Stamp carving is a neat opportunity to creatively study history. The advancements through Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press changed the world! Before the momentous event, things had been hand copied or numerous woodcarvings were be made. Books were very expensive and inaccessible for the average person.
Although we used rubber (instead of wood) to carve stamp designs into, my students and I still began to understand a small bit of the meticulous task of creating block prints through this activity.
Would you like to try creating rubber stamps?
Here are some tips I’ve heard along the way.
- Use erasers to practice carving on (before moving on to larger, more expensive sheets of rubber)
- Consider wearing leather gardening gloves when carving (this is for safety reasons- blades are sharp!)
- Take safety precautions and train others in to do the same. Supervise. Be careful! Blades are sharp!
- pencil and paper (to draw a design with)
- rubber eraser and/or larger rubber pieces (Speedball: Speedy-Carve works well)
- carving tools (Speedball has tools with interchangeable blades; wood carving tools work as well)
- ink (you can use a ink pad, or ink and a roller)
- blank cards, book marks, or other paper products (you can decorate these when you are done creating your stamp)
Step 1: Plan
Determine the size of your rubber piece and make a design. Draw your design the way you would like it to look when it is finished.
Step 2: Transfer
Flip your paper so the pencil-drawn design touches the rubber. Use your hand or the back of a spoon to rub the pencil graphite onto the rubber. When you have completed the transfer, remove the paper. You will have a backwards image on the rubber (which will result in it facing the correct direction when it is stamped).
Step 3: Carve
Use the carving tools you have to extract the pieces of rubber that you do not want in your final stamp. I have some examples here so you can see the different styles and resulting impressions.
For the stamp with a heart and “Love” written on it, I removed the rubber where my design was.
When making the anchor and “Hope” stamp, I carved the area around the word and image.
Step 4: Test
Test your design on scrap paper by inking the rubber design and firmly pressing it ink-side down on the paper. Do not move the stamp while doing this (or you will not have a clear print). Continue to carefully carve until you are satisfied with your stamp.
Step 5: Print
Ink the stamp and press it ink-side down onto cards, bookmarks, or other paper products.
Step 6: Smile and Share
Thankfully that this fun art activity is not the way we create books, newspapers, and other printed materials today. :) Share your stamped work with others.
How has carving a stamp helped you better understand the value of the movable-type printing press?
What other inventions have impacted history? How?
Searching for a fun family activity? Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt in our modern world. It involves stamp making and cracking codes. Please carefully research and then consider taking your family on a letterboxing adventure.
Here are some websites that have been recommended to me, with information about what letterboxing is and how to participate.
This is a description of the activity, from https://www.atlasquest.com/:
“Letterboxing combines artistic ability with "treasure-hunts" in parks, forests, and cities around the world. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by cracking codes and following clues. The prize: an image from a miniature piece of art known as a rubber stamp—usually a unique, hand-carved creation.”
Here’s what http://letterboxing.org/says:
“Letterboxing is an intriguing “treasure hunt” style outdoor activity. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and post clues to finding the box online on one of several Web sites…Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp on their personal log book, and leave an imprint of their personal stamp on the letterbox’s logbook.”
Looking for a great non-fiction book about artistic printmaking and nature?
Nature's Friend: The Story of Gwen Frostic (2018, Sleeping Bear Press) written by Lindsey McDivitt and illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen is a beautiful book filled with history. Gwen Frostic was not believed to be physically able to write due to her disability, but she would become a world famous artist who carved prints out of linoleum and used nature as her subject. Gwen Frostic was a Michigan artist, her shop is located in Benzonia, Michigan. Here is the shop website: https://www.gwenfrostic.com/
Are you looking for information about Johannes Gutenberg? Here is a child-friendly article to check out:
Here’s a post I shared about five websites that teachers love, parents want, and children need. Enjoy.