Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting in the Christmas Spirit - Family Craft Night

Today, after carving some custom rubber stamp orders, I moved onto carving two snowflake potato stamps to make hand printed gift wrap. This is a really easy project that anyone can do at home. All you need is a firm potato (uncooked, obviously), a sponge brush (that you can pick up for pennies at any hardware store), acrylic paint (I like Basics brand but any craft acrylic paint will do), paper, and carving tools. Below is an idea for a great craft night for you and your family!

The next time you're at the grocery store, ask for paper instead of plastic and be sure to have a sack of potatoes on your list! Other materials you'll need are acrylic craft paint OR finger paint depending on the kid's ages (the basic, festive colors of red, green and white should do), wide sponge brushes as seen above, and assorted cutting tools which could include a lino cutter (if you have one), metal cookie cutters, sharp pencils, paring knives, forks to create lines and texture, and anything else around the house that you could use to carve the potato.

Start by cutting the paper bags to make flat sheets of paper, cutting away the bottom of the bag rectangle. On a clean table, lay down some newspaper and then lay the paper down to be printed.

Cut potatoes in half with a sharp knife (not serrated). If you're using cookie cutters to cut out shapes, slice the bottom of the potato half off so you have a 2" slice. As you (the grown up) are cutting the potatoes, the kids can work on drawing out simple designs they'd like to make.

The cookie cutter idea is great for little ones as they get to pick out the shape they want and you can do the cutting (metal cookie cutters are much too sharp for them to use themselves). Then they can get right to the fun part of stamping. Older kids that you trust with a paring knife, however, are free to explore their creativity either carving out designs or around designs. Remind them that the part they are carving won't have paint and you could make a sample stamp beforehand just to show them how it works.

In preparing your paint, you can use a regular plate or paper plate if you prefer. Squeeze out a healthy amount of paint and keeping dabbing the sponge brush into the paint, working it until it's saturated with paint. You can experiment to find that perfect amount where it's not too much and it's not too little. Basically, the sponge acts as an ink pad and you want to dab your potato stamp onto it to get an even, not too heavy-not too light, layer of paint.

Once you've got the "inkpads" aka sponge brushes "loaded" you can do a few tests prints on scrap paper to show the kids how you dab it onto the sponge, then press it down firmly on the paper, trying not to move it around (as that will blur the print) and then dab it on the sponge again every time before you print. This information will be useful for the older ones, the younger ones will surely just dive in and have a ball. If they are young enough to get messy and be covered in paint by the end of this exercise, you should use finger paint instead. It might not make as good a print as acrylic, but it's a safer paint for little ones to get messy with and when they're that little, does print quality even matter? It's just about the fun!

Once they are finished stamping, everyone can go clean up, wait for the paint to dry, and have some cocoa. Drying time will depend on the thickness and saturation of paint on the paper. The paper I made above took about 10 minutes to dry, maybe less. But I've taught kids that end up with a sea of paint on a thin slice of paper, so anything's possible when it comes to making art with children!

If you do want to use it as wrapping paper, you don't want the paint to be thick because it will crack and peel off, especially when you start to fold it. But I find projects like these to be launching pads for creativity. You may start out with the idea of wrapping paper but one child will decide they want to make a book cover or another will want to cut it out and make ornaments or bookmarks - you name it. Roll with it and have a great time!

If you happen to try this at home, I'd LOVE to see pictures of your process and results and I'd love to share them here on the blog!

Hand stamped snowflake paper

Friday, October 29, 2010

My true inspiration

Click on the images above to be directed to their Etsy listings.

This is the real inspiration for my stamp shop and something I wish to remind myself of whenever I'm at a loss for what I'm doing or why...

This shop is truly an ode to my grandmother Irma. She came from a family of Hungarian immigrants and married my grandfather who was part of a long lineage of a New England farming family. On this farm, a magical place that was the playground of my youth, she raised three daughters, canned and froze their harvest, tended to bountiful flower gardens, and in the meantime painted in her later years. She was a phenomenal painter. Not just in her still lives and landscapes, but also in her folk art applications to plates and pitchers, let alone her embroidered designs on linens. As a child, I was so enamored by her books about Hungarian folk art - they were bold, beautiful, floral designs that sang to me in a vivid color palette. This influence - the folk art of my heritage, the appreciation of gardening and art all contributed to making this shop what it is. I hope that her legacy of pure grace and simple beauty will live on through my creations in her honor.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Clear acrylic mounts for unmounted rubber stamps

Clear acrylic mounts are a great tool to compliment my unmounted floral rubber stamps. With a little double sided tape, you can adhere stamps temporarily to the mount in a set pattern to be repeated as a border or intricate pattern. The best part is that you can use and re-use the mount as much as you want. It allows for more storage space for new stamps rather than bulky mounts. Another asset of acrylic mounts is the ability to see where you are stamping.

How do you like to use rubber stamps?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Working with unmounted stamps

Grow Your Own Flower Garden stamp set of 8

The more I learn about rubber stamping, the more I get into the usage end of things as well as the design and production. As you may know from previous posts, I've been wrestling with mounts, trying to find the perfect one and the best way to print/varnish/etc. them. I am now discovering on message boards and stamp sites how many people prefer stamps to be unmounted for easier storage, less cost and usability. One woman used unmounted face stamps to wrap around her fabric doll faces (the effect was quite beautiful!). Another stamper talked about how she liked unmounted stamps because she was very particular about her mounts - in her case, they had to all be the same exact brand of wood mount. Many others liked to use them with acrylic mounts and EZMount. Looking into this technique, I see this would be a marvelous way to use my flower garden stamp sets like the one above. You can attach several stamps on one block creating a pattern.

This makes me want to take mounts out of the equation all together. Kristin Lee's stamps were unmounted and I have sold several of the unmounted flower garden sets. (I need to make more!). Now I want to buy some acrylic blocks and play! My stamps are thicker rubber than the ones in the video and that extra thickness gives you the cushioning you need so you won't need that layer of foam. I could check out the EZMount, but I think that double sided tape will work just fine. In fact, I've got an ATG gun and that will work even better because it sticks great then rubs off like rubber cement.

Yay! So that's that. I've got some new one of a kind stamps to share and I'm going to be listing them unmounted. Some sweet stamps are coming soon - stay tuned!

Kristin Lee Cards - take two!

Here is another gorgeous handmade card created by Kristin of Greeting Cards by Kristin Lee made with my stamp as seen above and another stamp by a fellow Etsy carver. It's always so much fun to see what people make with my stamps!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Greeting Cards by Kristin Lee

Round abstract stamp by Green Garden Stamps

It's always such a thrill to see what people are making with my stamps! Kristin of Greeting Cards by Kristin Lee just contacted me to share this marvelous card she made with my round abstract stamp. Isn't it so lovely and fun? Be sure to visit her shop for more beautiful, handmade greeting cards for a variety of different occasions!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Handmade wedding invitation

The customer that purchased my custom sunflower stamp just sent me this image of her finished wedding invitation. Isn't it just gorgeous!? I always love to see what my customers are making and this was a real treat. Congratulations to you Ema and Devin! Here is a wedding blessing for you.

The Way -- Unknown origin

The way is long -- let us go together
The way is difficult -- let us help each other
The way is joyful -- let us share it
The way is ours alone -- let us go in love
The way grows before us -- let us begin

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Take my poll and enter to win a free set of gift tags!



or wood?


or wood?

I really want to tighten up my product line and part of doing that is deciding between wood or glass mounts for my smaller stamps (larger stamps will remain on wood mounts). Which do you prefer? Your opinion means so much to me that a random commenter will get a set of free gift tags of your choice from my shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/greengardenstamps

Here's how it works. Leave a comment responding to my question of wood or glass mounts and enter to win in the random drawing. Follow my blog and your name will be counted twice (if you're already following, I will count you twice as well)! Just be sure to leave a way for me to contact you. Poll runs now through Monday, August 16th at which point I'll put all of the names in a hat (literally, my husband has a sweet hat collection! hehe) and choose one at random. I'll announce the winner on the blog. Best of luck to you and thanks in advance for helping me decide which one to go with!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The wild turkey babies are rapidly growing into young adults. They paid me a visit yesterday and were very happy that we've let the lawn go without a mow because they had a buggy feast back there! Thanks to this traveling tribe of bug munching fowl, we haven't seen a tick on our dog once this year (a first). They are a fun animal to observe - cautious, skittish (rightfully so, they are tasty prey and cars are no fun) but when they are in a secure place able to just graze and meander together, they are very peaceful and make the sweetest, soft coos and clucks to one another. It's like a zen meditation when they pass through - a daily experience of stopping what I'm doing to watch the turkeys. It's something I really look forward to and it takes me to a happy, peaceful place. Ha! That's country livin' for ya. ;)

*gobble gobble*

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Step by step - hand carving a sunflower stamp

I was so happy to get a new commission to create a large sunflower stamp for my customer's wedding invitations. How exciting! Not only carving the largest stamp I think I've ever carved but mostly knowing that something I created will be incorporated into someone's very special day. I began with a sketch approved by the customer. It's roughly 3.5" x 3.5" square (or in this case, circle).
I like to sketch in ink, so I've gone over the design with pencil to be burnished onto the rubber as seen above. Basically just trace your design in pencil on paper, flip it onto the rubber, then rub the paper with something smooth like a burnishing board or a smooth handle on a butter knife.

Next, I've carved out around the petals with an Exact-o knife.

Here comes the fun part, carving out the design with my Speedball carving tool.

Now to test the stamp - looks great!

Now I'm ready to glue the stamp to the back of a prepped wood mount. I have painted it this happy yellow in an acrylic paint and then spray varnished it. I use E-6000 glue for a really solid seal.

For the top of the wood mount, I've added a stamped piece of sticker paper and spray varnished it again (it will get a couple more coats when it's done). All that's left to do is lacquer the exposed wood in the back and it will be good to go!

This will be going out to a very kind customer that's been a pleasure to work with but I think this may be the start of something as far as a prototype for over sized stamps. What other designs would you like to see in this large scale?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

after the rain

Large ornate hand carved herb and vegetable stamps

What's better than fresh tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden? Not a whole lot! My vegetable and herb stamps combine a botanical reference with a folk art/wood cut looking style. Check the rest out here and feel free to suggest more that you'd like to see!

Search more vegetable stamps for sale at Etsy.com.

Large ornate hand carved flower stamps

This poppy stamp is an example of my more ornate work on a larger scale, carving botanical studies of flowers with a wood cut/folk art look. To see more in this collection, visit my shop
Green Garden Stamps.