Wednesday, January 19, 2011

stamps tutorial

One of my craft-idea-binge-all-nighters once led me to a very interesting idea: glue craft foam to Jenga blocks to make your own stamps. (By the way, it's true what the 'studies show' studies say -- you really are more likely to click on a Google link that comes with an image. And why not?) I saved the idea along with a million I'll never use.

But you know how ideas percolate in the crafty brain. Several weeks later, I found myself volunteered to make a sign for my second graders' class party. (OK, I actually did volunteer.) I liked the idea of a border made of text, like Carolyn's Chanukah doughnut tray. How do you produce a reasonably reliable repeating text, especially with a handwriting as unpredictable as mine? Why stamps! Ooh, stamps!

I have a pack of sticky-back craft foam sheets I picked up at Walmart back in July. I also have borrowing rights to my daughter's "Rainbow Art" set -- a set of six bright wide-stroke markers that clip together to produce some glorious rainbow effects. Singly, they are great calligraphy markers, and the colors make your heart sing.

So I practiced some calligraphy until I could produce a decent imitation of the standard Hebrew font known as David. (Irrelevant trivia: the font is not named for David King of Israel; it's named for its designer, calligrapher Itamar David.) Then I wrote my text on the white peel-away paper on a foam sheet's sticky back. Like this.

You don't need to know Hebrew to realize that my calligraphy skills leave something to be desired. The nice thing here is that what you write doesn't count until you actual get out the scissors and cut.

So here are the stamps once I got the letters calligraphed, cut, peeled, and stuck (and used, hence the colorful ink staining). The blocks I dug up are wider than Jenga ones, which is a good thing.

If you make a word stamp with this method, it's important to position the word right at the top of the block, so that when you stamp there is no guesswork (or much less, at least) involved in positioning. I placed the word at the top left of the stamp you see - i.e., the top right of the stamp as it's being stamped - because Hebrew goes from right to left. An English word stamp should be aligned to the left... that is, to the right... That is, whatever your favorite alphabet, the first letter needs to have its back right up against the wall. OK?!

I also cut a little diamond shape for a spacer, and stuck it to the edge of one of the blocks.

Here's the big beautiful sign with the stamped frame!

(Yep, that's the Rainbow Art blue and green calligraphy in the middle, spelling out Mazel Tov, Grade 2. I wish I'd used blue and purple instead, but I'm thankful the calligraphy came out nice!)

The words in the border (Chazak, chazak, ve-nis'chazek) mean "Be strong, be strong, and let's be strengthened," the traditional cheer upon reaching a milestone in Torah study. The cool thing for me was that since 'chazak' and 'chazek' are spelled the same, I only had to make two little word stamps, one for 'chazak' and one for 've-nis,' to produce the whole sentence.

The party marks the class's concluding a chapter in the Torah, in this case, Bereishis/Genesis 13. The sheep and tents are Avraham Avinu's. The corn flake crumbs are the dust of the earth; G-d promised Abraham his descendants would be beyong counting, like the dust of the earth. I might still write in some plain black labels, or I might not.

The sheep are made from round cottony cosmetic pads plus bits of color coding stickers -- I knew I had to use Picture Pie somewhere in this project!

The tents are felt, and so in order to hold their door-flaps open, I used needle and thread -- made one little stitch and knotted it securely behind. Bit of a pain, but not too bad. Now the little book -- there I was a daffy mom and went for the needle and thread absolutely without needing to. At least, I could have made three big stitches, like Miles Hendon. (Extra credit if you know who that is without looking it up.) But no, I sat and did seven tight stitches through a stack of little pages. Have I mentioned I'm addicted to notebooks of any kind?

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