DIY: Botanical Stamps

| August/September 1995

Rubber stamps can capture the variety of leaf shapes in a garden, then let you stamp them anywhere you want. It’s fun. It’s easy. Use a favorite herb to create a simple design, have it made into a rubber stamp, then let your imagination loose on ways to use it: stationery, cards, memos, even herb pots or next year’s gardening gloves. Not only will you have a personalized design, you’ll preserve a memory of this year’s garden.

The difficulty may come in choosing among the variety of leaf shapes. Select bold leaves with definite shapes and prominent veins; avoid frilly or tiny ones. For our projects, we chose herbs with easily recognizable shapes: rosemary, rue, and sage. Many others would also be suitable. Try tarragon, chives, rose petals, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Leaves that don’t lie flat can be pressed for a short time between the pages of a phone book.

Reproducing the image is simply a matter of photocopying the actual herb leaf or sprig. A photocopied image will give you a fairly accurate idea of how the herb will look on a rubber stamp. It is also what the rubber-stamp maker uses to cut the pattern for the stamp.

Take a sampling of leaves from your garden to a photocopy machine to try out. Arrange an herb leaf on the photo­copier glass and cover it carefully with a sheet of white paper. Copying more than one sprig or leaf at a time will save on photocopying costs and give you lots of images to choose from, but place the sprigs or leaves carefully to ensure that they don’t drift as you cover them with the paper. As you copy, apply light pressure to the paper to prevent shadows. Copy the surface of the leaves on which the veins contrast best. To highlight the veins, try adjusting the contrast feature on the copier to different settings and see which gives the best effect. Any gray areas on the photocopy will turn out a mottled black on the rubber stamp, so darken gray areas with a black felt-tip pen for a more definitive imprint.

Take your best copies to an office supplier, printshop, or rubber-stamp store to be made into rubber stamps, which can often be done within a day. (Check the Yellow Pages under “rubber stamps” to find one near you.) We had some of ours made without handles so that we could glue six different rubber leaf designs onto a wooden cube we purchased at a hobby store.

A word of caution about materials: Rubber-stamping can get expensive surprisingly fast. A simple design can be made into a rubber stamp for about $6 to $9 each, depending on size, but ­papers, ink pads, fabric paints, and other supplies come in so many types, styles, and colors that you may find that you want them all. Practice the techniques on scrap paper or grocery bags, an old T-shirt or garden gloves, and that clay pot which has been sitting in your shed for the past two growing seasons. After you have experimented a bit to find which projects are most appealing, you’ll be able to decide which ones you want to invest your time and money in to make for yourself or for gifts.

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