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  • Sharon Feigal

Stamp-making!

A year or two ago, I attended a workshop at Kleispot (Keramikos - Haarlem, NL) on making different kinds of stamps. I'll be honest, I thought it was going to be about making bisqueware stamps, something I'm particularly terrible at. I probably just ignored the course description in my enthusiasm to improve one of my weak points.


Although it was not as I expected, I had a great time and learned a lot! I didn't realize, for example, that you could use bicycle inner tubes to make stamps. You simply plan your design, cut it with scissors, and glue it to something for support.

We also used prepared stamping material and little carving sets. These sets were also available for purchase, but a little niggle in the back of my brain said I might have such a kit at home in my large collection of miscellaneous arts and crafts supplies (who else is an addict of art stores?). And I did. Carving stamps is super fun and the results look really similar to wooden block printing.

The stamps we made in class could be used as either a stamp on bisqueware (fired once), or on greenware (unfired), depending on what your stamping medium was. Using engobe (colored clay slip) on greenware, I could push hard enough to leave a relief impression in the clay. Or I could do that without using the engobe, just the relief. On bisqueware, which is hard, it's possible to use an underglaze or an oxide, or even just a layering of glaze, depending on how I want the effects to turn out. It's even possible to make underglaze transfers from these stamps!

Fast forward to now, and I'm working on a project for a geo-caching challenge, the Game of Shrooms. I don't have access to my ceramics studio or kiln at the moment, so I'm working in papier-mâché. I'd forgotten how much I like it. What I've never liked is putting my signature on non-carving surfaces. I'm just not good at it, and my hand often slips. I prefer to carve things. So I decided to make a stamp.

I tried out one of my older stamps from that workshop, to have a look at how fine carved lines would show up. I was pleased.

I planned it originally with the year, but then I realized that if I went to all that effort, Shroomdrop is an annual event, and I could use the same stamp in the future. Participants are also welcome to make more than one piece, although since this is my first year and I'm extremely busy, I'm stopping with one.

For the first time in ages, I was doing such fine work that even my newer sclera contact lenses were not up to the challenge of making me able to see it. Luckily, I haven't misplaced my trifocal reading glasses in all these moves!

The stamp looked pretty great when it was done. Oops. I forgot something important.

So I took the stamp and stamped it on a new piece of rubber as a guide to writing everything in mirror image. And started the carving all over again. A quick test showed it worked!

And the final product after trimming it to a nicer circular shape:

The most fun thing about doing stuff like this is when Matt comes into the room and I show him what I've done and his reaction... "What?!? I didn't know you know how to do stuff like that!" This is such a common reaction in our household that I don't know where he's been since 1996 when we first got together. :D

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