Okay, you got me. It was three weeks ago I shared a photo from my stamp making project on Instagram and hinted at a blog post coming “next week” with behind the scene photos of the process. But better late than never, right?
It has been a busy few weeks around here! Among other things, we have been working on starting our Etsy Shop (yay!), where we will be featuring the vintage and antique finds from our One of a Kind Collection. We are also planning a new collection for Fall 2014, and have bookmarked a lot of amazing new products by both American and global artisans.
But let’s put the excuses aside and get to the story! The inspiration for this project arose with wedding season. We carry some really special, unique products that make amazing gifts for weddings and other special occasions. We give customers the option to create gift registries. We have even had customers email us in excitement about the products they plan to give as gifts.
And it took long enough, but it finally dawned on us that a piece of the puzzle was missing: Gift Wrapping! As soon as we came to this realization we knew that buying any old gift wrap just wouldn’t do.
I started brainstorming right away. If you’ve had a chance to read our story, you may remember we are a family of Makers ourselves. The Matriarch of this Maker family, my Mima, was an incredible artist, and had me and my sisters experimenting with painting, silkscreening, block printing and more from early ages.
You will surely hear more about her in the future, but all that to say, I was happy to have a push to play with a medium that I learned from her so many years ago. So I raided the boxes upon boxes of supplies we have inherited from her studio, and went out and bought some new Speedball “Speedy-Carve” Rubber Blocks. They are easier to cut than linoleum, for when you’re just getting back into the game, and also perfect making rubber stamps.
Among the things I scavenged from our supply closet were two fish stamps Mima made, a few cross-sections of bones she had used for printing, a small square stamp, a cork, and an unused rubber eraser. Rubber erasers are also great for cutting small stamps, so I picked up a few more myself.
Like most projects, it’s best to start with a few sketches:
I started with the smallest design, and changed it a bit to make it simpler. Then I drew the pattern on my rubber stamp and got out my linoleum cutters and handle (find a set here).
And here we go! With relief printing, you cut away the parts you do not want to print. I started by using the No. 6 blade, which is a knife versus a gouge, to remove the rubber around the edges. Then I switched to a medium sized gouge to dig out the spaces around my pattern, always being careful to rotate my piece so that I was pushing the blade away from myself. With just a few very careful cuts, my first stamp was finished.
Next I moved on to a more detailed design: the feather. For this one I used the piece of Easy-Carve rubber I bought, and started by using scissors to cut a piece of the 4×6 block that was appropriate for the size of my design. Then, like before, I drew my design onto the stamp. There are also ways to transfer printed designs onto the rubber blocks, if you aren’t comfortable drawing them on yourself.
Now we begin cutting! I typically start by cutting around the edges of my design, and then move on to more detailed cutting. This feather has some pretty delicate lines, so the very fine gouge you see in the photo below came in handy!
Finally, I used scissors to cut off the extra rubber on the edges. Ideally I would have cut my original piece a bit smaller, leaving just a little room on either side so as not to waste any of the block.
The last stamp I made required a little more thought. I wanted to do a hexagon shape, so the drawing I made on the block needed to be more precise and warranted scrounging around my office space for a ruler. I followed the same basic process for this stamp as well–drawing my design, and cutting away the rubber around it, and trimming around the edges with scissors.
I have to admit, I took a moment to admire the mess the project left behind. I just love all the little pieces, varying in thickness depending on which gouge I used. And yes…I know that’s a little crazy, but you all don’t mind, do you?
So between the objects and stamps I found in Mima’s stash, and the three new ones I made, I have a lot to work with for the wrapping paper design! Over the past couple of weeks I have been playing with them using white paint on recycled kraft paper. I can’t wait to share the results and add the gift wrap option to the shop. I would love to hear which design is your favorite in the comments!