Stephen Fowler explaining the process to a group of FE & HE Students

Rubber Stamping Workshop with Stephen Fowler

This morning, we had a workshop in rubber stamping led by Stephen Fowler.

Stephen is an Illustrator (Harrow, Central St Martins) who, after a decade spent working freelance for clients such as the Independent, chose to specialise in rubber stamp art. He has recently released a book on this subject entitled ‘Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers and other printmaking techniques’ [Lawrence King]. As well as running workshops, he exhibits at places such as Turner Contemporary (Margate) and creates Art books.

Stephen Fowler explaining the process to a group of FE & HE Students
Stephen Fowler

The rubber stamps are created from rubber erasers; Stephen explained that the limitations of size mean you have to get creative with them. It is better when starting out to use simplistic designs, so I chose my initial ‘K’.

I chose to add a little flourish in order to give myself something slightly more complex than straight lines to carve out. The design was filled in with a 2B pencil, and then the rubber was placed over it, and both the paper and the rubber flipped. I then rubbed over the back of the paper with a pencil which transferred the image to the rubber.

At this point it looks like it’s the wrong way round, but because you then apply the stamp to the paper, when you print it will be the correct way round. If you were to draw the design directly onto the stamp then you would need to draw it the opposite way round to your intended outcome.

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Cutting away the unwanted parts with a scalpel.

Whilst it is possible to use the same sort of tools you would use to cut lino, Stephen had us use a scalpel knife. Using the blade ensures greater control and makes it easier to prevent accidental cuts into the area under the stamp, which would affect the quality of the stamp.

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Cutting through the rubber with a scalpel was not as easy as Stephen made it look! It is a very different feel to using lino, but I think I had got the hang of it better with the second stamp! The first cut you make should be against the line of the design with the scalpel held in your hand as you would a pencil, and then you create a ‘v’ shaped notch by turning it around and returning along the outline with the blade angled towards the bottom of your original cut. To remove edges you can slice through horizontally until you meet the edge of your pattern. It is important to remember that you can’t undo the removal of the rubber, so it is best to make sure you are cutting the right bit before you start to cut.

For the second stamp, we were each asked to write a word on a piece of paper, and then to pick one of them to inspire us with a design. I pulled out ‘pointy’ and after an unsuccessful attempt at drawing a mace, I went with something holiday-appropriate; vampire teeth.

My designs from the day.

To ink them we used ink pads. This is part of what makes Rubber Stamping a really accessible way of creating art; it’s something you can easily do at home with little financial outlay, you can pick up ink pads and erasers on the high street for as little as £1 (Tiger is grrrrreat! for things like this) and then all you need is a scalpel/craft knife and some paper. Stephen also gave a talk to us in the morning before the workshop, and showed us some of his work, and there are just so many places you can take stamps due to the simplicity. My scalpel set was purchased from The Artery.

I look forward to experimenting further with creating stamps, I especially like the idea of creating mix and match ones and a set of custom type ones. Keep your eyes tuned on my Portfolio page over the next couple of months to see what I create!

You can purchase Stephen’s book on Rubber Stamping here, and find his blog here.

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