Exploring shapes and textures with prints: A how-to.

Old books and their magic infuse our lives.

Learning by doing about the ancient art of printing began with a book picked up at an estate sale in another state.

The first stamp experiments involved old styrofoam blocks and wooden blocks. We wanted to see what effect the different materials would have on the textures and depth of the printed shapes. By using some circular styrofoam building blocks, we found that the foam made rich and soft impressions with the ink- impressions that looked almost like smudged fingerprints.

Using the rough edges of wooden blocks as staps showed the rings of the wood as an embedded pattern within the rectangles. Max saw many levels of symbolism in this, and we vowed to set aside some “cool wooden edges” for future wood printing use.

Milla offered us our next printing experiment in the form of a grooved construction piece. We were certain the printed effect would be scandalously cool- and we surprised to learn that, at best, our cross only led to a continuous pattern of four small circles in the shape of a square.

Granted, this would make a great border, but we expected more bang from this experiment. Max pointed out that, in printing, spacing matters- recessed prints and patterns won’t show up in the final product. Everything in your stamp needs to be raised at around the same level for it to show up.

Of course, all the experimenting led us to fabrics- and our efforts to print with loose fabric led to dye all over fingers and mumbled fabric prints. Sometimes it’s worth skipping the instructions only to learn why they exist in the first place. You really need to create a stamp in order to fully apply fabrics to the art of the printing.All you need to make a stamp is some wood glue, old blocks, and something worth stamping. Make sure to let it dry before using it.

Stamps made from old upholstery fabric and wooden blocks.

Stamps made from old lace doilies and wooden blocks.

Itching to get started on his official print masterpiece, Max insisted that we had experimented enough and now we were “ready” to create our own patterns using printed patterns.

He liked the perfect, single circles created by cup prints, so he decided to create 4 x 3 pattern as his base design. Then Max decided to fill in his circles with the soft styrofoam print effect- but he wanted to use green ink.

“I want to stagger the green circles with another color, Mom.”

Green and purple staggered circles.

Finally, Max decided to “edge in” (his words) with the lace stamp we made. For this, he chose a bright turquoise and treated the stamp like a triangle pattern.

Max prepares the lace stamp for use.

Max’s final print pattern, almost finished.

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