Block printing (well, stamping) newbie

Hi-dee-ho.  Amy (T. Frog) here.

If you are just joining us, go here and here to enter some smokin’ giveaways in honor of National Craft Month (hey, shouldn’t that be INTERnational Craft Month!?).  And stay tuned – we’ve got more in store for you.  Spread the word, yo.

Anyway… on with the show.

I find that my mind moves much faster than anything else in my life.  I often have ideas of things I want to try long before I manage to make time to actually TRY them.  Such is the case with block carving and printing.  I just adore the look of a linocut (they are similar to wood cuts, although usually crisper images), so I decided I’d give it a try.  About 18 months ago, give or take.

And guess what?!  This week, I finally made the time to DO it!  Using a small soft pine wood block, I created an image of a woman in a bathing suit and used it on my very first official piece of mail art!  Whoo-hoo!  Two firsts in one!

Here is the finished product.  It was mailed to Mary L., a new Gauche convert, who responded in kind (I plan to take a photo of her card later… don’t ask me to get up right now.  Ugh.).  It’s a 4×6 postcard, and I’ll go through the steps of how I made it.

Postcard how-to:

1) I ripped up some pages from a very old Japanese book, yellowed and lovely.   (Thank you, Yasu!)  Then I experimented with my new block stamp (see below for more details), using black acrylic paint and black ink.  I liked the ink best, but I saved some of my other attempts, which you see layered behind the primary image.

2) I cut a piece of cardstock to 4×6″ and glued on a patterned piece of tissue paper from an old shoebox, letting it wrinkle slightly.  I then stamped over the tissue paper using a rose-patterned background stamp and teal ink.

3) Next, I arranged and glued down scraps of the Japanese text in layers, including some of my “outtakes” from experimenting with the block stamp.

4)  I sprayed the entire surface with Coffee Shop Glimmer Mist and then followed that with Glacier Glimmer Mist for a bit more depth and sheen.

5) Next, I grabbed a white flower barette from our Wedding Night Color Kit stash and clipped it to the side of the postcard.

6) The main image was inked along the edge with magenta ink and glued onto the composition.  I used some Copic Spica glitter pens to accent the hat and shawl. Then, I edged the card with silver duct tape.

7) I used a blue Sharpie marker to add the quote from Charles Dickens (Great Expectations – which, by the way, I have never read… should I admit that?).  Then I sealed the whole thing with a layer of Mod Podge.

8) The back is simply a piece of cardstock stamped with various stamps – the Postcard stamp is Tattered Angels, the birds are Crafty Secrets, and the printed words are 7 gypsies.  (Here’s a tickler for ya: I’m going to be putting together a fantastic little mail art kit, which will include a few of these type of stamp designs!)

9) Because the barette added some thickness to the card, I used a piece of thin craft foam as a layer between the front and back, cutting a hole in the foam to allow space for the barette back.  This made the front and the back of the card nice and flat (and gave it some nice substance, as well!).  It was all glued together using our favorite paper glue, Zip Dry.

The block stamp image, believe it or not, is based on this lovely vintage Buxom girl.  You know, she’s the perfect spokeswoman for the Buxom Melons job.  I put her on my copy machine and made a black-and-white copy.

1) I turned over the copy of Betty Buxom here, and scribbled all over the back of the image with a charcoal pencil.  Graphite (regular pencil) works just as well.  Or, if you prefer, you can use carbon paper (just insert it between the image and the block when tracing).

2) Flip the image upright again, so you’re looking right into her melons eyes, and place it over your soft wood block (I used pine), messy side down.  Using a fine-tip pen or similar instrument, outline the image.  Don’t get too detailed if you’re a newbie like me.  If, on the other hand, you are an old pro like these folks, by all means, be ambitious!  When you lift the paper, you should see a tracing of your image.

3) I regret I don’t have photos of this process, but I plan to make a video tutorial soon, so let’s just forge onward…  you will need a set of wood carving tools.  Here’s what they look like:

All you need for a little job like this is a cheapie set ($5 or less) – the only pieces I used were the third and fourth one from the right.  These are also great for working with clay and wax… I have a lot of experimenting to look forward to with this set!

Please, folks – PLEASE! – be cautious and develop habits of safety when using these tools.  They may be cheap and lightweight, but they are very sharp, and while we readily admit to being gauche, we certainly don’t delight in bloodshed.  Always point the blade away from your hands and body – clamp your work to your desk if that helps.  Or, as my hubby suggested (I was too impatient), get one of these safety gloves.  They are a mighty fortress of impenetrability, the chastity belt of the woodcarving world – or so I hear.  (I think I got lucky in not stabbing or slicing myself during this project, but maybe you’re a little more coordinated than I am.)

Anyhow, use the tools to slowly and carefully remove all parts of the image that you want to be negative space.  That is, if you want her face to be the color of the paper you stamp on, that’s negative space.  Remove the face.  This is precise work, but you don’t have to be perfect.  I think the charm of wood block stamping is that it’s kind of chunky and rough looking.  I actually think my first attempt here came out a bit too clean… I think I’ll leave in some stray marks and “mistakes” next time.

As you can see from my result, it looks only glancingly like my Buxom inspiration.  I found that I made some mistakes that changed he look of her apparel and hat.  But (wait for it, my friends) that’s the MARK of an arteeeste, is it not?  Make it your own!  🙂  (In other words, if you can’t make it, fake it!)

4) When you think you may be close to your goal, stop and ink the stamp.   Do a test stamp.  Modify based on what you see. The stamp will be nearly impossible to decipher just by looking at it.  This is not a rubber stamp, after all… you’re gonna have to ink it up to see how the chips fall.   Chips… fall…. hahahahahahahhahhahahhahahhhahaaa…. whoooooo!!!  I kill me.

That’s it.  I had fun!  Hope you do, too!  Please share your experiments, successful or not, with us on our Flickr group!  Share, share!!!


13 Responses

  1. Like you I saw a bloggy friend playing with lino cuts well over a year ago now and thought#oooh must try’ but still have yet to. You have sparked the ineterest again, I love your melon lady… how unfair to create that at first attempt. I may have a moment to sulk if I may…

    Ok done.

    Gorgeous artwork, gorgeous stamp. Bring on the tut I says 😀 😀

  2. Amy!!!! WOW. And I mean WOW. You are my stamping diva from now on. And, yes, I totally agree with Carmen. Allow me a moment to sulk as that is just one beautiful piece of art.

    Um, I think I’ll leave all the woodcutting and chips to you. I am abominably clumsy. Can’t even sew without poking my fingertips.

    Fabulous, fabulous! =)

  3. P.S. Amy T. Frog. Kills me. =)

  4. Oh geez, I just got done with casting resin for the first time and had vowed NOT to try anything new and now look what you’ve done! Grrrr…lol

    This is awesome! Thanks first for explaining all of your layers. I’m working on my layering and this is a great help! Also, the stamp turned out too cool.

    I really love that you used the not so great stamp attempts as layering under the one you used. I love finding ways to use things most people would have tossed! 😀

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Amy – this is beautiful! I love the postcard and the layering is lovely! TFS!

  6. I will go back and do a proper read of the carving dets later.
    IT was fun wasn’t it!! to send it through the mail, I got mine from Mary on the tenth and so far it has traveled around the house with me. I was thinking about making you something tooooo. You did good Amy T. Frog.

  7. What a beautiful card! I’ve gotten away from card making but this car makes me want to get back into it. Thanks for following me.

  8. Oh righteous leader, you did it again. I bow to you…..

    bahahahahahaha, you wood widdler you!!!

  9. whittler even lol

  10. Wow, that turned out great. My daughter took a class in linocuts, but I haven’t tried it yet…this is inspirational though!

  11. Amy!! You crazy fast thinking woman!! BOTH things are wonderful!!!

    I just, literally, heard of “mail art” yesterday!! I said I WANT to get mail like this!! so pretty!!

    The closest thing I ever got to “mail art” was my GA envelope, with my name and “rock star” on it!! You know how much I LOVED THAT!!

    Now, If you are feeling crazy, and want to send me a FAB, DOPE, RAD post card like that, I won’t complain!! LOL!!!

  12. Danielle, mine might not be FAB,DOPE-?{what does this mean}, RAD but I would like to do some more…warning: mine might come inside an envie though.

    Amy, I do not have soft pine wood…however I grabbed one of my 1/2 inch twigs and with my hubby’s mail opener(butter knife) and a flat head screwdriver managed some notches, when using ink it kinda puts me in mind of bamboo/and or bony fingers.

  13. Joyce, the fact that you hang out here, and make mail art makes you FAB, DOPE AND RAD. this means you ROCK!!!

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