Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rubber stamping was my gateway drug

As I venture back into art making and blogland after many months healing up from a broken wrist, severely pulled biceps tendon and dislocated thumb, I'm indulging in a little trip down memory lane.

Eleven years ago this month, on a sunny winter's day, I strolled across the street to my neighbor Jessica's for a Stampin Up! party. I honestly didn't know what Stampin Up! was, what I was attending, or why the exclamation point was there. What I did know is that I was mom to then not-quite three-year-old twins, and when offered the chance of two hours off, in the company of other women (people who spoke in whole sentences!), I did not walk, I ran.

To be clear, at that point I was not what you'd consider a creative person. I'd sewn a little, beaded a little, done some flower arranging, and I was a decent writer. But my eighth-grade art teacher's caution that I should give up any pretensions to art was one I'd heeded.

At the stamping workshop, I felt a little out of my element, but the demonstrator was friendly and made me feel that I could do what she was doing. She guided us through some hands-on projects: a card, and a couple of cool gift boxes. But when she demonstrated heat embossing, and the muddy-colored granulated substance she applied to paper turned to GOLD--well, I was hooked.

I am a very good researcher, and that workshop launched me on what I can only describe as an odyssey to learn about everything related to stamping. I spent sleepless nights trawling the web. In those pre-social media days, one of the ways to connect with others who shared your passions was via Yahoo Groups. There, I met a global community of kind, patient and encouraging souls. There were an unbelievable number of groups--and stamping companies, stamping products, and tutorials. I was hungry and I fervently believed that though I could not draw a straight line, I could create something pretty.

I believe I spent the next two years mostly collecting stuff. But somewhere along the line, and vastly encouraged by those kind souls, I began to Play. Stamps led to ink, which led to paint, and gesso, and molding paste, stencils, found objects, ephemera, collage...you get the picture. By the time I became familiar with Tim Holtz and his Products of Wonder, my fate was sealed, and I found a phrase that resonated: mixed media. I'd always balked at doing the same thing over and over and I'm fairly adventurous, so that worked. Mixed media!

And then of course, there were the Swaps. Artist Trading Cards, cards, canvases, jewelry, chunky books, techniques, decos, altered books, round robin journals. Oh my, I spent years creating and swapping with some very talented women (and a few men). Many of them are my friends today, and though I limit my swaps to a special few with old friends, I keep my box of these treasures.

I still love stamps and use them, though not as much or as I did back then. I've settled in what I know to be my style: slightly grungy, unapologetically colorful, very piecey. Somewhere along the line I picked up paintbrushes and pliers and added those to my repertoire. When not injured or recovering, I create a wide variety of stuff for friends and local auctions. I still struggle with the term artist, but I am a person who enjoys the creative process.

My husband's eyes glaze when I talk about this stuff, but he nods knowingly when I say that rubber stamping was my gateway drug. I tell him not to think too hard about it and just enjoy the pretty things.


  1. This is an encouraging post. Makes one want to jump on the path and get going. Thanks, Autumn from Jessie

  2. So glad you are well enough to create again. Love hearing your journey!!!

  3. My husband is also indulgent of my knitting/calligraphy/kumihimo habits. I try to be careful not to be seduced by too many new shiny supplies, but he encourages me and says it keeps me off the streets. :P