Rubber Stamp cutting with Sandy Mashburn

Sandy Washburn is a friend and an experimental painter and mixed media artist from Tennessee. She is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and the Southern Watercolor Society. 

For those of you who live in Chattanooga, Sandy will be teaching stamp carving at the Townsend Atelier  Saturday, April 30 from 9 am  to 4 pm

Sandy and I are doing a workshop together for The TN Watercolor Society in June.   

I asked her if she would talk to us about carving stamps.

Thoughts on Stamp Carving by Sandy Washburn

Line and space are important within a carved stamp. Minimally carved stamps are typically uninteresting and do not reproduce good images. The initial drawing upon the surface to be carved can be minimal, but many more lines and shapes may be intuitively included as carving progresses. The process of carving a stamp is actually a subtractive sculptural one, where what is taken away is as important as what remains. Good sources of design are ones that have a lot of lines and contrasts that keep it interesting-thick/thin; straight/curved; long/short; open/closed, etc. Patterns in natural objects such as leaves, fish scales, flowers, sand dollars, pine cones, ferns, etc. are great starting points. Look to art history for other inspirations.
For the producing fine artist, stamps provide solutions for including pattern and texture- two somewhat obscure and difficult elements of art- into one’s work. Having spent hours painting patterns into watercolor and acrylic pieces by hand with a tiny brush, I can testify that artist-produced carved stamps can alleviate this tedious, time consuming practice. They also bring a freshness and immediacy to the painting that keeps it from looking overworked. Repeat patterns that vary in size and shape are a useful device for keeping the eye of the viewer moving around a piece of art.
Stamp carving is an art, and each carved stamp becomes a reusable relief sculpture in and of itself. As the stamp is prepared for use, chosen colors are rolled onto the surface, tinting the edges as the newness wears away. The stamp ultimately darkens and hardens a bit over time. It must be thoroughly cleaned with a brush after each use to maintain the fine lines etched into its design. Through this handling, inking, and cleaning, the artist becomes intimately familiar the lines and patterns. It becomes an artistic relic, evidence of the marks of its creator.


  1. Do you know what material was used to carve the designs into? It looks like some kind of synthetic rubber.

  2. I wil ask Sandy what she uses. I use Safety-kut, from enasco,com It is the same material erasers are made of. It cuts easily, holds up well and is very cheap. You can also get very large pieces. I routinely cut stamps that are 12 x 12, using a lino-cutter and single edge razors.

  3. thanks for the interesting post! I'd love to see you two carving together! what wondrous things would evolve!