Saturday, February 02, 2008

Carvina O'Carver

A whole post about carving eraser stamps?! Who'da guessed? ;)

I started carving eraser stamps back in November 2007. Ages ago, I know. Anyway, I've been keeping track of little tips and tricks as I have learned and failed, succeeded and repeated. I've also got a bunch of links, helpful to anyone that might be starting out, or thinking about starting out =]

Dive, dive! Don't worry if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about; I have links to all the tools and materials referenced later in the post.
-Pink erasers (Pink Pearl, Pink Pet, etc) are a pain in the ass. I've come across at least one tutorial online recommending these erasers. I started with them, and I was pleased with my stamps alright. Then I tried the more popular Staedtler Mars erasers, and my whole world changed! I could carve stamps so incredibly faster, and easier! The pink erasers are much harder, and the rubber tends to break, or gouge, rather than carving away cleanly. Some say that the harder pink rubber allows for finer detail; I assume now that I'm just not at that level of carving...yet.

-Xacto knives work just fine. Everything I read talked about linoleum cutters (linocutters), which are used to carve linoleum for block printing. I've recently been gifted a linocutter, and yes, they are faster, but I still revert back to my trusty Xacto knife for small areas, and most detail. I just feel I have better control with an Xacto knife. Maybe personal preference *shrug*

-Get yourself a nice soft, or extra black, pencil. If you don't know where or how to find one, walk into an art supply store, and ask. These transfer much easier.

-Carve deeper than you think you need to. I have seen such nice stamps, that look almost as pretty just as they are, as the prints they make. However, I have found that when you turn a stamp and press it down to make a print, the rubber compressed more than I expected it to. So, I have to carve deeper, so that the "background", or excess, area of the stamp doesn't pick up ink, and print.
-Turn your eraser! When you are carving around curves, it is imperative that you turn the eraser, rather than your wrist, and/or knife. You'll get much smoother curves this way. I've still not mastered perfectly smooth curves, but I'm getting closer!

-Less is more. You can always take more rubber off, but you can't put it back on. Test your carving out often, to see what still needs to be carved away. This also has the added benefit of coloring the raised areas, which oftentimes makes it easier to see what you need to take off.

-Take your time. After I had carved a few stamps, I was feeling quite confident, and I got excited, and I wanted to make MORE MORE MORE! So, I was carving quicker, and quicker, and my stamps were looking worse and worse >_< Take your time! If you are carving a stamp, chances are you intend to use the image more than once; take time to make it a nice one.

-Take advantage of your access to thousands of royalty-free images! There is this little stamp I have been trying to design. A simple little pie. Sounds easy enough; I am an artist, afterall! Well, this stupid little pie has given me so much trouble! I can't get it to look like I want it! After a few minutes of internet-lovin', I found: .
Pie! And it's free for use (non-commercial only). Print it out, or trace it directly from the computer screen, and there's a nice little pie ready to bee transferred and carved =]

-Don't be afraid to try new things. Erasers are cheap, yo! If you can't draw, if you can't think of anything to carve, just kinda....DO. Doodle. Hell, get out an eraser and a knife, and carve a freeform swirly shape, or flower. Often the coolest stamps are rough, raggedy, or random =]

-Carve on a piece of scrap paper, or notebook. It's much easier to pick up and dump the shavings off a scrap, than to try to sweep them up off a counter or tabletop.

-Keep a journal. I don't care if you've never kept a journal before. I don't even care if you don't know how to write! Find yourself a blank notebook of SOME form or another, and use it to sketch designs, and make test prints. It can be very inspiring to see how far you have come in carving. It also helps to inspire me when I get the itch to carve, and I'm not sure what I want, or need.

-Keep your stamps clean, for goodness sake! They take a lot of love and effort, so take care of them! When I am done using a stamp, or carving it, I put a little liquid soap in my palm, wet the stamp under running water, and I rub the stamp in my soapy palm. Rinse, pat dry, store.

-Speaking of storing, I have heard bad things about storing rubber stamps in airtight plastic containers. I haven't tried it, personally, so I can't speak on that. I store my stamps in an empty cigar box. It's a good size, a good shape, and it keeps my stamps out of dust & light, while still letting the rubber breathe. I happen to work in a bar, where I have access to plenty of people who smoke cigars, and give me their boxes. If you have access to cigar boxes, by all means (they are fun to decorate, too ;). Otherwise, they have those paper mache photo boxes they sell at every craft store would work just as well. I don't like to stack my stamps up; it just feels like it would be bad for them =X

-Oh, yeah, you can carve a stamp image on both sides of an eraser, if you so wish. Just make sure not to cut all the way through to the other side ;)

That's all I've got for things I've learned, or "If I knew then what I know now...".

Yay, shopping! I'm not affiliated with these websites, nor have I ordered from them. I simply used them as references for the things I am mentioning. All the tools and materials I use have been found at local art supply stores - not to be confused with craft stores - the Xacto knife eis the only item on this list I have found at a craft store.

Magic Rub erasers: These are okay, they are cheap, and you can find them pretty much anywhere. They tend to have a lot of bubbles and blemishes in them, and the rubber seems to kind of stick to my knife, making smooth curves difficult. Fine for more geometric, straight-line type designs, though.

Staedtler Mars erasers: These carve so nicely, so smooth, and easy. They have a the major drawback of being very small, though =/ Worse yet, they have a raised design on them, which has to be rubbed off before carving (see my sad penguin to see what happens when you don't take the time to remove the raised design, lol). I bought mine at Staples (office supply store).

Alvin Jumbo White Plastic erasers: These are large, carve very easily, have no raised design...almost perfect! Except that they cost $2 apiece, which is pretty steep for as many stamps as I have been carving. I found them at an art supply store.

Staedtler Mastercarve: big, smooth, practically perfect! Hard to find in the real world, easy to find online. I found mine at a [different] art supply store, one that had a lot of block printing materials.

Speedball Linoleum Cutter: Neat little cutting tool. Makes carving considerably faster, but I find it difficult to use in tight areas, especially curves. The larger handle on this tool allows me to carve for longer periods of time before my wrists start hurting. I found mine at an art supply store, one that had a lot of block printing materials.

Xacto knife: This link goes to the knife and blade that I prefer. I have tried other shaped blades; this one seems to be the easiest to control. I couldn't carve without this guy! Hell, I couldn't do half the art-ing and crafting that I do without this guy ;) I picked one up for about $3 at Beverly's (run-on-the-mill craft store).

Ink pads and paper can be found pretty much anywhere...

Oooh, linkage!
Carving tutorial: There are many. This is my favorite.
Another tutorial: This one is nice, as well.
Tutorial on Flickr: mostly pictures, but shows a linoleum cutter in use.
Very very nice tutorial, with a ton of pics!: There is a link that says, "Labels: handcarvedstampstutorial," there at the bottom of this page. Click that to go to Part 2, and so forth. This tute is well thought out, and well executed.
Carve your stamps!: thousands of photos of hand carved stamps, on Flickr.
Stamp your art out: many photos of different things carvers have made with their stamps, also on Flickr.
Clipart: some simple designs, in case you needed an extra nudge! Remember to read the rules of use at the bottom of the page. These are not to be used for any commercial purposes! (again, not affiliated, but I'm a stickler for artists respecting each others' work).

Now that that's over with (for now....), I'm off to research linoleum carving. Because it looks cool. And that's just what I do ;) If you try your hand at carving rubber stamps, please send me a picture, or a link to a picture! I am still new to this, and I love seeing what others have done/are doing! Also, don't hesitate to message me with any questions, frustrations, or advice! =]


Cotton Picker said...

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to write up all this helpful information on carving. I have wanted to carve my own images for a while now but didn't quite know how to get started. My work is on a very small scale so the Mars erasers would suit me fine.

DreamON said...

All the info on the varied kinds of erasers is like product testing research for eraser carvers. Thanks much!