How to make a geometric stamp — carefully!

Last week, I found myself rushing to Arting Circle so I could complete the collage I started last week. Rushing is in rush hour, let me just say, isn’t the best combination. I finally arrived, ready to carve the stamp I had in my mind for the next layer. I brought my stamp making supplies and I got to work.

stamp supplies

I have never made a geometric stamp and as it turns out, working with straight edges is a bit of a challenge. I’m glad my design was not built around repeating geometrics. Fortunately, this random pattern allowed for some flexibility in size of the squares and rectangles, which it turned out I needed because I had to clean up several edges.

geometric random design

stamp edges

I enjoy carving stamps—there’s something very calming about the process of cutting into the rubber and swiping each bit away. But I was anxious to complete this one and get to the collage. Last week I had come to a stopping point in building up my layers. I just couldn’t seem to find my way to the next step. All I could think about was the stamp I wanted but didn’t have.

finished stamp

Now I have it!

To be clear, to complete a stamp carving means to finalize with several passes of test stamping with ink pad on scrap paper until all the little bits are carved away (and all the edges are straightened up).

test stamping

But after a few test passes, I finally I had the image carved how I wanted it—and whoosh, I was so quick to mix my paint , you would have thought I’d had a plan for the color I wanted. I didn’t. I just seemed to know what was needed. (Golden Burnt Umber into an otherwise too bright Hansa Yellow.)

I slapped that paint onto the stamp, and with a quick gut check I pushed the stamp onto the collage. One side. Then the other.

Ahhh. That’s what it needed.

stampedcollage1

stamped collage 2

For that layer.

Unfortunately, I spent so much time on the stamp that I didn’t have time to finish the collage (so sorry, I'm not going to show you the whole thing yet!). I have to admit not finishing led me to some negative self talk at first. "Everyone else finished theirs," and "Why am I always so slow?"

Blah blah.

Had to remind myself that speed is not one of the elements of art—nor any practical principle.

And besides, I learned something I didn't know before about carving geometric shapes, which I can apply to my next stamp and I can also share with you!

Here are some tips for carving geometric stamps:

1. When you make a geometric stamp design, it's easiest to use a random rather than a repeating pattern. This leaves room for error and you can clean up a mistake here and there without ruining the design.

2. For geometric designs, you must use a ruler to both create the design and then to carve the lines. With designs done freehand, it's not as necessary to carve nice straight lines.

3. On the other hand, don't expect perfect straight lines. By definition hand drawn lines aren't perfect—and that's the way we like it.

4. Try test stamping your design on deli paper—even over other scrap marks—this will make great papers for future projects.

5. Geometric designs are versatile additions to many mixed media projects—hand carving your own design will always make it uniquely yours. You should try it!