Angela Davies and Mark Eaglen from Studio MADE in Denbigh asked if I could help them to create some bespoke rubber stamps. Studio MADE were holding an interactive printing workshop and exhibition for the Denbigh Alphabet project, celebrating the Welsh language using the Welsh and English alphabets.
They created the Denbigh Alphabet using local people’s photos of historical items and local environmental features in the town to form letters from the English and Welsh alphabets. You can see them below. Angela and Mark wanted to use the outlines of the shapes to create the letter shapes for the stamps. There would be 26 English letter stamps and 28 Welsh ones.
As the project budget was tight, I suggested that cutting the letters out would be faster and therefore cheaper than engraving out the unwanted areas of the stamps.
Mark converted the letter shapes from the photos into vector files so that the laser could cut the shapes out. I could see that some of the letters were very thin and detailed, so I shared my vector artwork preparation blog to warn of the pitfalls with small detailed cutting projects.
Then they arranged the letters in rectangles so that each letter or pair of letters would be cut out of rectangles of rubber. This was clever, because it meant that each set of letters created two stamps – the positive and negative imprints as you can see in the stamps above and the prints below.
The robust and the fragile
Once the rubber sheet arrived, I cut the letters. Even at 1.5mm, rubber is pretty robust. Most came out well and the letters and their surrounds were perfect for use as stamps. I had to be careful to keep the insides of the letters (a, b, d etc) as they would be needed to complete the negative stamps.
There was one shape that was so fine that only its negative could be used effectively. Can you see the rope-like shape cut out next to the N? You can see how fragile it was, even when the artwork had been beefed up.
I used the same rectangle shapes to cut blocks of 9mm mdf to the same sizes as the stamps. Angela and Mark stuck them to the backs of the stamps, making them easier to handle during printing. They were careful to glue the letters on the wrong way so that the printed letters would be the right way round when printed.
Assembling the stamps
I sent all the pieces of mdf and rubber to Studio MADE and they assembled the stamps. You can see them all in the picture at the top of the post. All the grey shapes are rubber, and the beige areas are the mdf blocks behind the rubber.
Studio MADE posted pictures in their Instagram feed of the prints strung up on lines to dry after the workshops. I love how colourful they are and how the letter positives and negatives work together. And the letter forms are so interesting and beautiful. Participants used the stamps to spell out words in Welsh and English. This project was supported by Denbigh County Council, Denbigh Museum and Menter Iath Dinbych.