Art to Stamp: A Parent-Child Collaboration

Materials: Child’s original artwork; Speedball Speedy Carve block; linoleum cutting set (which I found at a craft store, so I could use a 55% off coupon!)

An alternate title to this post could be Mamas Need Inspiration, Too! I decided upon a focus for this blog–open-ended art experiences for kids–and because I try to stick to it, I really don’t share my own compulsion to make things. But I do make things, as often as I can. Often this is by knitting, since it’s easiest to fit around the edges of my mama gig; clearing out time and space to sew on the machine is much harder. I have a long list of projects and techniques I plan to tackle when I get a bit more time, and I fit what I can into the time I have. Recently, I ordered Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects, and I love love love it. I want to print on paper and fabric and, quite possibly, my children, if they stay still long enough.

Meanwhile, V had an assignment to create a “project representation” for his report on the explorer La Salle, and he chose to make a game. I started asking him some questions to help him to think about what he wanted, and then we went “shopping” in the craft area for supplies. Having just gotten the book and itching to try carving a stamp, I asked him what he was thinking of putting on the back of his question cards. (I know, most parents would be more concerned with the questions themselves; I’m thinking design.) Because, I said, we could make a stamp.

Really? he said.


He decided on a ship, so we found this picture of one of La Salle’s ships, I gave him a piece of paper roughly the size the finished stamp needed to be to fit on the cards, and he drew the ship. I told him it had to be relatively simple, with enough space between the lines for me to carve. (I found Speedy Carve blocks in the 4×6 size and just cut it down to size using a utility knife.)

Then, we darkened the lines of his drawing with pencil, flipped it face down onto the carving block, and I burnished the back with a bone folder, which transferred the pencil lines to the block. This ensures that the finished stamp will match the drawing and not be reversed.

His original drawing is at the top, the stamp in the middle, then the image produced by the stamp at the bottom. At first, carving the stamp was much harder than the book had led me to believe it would be, especially using linoleum tools on a soft block. Then I figured out how to use the tools properly, and it was a piece o’ cake–not that this stamp is particularly lovely to look at. It’s a bit hacked. But it is my first one.

Not only did he stamp all his question cards, he also decided to use the corner punch to round the edges. A boy after my own heart.

I don’t consider this helping with his project, really, since nobody expected him to carve a stamp anyway. If he didn’t have a mother who was a bit obsessed with making things, we’d have gone to the craft store and bought a generic stamp of a ship or a compass rose or something equally suitable. This way, though, he drew the ship himself–and it’s La Salle’s ship, even.

And I got to learn how to carve stamps!