Five Reasons Real Artists Make Their Own Tools

Headshot Art Cloth-579 Why make your own stamps, stencils, and silkscreens?

Inquiring minds want to know! Of course we all love to learn new techniques and processes, but are there concrete reasons to invest the time in learning how to make your own tools? I think the answer is a loud-and-clear yes! And, thanks to Jane Dunnewold and her fabulous new book Art Cloth, I can give you 5 good reasons why you should try making your own stamps, stencils, and silkscreens.

Here is Jane’s list:

  1. Cost. Making tools is less expensive than buying the tools sold in a store.
  2. Art Cloth-858Copyright issues. Most commercial tools come with a disclaimer. They are for personal use only and can’t be sold as part of a finished work of art. Even if you might never get caught or risk prosecution, it’s unethical to pass someone else’s designs off as your own. And you can probably design better stuff anyway!
  3. Filling the toolbox. It’s a good thing to know how to make tools. If you know exactly what look you need for the piece currently in production, your work will benefit by being integrated and cohesive.
  4. Refinement. Making tools allows you to generate a repertoire of images that actually support one another thematically. Creating a stable of elements that related to each other refines your work and is also a key to working in a series.
  5. Scale. Commercial stamps designed for use on paper are not good candidates for fabric printing. The delicate nature of images isn’t usually the right scale for printing on cloth. Bigger commercial stamps don’t always have enough detail. Be inspired by stamps meant for paper but translate them into your own designs, so that the scale and refinement supports your artistic vision.

I think Jane’s list is right on the mark and will help many of you out there who are trying to make the leap from hobbyist to professional. I know I spend hours hunting through old books looking for the right set of words or texture. I’ve also started using my screen-printing machine to add texture to my three-dimensional art pieces. I know it’s a little unconventional, but that’s what I like about it. No one else could possibly create the same piece of art. Reason number 3 is perhaps my favorite from the list. I remember one Christmas wanting to send cards that said, “If you don’t believe in Santa, all you’ll get is underwear for Christmas.” Well, I didn’t have an underwear stamp but I did have a white eraser and stamp-carving tools. In no time I had a pair of boxers with little hearts on them. Perfecto!

I thought I’d share a couple of my other recent experiments in stamp carving and silkscreening.

screenprint-2 screenprint-1 artiststamp
Experiment 1: I created a screen using an image I made with illustration software. I experimented by laying down a number of different colors on the screen at one time. I also printed directly on these three birch panels at the same time. Experiment 2: I screened the entire image onto a larger birch panel and then onto a large printing block covered with text. I liked the way the image bled around the little type. Experiment 3: After printing the background monoprint with a heavy-duty press, I added a house image with my own hand-carved stamp.

Do you make your own tools? What are your favorites? Let us know in the comment section. If you’re itching to learn more ways to make your own tools, take a gander at Jane’s Art Cloth book and treat yourself to a lesson in making your own stamps, stencils, and silkscreens.




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