Rubber stamping, also called stamping, is a craft in which some type of ink made of dye or pigment is applied to an image or pattern that has been carved, molded, or vulcanized, onto a sheet of rubber. The rubber is often mounted onto a more stable object such as a wood or an acrylic block produce a more solid instrument. The ink coated rubberstamp is then pressed onto any type of media (i.e. paper, fabric, wood, metal, glass, plastic, or rock) such that the colored image has now been transferred to the media.
Commercially available rubber stamps fall into two categories: stamps for use in business and stamps used for decorating objects or as children's toys.
Rubber stamps for business are custom-made, showing an address, a corporate logo or something similar, or they are bought ready-made. They often have movable parts that allow the user to adjust the date or the word the stamp says. They are still often used to date incoming mail, memos and similar items.
Ready made decorative rubber stamps have become fashionable in the United States. While they are mostly regarded as children's toys in Europe, in the U.S. they are available in many intricate designs and are widely used to decorate various objects. Such decorating stamps can be used for easy decoration of useful things like paper for letters, greeting cards and similar things, but also can be combined with other techniques to create real art.
Rubber Stamps as an Art Form
In the art world, there is also rubber stamp art. Sometimes the rubber stamps are self-made or even carved out of erasers. Today, companies in the US offer special, eraser-like rubber in larger pieces produced for this. This art is popular there, but virtually unknown in Europe. It is especially used by non-professional artists due to ease of use. The print from the carved rubber stamp is viewed as work of art on its own or one or several stamps are used to embellish a work of art with other components.
Also, other materials besides rubber may be used to produce a stamp. In fact woodcut and Linocut are the same art using another carving material, but linoleum is much harder and so special tools are needed to work with it. In Europe, Linocut is widely used. While Linocut is used at schools or by hobby artists, woodcut is mostly restricted to professional artists because it is difficult to use and time consuming.
There are several possibilities to vary the look of those works. Paints, pigments and dye inks all create different effects, extending the use of rubber stamping from paper to fabrics, wood, metal, glass, and so on. Special ink pads can be purchased that allow for embossing and there are pens that can be used to ink stamp pads with a variety of colors for a multi-color look. All this creates possibilities for all sorts of mixed media art.
The print of a larger rubber stamp can be a work of art on its own right, and is often used as such. But it's also possible to use multiple prints from the same or different rubber stamps on a piece of art to create a picture, or combine stamping with other art forms. Of course the use of rubber stamps can be combined with other materials. The image may be embellished by the addition of chalks, inks, paints, fibers and a variety of other embellishments. Stamping is also often used in handmade card making. In addition, use of the stamping technique has become widely popular with the new scrapbooking craze. The variety of stamps available allow for different looks to any given page.
A woodcut (also known as woodblock or wood printing) is a method of printing in which an image is carved into the surface of a piece of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with chisels. The image is then inked by rolling over the surface with an inked roller, leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas. Paper is then placed face-down on the woodblock and pressure is applied to the back, either by printing press or with hand-held tools such as a spoon or a baren (though any hard, slightly curved surface will do). The ink is transferred to the paper by the pressure, and the mirror image of the surface of the woodblock is printed. Multiple colors can be printed by keying the paper to a frame around the woodblocks (where one woodcut is used for each color).
A quicker method of separating printing from non-printing areas is to cover the printing areas with shield of some kind, and then blast the whole surface, either by sandblasting or shot-blasting. The shield may be a metal outline, or a thick coat of rubber cement or similar compound can be painted on.
Linocut is a variant of woodcut, in which a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface. A pattern is carved into the linoleum, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reflection of the design to be printed. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.
As the material being carved has no particular direction to its grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects than with most woods, although the resultant prints lack the wood character of wood block printing. Linoleum is also much easier to cut than wood, but the pressure of the printing process degrades the plate faster. Also it's hard to do really big pieces because the material is somewhat fragile.
Due to ease of use, linocut is widely used at schools to introduce children to the art of printing. Also non-professional artist tend to use linocut rather than woodcut. But it was and is also widely used by professional artists, for similar reasons.