Sunday, July 21, 2013

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Nine -- Hand Carved Stamps

As the students continued their exploration of printmaking the stamp project was transitional. It acted as the bridge between what they had been doing thus far and the more complex project that lay ahead. The complex project being reductive block prints (which will be featured in the next post). To familiarize the students with the carving tools they would be using and with the the subtractive nature of block printing (pretty much the opposite of collograph plate building), I decided that a simple stamp making project was in order.

To make the stamps, the students used 1" square cut erasers (obtained at the local dollar store). Six stamps could be made using each 3-pack of erasers (the erasers were cut in half). Technically if the students carved both sides, each pack could make 12 stamps.

The concepts the students worked with were symmetry and abstraction. Each carved stamp, when printed had to be a component of a symmetrical design. This will be clearly understood when viewing the finished products. To help the students to understand the concepts, I relied heavily on demonstration and visual aides. Without the demonstration, I feel that students would have surely struggled. Part of the demonstration, of course, included safety and handling of the tools (xacto knives and lino-cutters).

To colorize the stamps the students moved away from printing ink. Instead water-based markers were used. This allowed the students more control in the color patterns, but at the same time they had to work fast because the pigment would dry quickly. If the students took too long to apply the stamp to the paper, the print would not show up very well. Aside from the carving, timing was a big challenge that many students had to work out on their own.

Unlike the other projects, this one only produced one or two finished pieces per student. Here are some of the finished stamp prints:

The artist whose work the students were asked to compare the project with was Escher. The students easily found parallels between their stamp designs and the tessellations created by the artist. They also truly expressed an appreciation for the complexity of the tessellations by reflecting back on the challenges they faced in creating their own symmetrical imagery.

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