Friday, March 13, 2009

Experimental Friday - Erasers

Once again it's time for my Surfacing Group's alphabet challenge and we are up to "e." I originally thought I'd try out Elmer's glue gel as a resist, but it was going to take working on it over several days, and I'm already behind on other things. However, I have had this pack of erasers for a long time, bought expressly for trying my hand at making my own rubber stamps. Eraser stamps it is.

I found three sources of information as to how to proceed. The briefest was in Exploring Textile Arts, while the most detailed came from Jean Ray Laury's book, The Fabric Stamping Handbook. I also referenced an article by Laura Wasilowski in the April/May 2008 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine; the information there was very similar to Laury's instructions. I gathered my supplies (Pentel Hi-polymer erasers, X-acto knife, sketchbooks, pencil, pen) and started to think about a design.

These erasers are small - about 1" by 2-1/2" - and I didn't want to do something obvious or like what I already had. No leaves, no crosses, no lines, triangles, crescent moons. I traced around the eraser multiple times in my little sketchbook so I could try out ideas, then looked through my larger sketchbook for motifs. Some of the sketches might work after some practice with this, but in this tiny space, most of them would require intricate cutting. I settled on the design in the middle, taken from an idea portraying a bridge over the lake. The wavy line under the bridge area I guess, indicates the water. I shaded the parts of the design that would not be cut away.

I used a pattern transfer method suggested by both Jean & Laura. I traced the design onto a scrap of release paper from the fusible I've been using the last few days using a soft lead pencil. (Actually, the directions suggested tracing paper, but I knew the release paper would act the same.) Then I placed the tracing paper face down on the eraser and rubbed across it with a thimble. Any kind of burnishing tool would work. In fact, Laura says you can use your fingernail. I lifted a corner to check, and voile! The pencil lines had transferred onto the eraser.

I retraced the pencil lines with a very fine Micron Pigma pen. I tried my Sharpie fine line first but it just oozed and spread on the rubber. Then it was cut along the lines with the X-acto knife, trying to angle the cut out to provide stability for the raised design. Then a cut from the side to remove the background sections. This was easy on the long straight outside edge, but trickier in the middle. I persevered, and while it is not neat and tidy in the cut-out sections, the face of the stamp came out pretty clean.

So here it is tested on paper. The actual stamp is angled at the top left of the paper. I'm much more impressed with this than I thought I'd be. I've lined it up different ways and can actually envision this design stamped over an entire piece of cloth. I'm not sure stamp cutting is for me though - it took an awfully long time to do this. I have two other designs I'd like to try, then it's probably back to buying pre-made stamps, or trying a different material. But I have to admit, the eraser is easy to cut and makes a nifty little stamp.


Connie Rose said...

Very nice, Sheila!

Diane Elizabeth said...

Great job, Sheila. I'm terribly impressed with your neat arrangement of materials and notebook. I struggle with my messes, creative and otherwise!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks, you two. But Diane, my neat arrangement is purely for the camera, which conveniently crops out the mess surrounding this little vignette! Once I got into the actual work, this "neatness" quickly disappeared.

Reflecting upon this experience, I became aware of the fact that although I love the idea of rubber stamps, I have a difficult time figuring out effective ways to use them. In actually designing one, I found my efforts limited by my conceptualizing skills. I have a very difficult time envisioning how negative areas will effect the design and how repeats will work. It's a little like the surprise one gets when arranging pieced quilt blocks side by side and discovering a secondary pattern emerge where the blocks join. I think some people can anticipate this in their heads better than others. Like everything else, I suppose this ability increases with practice. So perhaps working with stamp design would actually improve a skill I know is weak but needed in other facets of developing my art.