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Making Clay Stamps

Updated on March 14, 2012

Making Your Own Clay Stamps

Making your own tools for clay is a great way to have a distinctive style all your own. Not only does making your own tools save you a bit a $ but your own tools will make marks that can only you can make. In this lens we will explore making your own stamps to be used in clay. Stamps for clay can be made out of a number of materials from wood, rubber, plaster, and of course clay. I hope you find the following tutorial, tips, hints and helps useful. Enjoy.

Texture, Wonderful Texture

Why Stamps?

A highly textured clay surface is a lovely thing to behold. It can make a slippery mug easier to hold, it can make a flatish tile difficult to touch. Whatever you want your texture to do for your work you need the proper tools to make your texture. The clay tool catalogs are full of useful texture making tools yet you want your work to be yours and no one else's. If you only use the tools that are available to every potter that can purchase a tool then you are doomed to have similar results as every other potter using those tools. So lets make our own.

Great Clay Books on Amazon

Found/Made Stamps

Let Nature Provide

Some of the nicest textures are just out your studio door waiting to be discovered and brought back inside and pressed into clay. Rocks, shells, bark, wood chips, the end of broken sticks, leaves, and more can make great stamps for clay.

Native Americans of the precolumbian gulf coast used shells and sharks teeth to decorate the surface of their pots, as well as rough woven fiber and carved paddles.

Wood Stamps

Don't Knock it

Wood stamps can be a way of getting your texture to clay. I normally use those little chunks of wood you can buy at the craft store that come in blocks or other shapes. The blocks are nice cause you can carve all 6 sides with a different stamp. Another shape you might not have considered making into a stamp is a wood ball or wood egg shape but a rolling shape makes a good pattern making stamp. Speaking of rolling stamps, if you need a large area covered with a design think about carving your design into a rolling pin and then rolling it across the clay surface.

To carve a wood stamp you can use a set of wood carving tools but I prefer to use a dremel tool. A dremel is a power tool you can find at most hardware stores. It rotates to remove the material that you want. You will need to practice on scrap wood first before getting the skills to carving a good stamp. I draw my design on the wood first before I start carving. Wear safety goggles and a dust mask while using the tools so you don't breathe any dust or get any in your eyes.

Dremel Tool Available thru Amazon

Here are a few Dremel tools and kits you might like to use to carve your wood stamps.

Linoleum Stamps - Not Just for Print Making

Another way of making stamps for clay is to carve some out of linoleum. Usually one uses a set of linoleum carving tools to carve out a design in either an unmounted piece of linoleum or a linoleum block. I prefer an unmounted piece of linoleum because I can cut it in an organic shape and it is flexible. A linoleum block is normally rectangular or square and very rigid.

I normally draw my design on the linoleum surface first using a pencil, I can erase lines in my design before deciding on the final design I am going to carve. Using the linoleum carving tools I trace my lines first and then go on to remove larger areas of my stamp until I have the stamp image carved deep enough to give me the results i want. I keep a scrap piece of clay nearby to test my new stamp as i carve it to make sure it is giving the mark i am wanting.

Here are a few products available on Amazon that will help you make some linoleum stamps including the carving tools.

Eraser Stamps

Pink Pearl to Rescue

Carving into erasers can make some great stamps. Those little round eraser ends on pencils make great tiny stamps, just use an exacto knife to carve a little design and you have a fun little stamp.

And don't forget those great pink pearl erasers. These multi-sided erasers are easy to carve into with either an exacto knife or a set of linoleum carving tools so you can create a stamp. Remember the eraser has six sides so you can carve 6 stamps.

The best time to purchase both the pencils and the pink pearl erasers is right after back to school time so you can take advantage of those great discounts as store try to clear out all that stuff that students didn't buy.

Plaster Stamps - Use Care

Lots of potters have used plaster stamps with little to no problems but I tend to like to avoid plaster in my studio when I can, especially small bits of plaster like stamps that I can drop. So i have linked to a helpful site that talk about making plaster stamps instead. Just use care and not get any plaster in your clay as the calcium in the plaster will go boom in your kiln when heated.

Multi-sided Clay Stamps
Multi-sided Clay Stamps

Stamps Made From Clay

Afterall its already in your hand.

Making stamps out of clay I think is the most natural thing to do when you are a potter. From clay you can make texture stamps, carved stamps, signature stamps, rocker stamps, and even rolling stamps.

Texture Stamps

These are easy to make. Make a ball of clay and find a texture you like and press the clay onto the texture. Pinch up the backside so it will be easy to hold or slip and score another piece of clay onto it to make a handle.

Carved Stamps

Carved stamps are bit harder cause you need some tools to make them. The tools in your basic pottery tool kit is a good start but I find I need a cheap wood carving tool set to get the depth I want. The deeper the lines you carve the better the impression usually. I start either with a ball of clay or a disk of clay and carve some marks or pattern of marks into the clay surface. If you are real handy with the carving tools you even carve a picture into the clay. Try to keep you lines clean for best results.

Signature Stamps

Signature stamps are basically letters carved into clay often your name, initials or symbol that you use to sign your work. You can use the wood carving tools mentioned previously. Sounds easy right? Those letters or numbers you use must be carved into stamp backwards tho. The stamp makes a impression that is the mirror image of what it is so the words and letters must be carved in backwards. I found it is easiest to write my word forwards on a piece of paper and then flip the paper over and trace the word. Then I place the paper on the clay stamp surface and take my needle tool and poke dots thru the paper into the clay, I then remove the paper and connect the dots the needle tool made and then start carving. If you carve out the letters the letters will be raised when you use the stamp if you carve away the clay around the letters you make a stamp that will make impressed letters. Clean lines are essential to getting legible results.

Rocker Stamps

Rocker Stamps can be texture stamp, carved stamps or signature stamps. The impression is made but rocking the stamp back and forth like the rockers of a rocking chair. The surface of the stamp for this reason is rounded. That is the only thing special about a rocker stamp is that the surface of the stamp is rounded.

Rolling Stamps

Rolling stamps are fabulous. They can either be spherical or disk shaped. The spherical rolling stamp is a ball of clay completely round and with texture or carving on all sides and can once fired be rolled around on the surface of the clay to make a texture or pattern. A disk shaped rolling stamp is a disk of clay with a pattern carved onto the edge of the disk and like treads of a tire makes impressions when rolled onto clay.

Now all these stamps need to be dried and bisque fired before use. Do not fire your stamps all the way to the maturation point of the clay. You want your stamps to be porous and be able to absorb the moisture from the clay when you press it to the surface of the clay so it releases easily.

Texture Stamps

Texture Stamps
Texture Stamps

Stamp Handles

Stamp Handles
Stamp Handles

Signature Stamps

Signature Stamps
Signature Stamps

Rolling Stamps

Rolling Stamps
Rolling Stamps

Tool for Making Clay Stamps on Amazon

Here is the pottery tool kit and wood carving tool set suggested in the directions above and some other tools you might find helpful.

Got any ideas to share or just want to add your 2 cents?

Suggestions and Feedback

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    • AceofHearts profile image

      AceofHearts 6 years ago

      Love it! Thank you for the great lens.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      What a great idea! You've provided so many wonderful tips and ideas here. Nicely done!