Friday, March 1, 2013

Playing with Blocks

I, like most crafters, often find myself wandering the aisles of art supply stores looking for inspiration in new toys.  One day at Pearl Paint in New York City I picked up a few 2"x3" linoleum blocks to carve for printing, something I had learned once in a high school art class but had never attempted again.  I thought it would be fun to create my own stamp, and you know what, it was!  Here was the process, along with a few of the creations I made.

First, I sketched out some ideas for geometric designs.  I chose a basic zig zag pattern because it was simple, yet bold, and it would look great on its own or layered under other stamps and embellishments.  Geometric patterns are also unisex, so in making cards and projects you have more flexibility with a bold pattern.  I penciled the pattern on the linoleum and broke out my Dremel.  

Using a structured tooth carbide bit, I traced the lines I had created.  Now, if you are one who absolutely needs perfection, this project may not be for you.  As you will see below, even though my lines were generally straight, it still had a hand-made feel as it was impossible to get completely straight edges to the lines.  I was happy with the results, though.  

The last steps in prepping the block was to first use a stiff-ish brush like a dish brush to gently scrub off the excess bits of linoleum, then use very fine sandpaper to make sure there were no raised edges on my patterns.  Since linoleum is such a firm material, any raise in the pattern will ruin the imprint, so it must be flat.  So, a gentle sand with something like 600-grit sandpaper will take the rough edges down without altering the pattern you have carved.

Now, to print!  Using linoleum is a different material to work with than a rubber or acrylic stamp because it is not flexible.  This means you need to use a little different of a technique when stamping things, but there are more options of the types of ink you can use with it because of that fact, too.  

Instead of laying the paper down and stamping on top of the paper, it is best to ink the block, lay the paper on top of the block, then use either a brayer or your fingers to rub the paper onto the block.  This is the only way to ensure proper coverage.  Even in the case of the styrene piece I stamped for the ornament below, I laid the acrylic on top of the inked block, then applied pressure.
For the goodie bag, I stamped the pattern twice to make a horizontal stripe across a white lunch bag, then used a Micron pen to write a note.
Again with the Micron pen, I drew two simple lines around the stamped pattern along with the card's sentiment to make a super quick thank you card!

For the ornament, I used a watermark ink pad to stamp on a Martha Stewart Crafts styrene shape, then embossed it with brass colored powder.
Because the linoleum is so firm, you can use things like paint and liquid inks without the stamp squishing the color between the cracks, as would happen with more flexible stamps.  So have fun with your colors and materials!  I used a paint brush to apply paint, ink pads to apply ink, and even dipped the block pattern in liquid inks to try that as well.  Anything goes as the linoleum is durable, so a quick scrub with a dish brush when you are done and the stamp is as good as new.  And don't be afraid to stamp on different materials, too.  Use washable inks and paints to stamp on pillowcases, aprons, or placemats!

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