People who do scrapbooking and other paper crafts are familiar with the great effects produced by rubber stamps. But stamping isn’t just for paper. It can create some wonderful effects on polymer clay too.
As with paper, rubber stamps can be used to make single and repeating motifs and overall patterns; it depends on the stamp and how you use it. Here are a few suggestions for stamping polymer clay.
Try to find stamps with deeper cuts. Stamps just come in contact with a piece of paper, but they sink into the surface of polymer clay (if only slightly). If you’re using a stamp with a fairly shallow design you’ll need to be careful how far into the clay you push the stamp; if you go too far you’ll lose the design because the background will also imprint. Deep-cut stamps won’t have this problem. In fact, there are stamps made especially for polymer clay that are cut more deeply.
Stamps without bases may work better because the rubber is more flexible and can be removed from the clay more easily. You need something to hold on to, of course. But if the stamp has edges you can grab you won’t need the wooden base.
You can use the stamp “dry” – as it is – or add color or a metallic effect with the design. Stamping just the design works well in some instances, especially if you’re planning to color the background, not the design. Otherwise, you can apply ink, acrylic paint, or mica powder to the stamp before you use it, and do your “coloring” all in one step.
If you’re using the stamp dry remember to apply a release first. The release will keep the stamp from sticking to the clay. It’s not likely that a dry stamp would be impossible to remove, but it may take so much effort that you’ll ruin the design in the process. Dusting a little cornstarch on the surface of the clay or the stamp will usually do the trick.
Remember the positives and negatives. This is probably not something you’d have to pay attention to if you were stamping on paper, but on clay it might make a difference. All stamps have positive and negative areas. The raised area of the stamp will produce the design when the stamp is used. On clay this is the area that will sink into the surface. If you’ve applied color to the stamp that color will be in an indented area on the clay – which is where the design is. The surrounding area will stay uncolored (unless you manually treat it, of course).
This is the way most people use their stamps. But if you want a raised design, you’ll need just the opposite. In that case you can make your own stamp by stamping some scrap clay, removing as much of the surrounding clay as possible, and curing it. The scrap clay will be your new stamp, with the design in an indented area that will be raised on the piece you stamp.
You aren’t limited to rubber stamps. You can stamp clay with just about anything that has a fairly raised design. Be on the lookout for everyday objects that could be put to use with your clay designs. I’ve been known to use nails, screws, knitting needles and crochet hooks, and even crumpled aluminum foil. But I think some of the most interesting designs I’ve created have come from “failed” clay pieces! So think twice before you throw out that piece that you think doesn’t work. It may have another use that might be even more attractive that its original purpose.