Stamps have been used to decorate pottery for millennia. Recently, I read about ancient paddle stamps on a website about the Ocmulgee National Monument in the southern U.S. It was first thought that the pottery found was American Indian in origin, from the Mississippian Culture. However, telltale signs revealed that designs were not North American. “This pottery has such close parallels at a like early period in northeastern Asia that many students believe it may have been brought here by direct migration, though naturally over a period of generations. Its chief characteristic is the roughening of its surfaces with the marks of twisted cords and somewhat later with those made by a plaited basketry fabric. ” Stamps at the Ocmulgee site are in the form of wooden paddles. The National Park Service site says “The paddle itself may have been carved with simple straight grooves, or it may have been wrapped with a thong or smooth bit of plant fiber such as honeysuckle vine.” Click here to see a photo of the wooden stamps they found and photographs of shards showing impressions from stamping (lower down).
This Series will take a look at all forms of stamping to create textures on clay. We will focus on ways to make impressions on clay manually. What we’ll look at: types of stamps, materials with which to make stamps, and how to use stamps. You can’t fully predict what the final results will look like based on the stamp alone; there is an element of chance. But, with practice, you can achieve reliable results.
Hand Stamp some are cylinder shaped with stamps carved on the end, others are cubes…with stamps on one or all sides. Hand stamps create a single mark when pressed on clay. The cylinders seem more ergonomic to me and they would definitely be easier to use for people with arthritis. Clay Stamps Etsy site has a good selection of carved clay stamps in cylinder form. The method of carving your design is the same for either form and here is a tutorial that shows you how to make cube-shaped stamps: click here.
Roller Stamp This stamp is used like a rolling pin; it has texture over the surface of the a cylinder that is either smaller solid ones or larger hollow stamps. In this video, a potter also demonstrates how to make and use this type of stamp.
Stamp Designs Of course, before you begin, you need to have a working idea. If you are fresh out of ideas and need inspiration, go to a scrapbook store and look at the rubber stamps. What would like nice in clay and how you might alter what you see? Another idea is to search through the design series from Dover. Or go to your local library to find books on design or individual subjects, flora and fauna. Or you could research designs by culture. For instance, the Mayans used beautiful handmade stamps on their pottery…