‘make a mark!’ with whatever is at hand

Susan Dworski

Susan Dworski

Last Fall, designer Susan Dworski, a reader and frequent commenter, happened to mention carving rubber stamps out of Staedler Mars erasers to make artworks. “How did you get into that? we asked. Her answer was stunning:

Been carving them since 1980 when our house burned down, and only my studio was saved. All four of us all lived in that one room for a while, and the only art I could make was something small, low tech, and cleanuppable: ink, paper, and stamps. After buying some commercial ones, carving erasers was a natural move, and  proved effective therapy for the kids, who spent many hours stabbing away at erasers, and swabbing with colored markers, retelling their stories of the fire illustrated with the stamps. The neighborhood kids all got into the act, too. It was a lively time!

When your house burns down, make art!!!! An amazing point of view.

Susan Dworski

Susan Dworski

Since then, we’ve discovered that Susan cannot NOT make things or see things in an expanded view. She’s sent us many wonderful contributions for posts. And here, a post inside a post, about carving rubber stamps to capture and memorialize a moment:

For me it’s not enough to just visit this world. I feel compelled  to take its measure. Make a mark. Signify. Even with a humble rubber stamp.

So when Spring’s tenacity morphed into a bounty of sugar snap peas, before watching that crisp green bodaciousness disappear into a stir fry, I got out three  Staedtler Mars Erasers, a 2B pencil and a linoleum cutter, and carved.

Watercolor markers, paper, and a little hand pressure memorialized the pod––and the harvest.

Susan Dworsi

Susan Dworski

Carving the pea pod recalled some lines from ‘When Death Comes’, a poem in Mary Oliver’s book, New and Selected Poems. Oliver received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for American Primitive. Her poetry is rooted in the natural world, and with nature always in focus she explores fundamental questions about life and death, and the ways in which we inhabit our days…
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

If you’d like to try your hand at carving a moment into an eraser to stamp yourself some art, there’s a full how-to here: plus here’s some additional notes from Susan.

Watercolor marking pens are used to ink the erasers. Unlike ordinary opaque stamp pad inks, the colors are transparent, and it’s easy to blend them right on the carved eraser, creating more subtle – and to me much more beautiful – effects. They wash off easily with a little warm water, so you can recolor the stamp each time you use it. I have some eraser stamps that are over 30 years old, and they’re as good as the day they were carved. Commercially made rubber stamps use a different kind of petroleum-based rubber that disintegrates over time and you end up having to toss them. 



Related posts: portable rubber stamp for instant business cards + signs
reader’s improv: rubber-stamps from carved erasers
the tenacity of spring (and us)
diy stamped gift wrap (from erasers + potatoes)

5 Responses to ‘make a mark!’ with whatever is at hand

  1. diary of a tomato 04.10.2013 at 7:20am #

    The carved stamps are themselves as beautiful to look at, and stand on their own as little works of art!

  2. Rebecca D 04.10.2013 at 8:55am #

    I love all your posts, but this one is my favorite of the last few months. I love that Mary Oliver poem and the idea of making a mark feels great and true this morning.

  3. Elyse Harrison 04.10.2013 at 8:18pm #

    What a wonderful way to end my day.
    Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful post.

  4. Sarah 04.11.2013 at 8:48pm #

    Inspiring! Can’t decide which is most elegant, the stamp itself, the stamped paper, or the photo. All equally beautiful!!!!!!!!

  5. Joanne 02.16.2018 at 11:45am #

    And the idea that decluttering is the end-all and be-all! I have moved many, many times in my life (now 75) and am an artist. Throwing away art supplies and fabric is like losing a part of myself. I might give them away (have done with fabric), but never art supplies I think I might use. Sure enough, I’m back to lino carving. Thank you for this post and the Mary Oliver poem and Susan Dworski’s comments and her creativity.

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