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5 essential things you need to get started with Rubber Stamping, and other thoughts from artist/author Stephen Fowler

Rubber Stamping is a wonderful introduction to this underrated art, and a definitive guide to it's variety and uses. Find out how you can get started in this unique art form in this exclusive interview with Stephen Fowler!

Written by Amelia Gregory

Artist Stephen Fowler publishes his seminal book on the art of Rubber Stamping this month with Laurence King: a complete guide to printing with rubber stamps as well as a handful of alternative methods such as using rollers, plaster, or clay. Beginning with a foreword by the artist Rob Ryan and a short history of rubber stamping, it goes on to explain the technical basics: what equipment to use, how to carve your stamps, register multiple colours, and mask prints. It is beautifully illustrated by the author’s own work and that of other contemporary artists including Rob Ryan and Jeremy Deller.

To celebrate the release of Rubber Stamping I caught up with Stephen to find out more about this underrated art form, and find out what key 5 things you need to get started…

Why rubber stamping?
When I was studying at Harrow School of Art, which is where I was introduced to the medium by the visiting print tutor Steve Hoskins, I used it as a way of reproducing images, illustrations and typography for the books and zines I was making at the time. I was fascinated by the early colour separation and print production from the 1950/60s. I didn’t know how or have the technology to reproduce the effects I liked, no access to computers, and printing processes like silkscreen printing were too time-consuming and expensive. I wanted and needed print to give my work some visual strength and validity and rubber stamping was one of the approaches I experimented with. It quickly became an essential part of my image-making tool kit. 

How has your time as an art tutor influenced the way you think?
Teaching constantly challenges and refreshes my thinking, whether that’s coming up with clear ways of explaining things, or seeing how students interpret and develop the rubber stamp medium. It’s a two-way experience – students and teachers are always transformed. It’s so healthy to witness and be open to other ways of working, making and thinking. It stops us drying up creatively. If you have an idea, share it, lots more new ideas will take its place.  

What is your favourite type of ink or paint to use with a rubber stamp and why?
My favourite pads are ‘Impress‘ ink pads. Unfortunately they’re no longer manufactured, so I’m left to scour the internet for any remaining pads. Their variety of colours was pretty extensive, and make for rich and vibrant print impressions, but most importantly they last for absolutely ages – the ink never seems to run out. It’s become a running joke between me and the manager of ‘Blade Rubber‘, London’s excellent rubber stamp shop. My second favourite brand of ink are ‘Adirondack‘ pads. They produce dense impressions of unusual hues such as chocolate brown and their bright reds are magnificent. However this brand are also ceasing production! From now on if I find a great pad I immediately buy dozens of them just in case. The third, and this time widely available type of pad, is ‘Radiant Neon‘ pigment pads, they leave a layer of pigment on the paper when used with a stamp, making for punchy prints.

How long did it take to put the book together?
I was originally given 18 months to create the book. In the end it took just under 2 years to finish. The last 9 months I was often working 14/15 hour days to finish the book in time, sleeping in my studio and driving my studio mate crazy in the process. Sophie Wise, my editor, was very patient and open. The book kept developing right up to the finishing line, so to speak. I kept on thinking of new ideas, such as including a section of thaumatropes (after seeing Joseph Cornell at the Royal Academy). For the rubber stamped ice biscuits I taught myself how to make royal icing at 4 in the morning for a deadline the next day (sometimes I work better under pressure). However, for many of the other sections, such as Artistamps, I had the luxury of spending a few weeks developing ideas or including insights I’d gleaned from workshops I was running at the time. 

What can people expect at your workshops? (and where or how can they take part?)
During my workshops you’ll be taught how to make rubber stamps from erasers using scalpels, and introduced to all the fundamental technical aspects, including multi-coloured stamping, masking, precision printing and carving in detail. You’ll also have a chance to work collaboratively, whether that’s making editions of artist books, exquisite corpse pictures or a series of Artistamps for example. Participants really get a kick out of combining their work with others. Suddenly the stamps are transformed as they sit on top of or next to their neighbours’ work. 

I run summer schools at UWE (University of the West of England ) and I work in lots of Graphic Design and Illustration courses up and down the land. I often organise open door workshops in different places such as Shepherds Paper Shop. There are plans for a Rubber Stamp club in Bristol and workshops Blade Rubber Stamps. Check my blog for details –

I love the header on your Facebook page – where is that?!
I’ve no idea I’m afraid! I came across it in Google images. I think it’s rather old – I wonder if it still exists?

Finally, can you tell us 5 essential things you need to get started with rubber stamping?

*Swan Morton scalpel (handle no. 3, scalpel no. 10a blades)

*A good 2B pencil

*Plastic eraser – such as the WHSmith or Hema variety (stay away from brands with embossed logos, they interfere with the print image) 

*Stamp pad 

*A simple idea and something to print on.

That’s it – it’s so simple, anyone can do it!

The book features over forty inventive projects and step-by-step examples. These include designing typefaces and repeat patterns, collaborative mail art, creating books and zines, printing on cookies, body art, graffiti, making portraits, translucent and 3D artwork. Rubber Stamping: Get Creative with Stamps, Rollers and Other Printmaking Techniques is available now.
If you’d like to help support Amelia’s Magazine please do use my Amazon affiliate links:
Amazon UK: Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers and other printmaking techniques
Amazon US: Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers and other printmaking techniques


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