  What I mind is the knowledge that with use, the eraser will continue to crumble, ruining the stamp very quickly. Not much use, really!

needlestamp3But this was a very educational test run.   I discovered that there is a reason people buy particular brands of eraser or carving blocks for their stamps, and that is quite simply that they are better quality and (in the case of carving blocks) designed specifically for the job.  Likewise, my budget craft knife was just not up to the job, so looks like I will have to invest in at the very least a better craft knife, if not one of those lino-cutting tools.

But while the flakiness of the rubber means that these £1 erasers aren’t going to go very far in terms of my stamp-carving ‘career’, I still think they were great value, as their budget price did enable me to test out the principles of  carving, to see if I enjoyed both the process and the results.  Which I can now confirm I do!  It may not last very long, but I’m really happy with how my needle & thread stamp turned out :-).

Unfortunately, I think my next carving experiments will have to wait until after the house-move, when I will have chance to pick up more adequate supplies…

(Check out my stamp-carving experiment #1, where I used a mouse mat, instead of an eraser – it worked!)

Hand carving stamps

After my little experiment with carving a mousemat stamp earlier today, I’ve done a little research, and found this great tutorial for doing it ‘properly’.  I love the retro flower motif she uses in the example.  I think I might invest in one of those lino-cutting tools, as it will just make life easier (you need to be careful you don’t ‘under-cut’ the lines you carve, or they will just crumble off, with use).  I’ve seen a multi-pack of erasers at one of the local pound shops, though, so that might account for my next foray in this direction…

The bumblebee flies anyway

combboardweaveAt my local Pound Store, they sell 2 mouse mats for £1. While I try, in principle, to be against unnecessary consumerism, I am powerless to resist the lure of a potentially useful bargain.  By useful, of course, I don’t actually mean practical in ‘normal’ terms; more craft-able.   I bought them a while back, and one (with a comb glued along the top) was used as a very handy weaving loom.  The other is also very useful: I use it upside down (foam upwards) when I’m making zines & booklets to cushion the pin-stabbed bindings while I stab them.

I’ve been thinking for a while about carving a stamp, either out of a carving block, or an eraser, or…something.  I’ve never really been into rubber stamping as a craft, yet there’s something very appealing in the more primitive aspect of a hand-carved stamp.  I’ve seen some very cool & funky designs around on Etsy, and the simplest of designs seem often to be the most effective.  I thought it would be nice to personalise packages I send out with a stamp from a hand-carving, or maybe use a stamp on the cover of a zine, instead of printing.

Anyway, this morning, there is no coffee in the house, and I am having difficulty getting motivated to get on with stuff.  So for some reason, I decided now is the time to try carving a stamp.  No erasers or carving tools to hand, I just cut a chunk from mouse mat #2, and carved my design freehand with a craft knife.  I could have drawn bee-block1 my design first (just as you can’t see the carving too well to the right, you can’t see pencil marks on black foam rubber, but I could have outlined first with the knife); but I just got stuck straight in.  This is why my intended ball of wool is now a bumble bee… 😉 bee-printI also forgot, in my eagerness, that the design would be reversed in the printing, so it quite took me by surprise to see my bumble bee flying in the opposite direction when I lifted the block (no coffee yet, you see).

For my first attempt, I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and will definitely be doing further experiments!  My trial print (above left) went straight onto the corner of one of my stash of board envelopes (I love the idea of using a stamp as an actual postage stamp), so if you buy anything from the Etsy store in the next week or two, you might receive this very bumble bee, in the mail!

In short, I feel my £1 shop bargain has been well-justified!