Fun with seared stamps

One of my favourite ranges of stamps of recent years is the John Byars wooden set of nostalgic childhood images, released by do crafts in 2010. They remind me of pictures of my Dad when he was little (always in shorts!), and that in turn gives me a warm gooey feeling of closeness to my dear, departed Nanna. I was lucky enough to demo the collection on Create and Craft with Stephanie Weightman, and it was the first time I had a sell out in the hour.

I’m often asked at demos whether wood-mounted rubber stamps are better than clear unmounted ones. It’s a tricky question, as it depends on your priorities. Wooden stamps are lovely to hold, and rubber stamps can be used for techniques involving direct heat, like triple embossing, or stamping onto films and fibres. They do require a bit more care when cleaning though, take up more space (although you can unmount them), are more expensive, and are harder to position precisely. In contrast, clear acrylic stamps are cheap, easy to use and clean (as long as you don’t mind some staining), but can’t be used with direct heat. My advice generally is just to choose the images you like, regardless of material, unless you want to build up scenes/complex images (choose clear) or use direct heat (choose rubber).

With the John Byars stamps though, I found another reason to choose wood-mounted. The guide image has been seared onto the wood, rather than just printed, so you can try out your brass-rubbing skills on them for a different effect. That’s how I got the inverse kite effect at the bottom of this card, using watercolour pencils. You need to press quite firmly, keep the pencils as flat as possible (so you don’t fall down the dents) and take care not to rub to the edge of the stamp (or you get a line). I really like the effect, and I’d love to hear what you think of it, so please leave me a comment. I’d also love to know if you’ve found any other stamps with seared images like this.

If you missed out on these stamps, don’t despair. Do crafts have some designs left in their sale here at nearly half price if you’re a Creativity Club member.

Coordinating or eclectic?

A lot of Christmas trees will probably be in the loft or shredder by now, but I’m a bit old school when it comes to decorations: they don’t go up until the last weekend before Christmas, and stay up until as late as possible on 6th January.  So as I cling on to my twinkly lights for just a little longer, I thought I’d share my tree with you. Please leave me a note to tell me about your tree too.

There’s more than a smidge of the obsessive compulsive in me – my DVD and CD collections are in alphabetical order, I’m secretly troubled by all the random sizes of the books on my shelves, and when I craft, I’ll spend ages making sure that the colours coordinate properly.  No mixing of orangey reds and pinky reds on my cards thankyouverymuch.  But when it comes to my Christmas tree, I like a big jumble of multi-coloured, random decorations.  It’s not messy, it’s errr, eclectic.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it 🙂  Of course I admire and appreciate the stylish colour-coordinated trees in their modern blues-and-silvers or their traditional reds-and-greens.  The DVD-sorting part of me even wants them in my house (colour-coordinated with the room decor, of course!).  For me though, Christmas and the start of a new year is all about appreciating and connecting with the people who are important to me and that inevitably involves some thinking about my past.

Loved since 1970ish

As a result, my tree groans under the weight of decorations I’ve made or saved throughout my life, like a scrapbook that only I can read.  There’s the faithful fairy that once shimmered at the top of my childhood trees, her crepe paper skirts yellowed from 4 decades of loft living.  One of my fondest Christmas memories is of my Mum covering those skirts with glitter (now mostly gone), because the 8 year old me didn’t want her to be thrown out just because she was faded and tatty.  Then there are various test pieces made for classes, web projects and magazine articles – individual baubles covered in glitter, alcohol ink, embossing powder, flock and glass paint. Then there are tiny fake presents and mini crackers that I made from wrapping paper off-cuts for my first tree in my own house. There’s even a fancy bauble that was a wedding favour from a December wedding, and a single lantern from my grandparents’ old tree lights. My decorations may not match, and they may not be as shiny or sparkly as they once were, but they’ve shared my life and I couldn’t imagine decorating my tree without them.  I just hope the fairy has a few more years in her so she can become part of Bob’s Christmasses too!

Bauble with alcohol inks and bead collar

Mini cracker - a great way to use up paper offcuts

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