Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's Make Stamps

Hi again, Inky friends! Recently I mentioned that Tim Holtz toured our shop in Cleveland earlier this week after the Akron convention. He got to see firsthand how rubber stamps are made. I thought you might be interested in finding out about this process, as well.

It all starts with the artwork. After cleaning up and sizing the designs in Photoshop, we lay them out on an 8" x 10" digital canvas in high resolution. This file is sent to our engraver, who makes a magnesium plate. (This is the only step we don't do in-house, although sometimes our graphics guy Zach creates a jet plate instead. I haven't even seen this myself, so I'll have to check it out the next time I get a chance.)

Once we get the magnesium plate (or "mag," as we call it) back from the engraver, we press a matrix board from it. This is a reverse mold of the stamp designs. The raw rubber comes in huge 50-pound rolls, which we cut down to the size we need so it fits the matrix board.

After placing a sheet of raw rubber on top of the matrix board, we cure the rubber with heat and pressure in one of our huge vulcanizers:


The cured rubber sheet is removed from the mold and allowed to cool for a few minutes, and then it gets stuck onto a piece of adhesive-backed foam cushion. (See the big gray roll behind Doug?) Usually we use a scroll saw fitted with a special blade to cut out the images:


This takes a while, so we sometimes rest in between steps:


(Just kidding! That's Tom, a rescued cat who lives at the shop. I guess you can say he's become the unofficial AGW & Friends mascot.)

For certain stamps that we make in greater quantities, such as Tim Holtz's Cling Mount Sets from Stampers Anonymous, we use the clicker press. It's a big machine outfitted with a custom die that cuts out all the stamps on a plate at once, as Jimmy is doing here:


I guess it's sort of like a Cuttlebug on steroids, LOL! You can see the die beneath the cushioned rubber sheet that he's pulling up:


In just a few quick steps, this whole sheet...


is transformed into this die-cut sheet:


Mark shows how we print the back of each cling mount stamp with our company information using a pad press:


The pad press is also used to print the "index," or picture, of the stamps onto the blank wood mounts.

Then Betty marks the side of each stamp with the item number and company name:


Finally, all the pieces are ready for assembly. Jen and the rest of our crew peel off the release paper from each sticky-back cushioned rubber die and place it onto its respective wood mount:


The cling mounted stamps from Darcie's and Stampers Anonymous are put onto plastic carrier sheets and then packaged up:


Tom carefully supervises every step:


Oops, I guess not. ;-) All right, you caught me joking again. That job belongs to Dave, our shop foreman:


And there you have it, Stamp Making 101. As you can see, it actually requires several steps and quite a bit of work to produce. Each Inky Antics (and Art Gone Wild!, Stampers Anonymous, and Darcie's) stamp or set is meticulously handcrafted with care in the good ol' USA...from us to you!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Home From Ohio

Wow, the days sure have gone by quickly since I left for the airport last Wednesday. As I collated my class kits on Thursday, the gang at our shop in Cleveland finished packing things up for the Akron convention:


Unfortunately, I dropped my camera on the floor that day and it suffered permanent damage. I've had it for quite a while and so I don't mind getting a replacement, but that means I couldn't take many photos over the weekend. It decided to work only a few more times intermittently, and now it seems to have completely gone kaput.

I was able to get this shot of Tim Holtz after the show, however, when he came down to the shop for a visit and chatted with Ted, Dave (our shop foreman), and Darcie:


Sue, one of our customer service representatives, kindly sent me her photos to share with you from Monday...including this nice one of her and Tim:


Here's a picture of the entire crew:


We don't normally all wear the same outfits, LOL. To welcome Tim to our shop, Ted had the ones above specially made. On the front, they say: "We are enjoying the journey. Thanks, Tim...your Stampers Anonymous family."

Jan and I headed to the airport that afternoon, so we missed the tour of Cleveland everyone took on Lolly the Trolley:


But apparently Mario, Tim, and Ted posed in front of the World's Largest Rubber Stamp at one of the stops:


I heard that they saw several sights along the way before having dinner in Little Italy.

Speaking of sights, are you curious to see more of the shop? Stay tuned for a photo tour coming shortly!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Here & Gone Again

Just wanted to say hello quickly and let you know I haven't forgotten about you, Inky blog friends! Boy, the past several days have gone by in a flash...I got home from the Rockford show late Sunday night and am heading for Cleveland this evening, so I've just had enough time to get ready for the two classes I'll be teaching in Akron this weekend. (You can still sign up for these by calling Adventures In Stamping at 330-468-9825.)

We had a great time in Rockford. Dawn and her oldest daughter, Meagan, worked at the Inky booth:


Ruthie demonstrated for Darcie's:


Peggy and Lee worked at the Art Gone Wild and Stampers Anonymous booths, while Michelle and Wendy did the demonstrations:


Wendy showed me a neat way to use the Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pads, which I'll share with you when I return next week.

In the meantime, you may want to check out the BLOG CANDY giveaway at StampScrapArtTour. The more folks you refer, the more chances you have to win one of three cool prizes. Good luck, and see you back here again soon!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Speedy Supper

It's been an exceptionally hectic past few weeks with conventions, a make & take event, an Inky class, the store monthly board program (and, oh, did I mention we're getting married on May 1st and have been planning for that!), so I haven't done much cooking lately.

I've blown our food budget and we have been eating several meals that begin with the words "take out" and "drive through." Last night, though, I modified this recipe quite a bit and dinner came together very quickly:


Since it turned out pretty tasty, I thought I'd share my adapted recipe. It's not really close to the original version, but we still liked it a lot.

Speedy Chicken Stir-Fry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat, cubed
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chile paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

In a wok or large skillet, stir-fry chicken in oil for 6-8 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken and set aside.

Combine chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chile paste, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Pour mixture into wok, and cook for 2-4 minutes over high heat. Dissolve cornstarch into water, and stir into boiling sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens and turns clear, about 2 minutes. Return chicken to the pan, and cook until mixture is heated through.

(Next time, I might use boneless chicken thighs instead since we prefer dark meat for its moistness. I'd also add green onions or garnish with cilantro for a bit of color and even more flavor, but I didn't have either on hand yesterday.

I served this with steamed brown rice and Trader Joe's Soy Ginger Carrots. Green beans or snow peas would have made a good accompaniment, too.)

* * *

Speaking of shows, Ruthie and I are driving to Rockford tonight for this weekend's StampScrapArtTour convention. I know Chelsea will be there (yay!)...any other blog readers? If so, please stop by to say hello. And if you mention the secret phrase "Daisy Kit," I have this little goodie to give you as a gift!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Movers & Shakers

This morning, I taught the Inky Movers & Shakers Class at We're Stampin' Mad. I took this photo before we started:


Some people appreciate the design of fabulous tablescapes a la Christopher Lowell. But I thought our table today looked so nice with all the materials laid out and ready to go. Am I weird or what? (Don't answer that, LOL!)

The ladies who took this class were a delightful bunch:


We completed these four "interactive" cards:



I might be teaching the Inky Movers & Shakers Class again in the Twin Cities later this year (and will keep you posted via the blog and our email newsletter if this is the case). If you live in Ohio, it will be offered at the Adventures In Stamping show in Akron this month and at Stampaway in Cincinnati at the beginning of August. I'd love to have you join us!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Make & Take at Stamp Garden

Yesterday, Steve and I hosted an Inky make & take event at Stamp Garden. More than 50 ladies (and a couple of guys) attended:


Then they shopped for Inky goodies:


Stamp Garden's proprietor, Dawn, is a very busy woman. In addition to owning the store, she has a full-time "day job." I can't imagine trying to do both myself, but she still always manages to keep a smile on her face:


Here's the card we made:


It features 0240F Flower Mousie and 0226D Sending Love stamps from the new Merry Mousies collection. The image was colored with pencils and blended with Gamsol. After layering the pieces onto the card, we added three accents: an Inkssentials White Opaque Pen was dotted around the scallop to create a faux eyelet effect, pink sparkle was applied to the flower centers with a Spica Glitter Pen, and Ranger Liquid Pearls gave a bit of dimension to the polka dots on the teacup.

Thanks to everyone who came out to join us last night. It was fun to see you there!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Funny

Some creatures are blessed with exceptional intelligence. Bo is not one of them.

The other day, I'd accidentally shut him in the lower level. We didn't know this, of course, until we heard a strange repetitive THUMPING noise coming from downstairs.

He'd decided to try getting out through the kitty door:


Luckily, he wasn't permanently stuck...although it did take a few minutes for him to realize that all he needed to do was back up. (This wasn't really one of those times when persistence pays off, which he eventually learned.) Dumb dog. But we love him anyway.

Just wanted to share a little beginning-of-the-week laugh with you!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mr. Stamper Strikes Again

On Friday nights, many couples go out for dinner and a movie. Yesterday evening, however, Steve and I had a date for stamping. I coerced...um, I mean persuaded him to try his hand at making another card. Being the good sport that he is, he reluctantly...um, I mean enthusiastically agreed. So we pulled out the Gamsol and colored pencils, and he got started:


He chose 10399E Waving Turtle as his main image and used cheery Easter colors that coordinated with the Skinny Pastel Stripes paper from Darcie's that he was using. Then he carefully cut it out:


Next came the ribbon selection. This one was too sheer:


This one was too bright:


This one was just right:


Then he stamped 3340E Egg Background on the card base:


After layering the turtle and 2072F Some-bunny Easter saying and attaching them to his card, he added some flowers as an embellishment. He finished off the turtle's shell with Diamond Glaze:


Oh, and did you notice the little "surprise" element he'd added? Yup, those rabbit ears came from 2062F Peekin' Bunny and fit perfectly behind the turtle's head. Here he showed off his final creation:


(Yikes, as you can see, I need to clean up my stamping area. What a mess!)

This is a close-up of his finished project, which features another fun detail. Can you spot it?


You got it...one of the chalking pom-poms made a great bunny tail. Happy Easter wishes to you from both of us!