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Meagan Lewis, of Brown Pigeon, spends her mornings carving custom rubber stamps in her second floor apartment in East Sacramento, situated enviously close to Liquidology. When City Scout discovered Sacramento has a custom stamp carver within city limits, we wasted no time gathering details. Shortly after a charming chat with Meagan, our stamp plans were in process. In true City Scout fashion, we couldn’t resist poking our head into Meagan’s sunlight-filled space to talk with her about the art of stamp carving and watch the process ourselves.
How long have you been into stamp making?
In 2007, I graduated with a degree in printmaking from Weber State University. I initially got out of school thinking I was going to get into screen printing t-shirts or doing a stationary line with hand-stamped cards made from my hand-carved stamps, which is what started doing. I began selling my cards at shows and people would come up to me and ask, “Are your cards letterpressed?” and I would reply cheerfully, “I stamp them with my handmade stamps!” People would just look at me like I was absolutely crazy. They would respond, “What do you mean you make your own stamps? Can you make me a stamp? Can you do an image?” And just like that I started taking custom orders. I realized that I really liked working with people and taking their design and making stamps from what they gave me. It just kind of snowballed.
So it’s great. Every custom order is different. I work with a lot of small businesses and local shops. I create logo stamps for peoples’ packaging and branding as well as personal stamps for weddings such as “save the date” stamps and wedding monogram stamps.
Tell us about your process.
A lot of what I do is I’ll create a hand-carved stamp from someone’s design, whether it’s a logo, a drawing or something like that. If the customer doesn’t have a design, I’ll create a logo for them. Once the design is set, I print it out, trace it with the soft graphite pencil, flip the traced image onto the carving rubber and then burnish it. Once the design is burnished onto the rubber, it shows in reverse and I’m ready to start carving. A lot of people tell me, “I don’t know how you carve text–it’s backwards!” I just don’t even think about it as text. I just follow the lines. I then begin carving the stamp with my linoleum cutting tool that has various blade attachments. I go into session of removing what I don’t want on the stamp to print.
If we weren’t invading your space, would this be therapeutic for you? What is your experience while working?
It is very meditative. I usually do my carving in the morning through the afternoon. I’ll just sit for hours carving custom orders. I’ll put music on and I just totally get into the zone. But yeah, I mean, Elvis [Meagan’s poodle pup that is enough cute to carry you through your week] helps me break up the day. We go on walks and runs to get out of the house and stretch.
Is stamp-carving a pretty common craft?
You know, it is a pretty specialized thing. I’ve definitely seen more and more people start carving, which is awesome. It’s gotten more competitive for me, but I feel like everyone has their own style. I really try and make things as crisp as I can so people are almost amazed when they find out it’s hand-carved.
I wrote my book, Put Your Stamp On It two years ago that came out with Chronicle Books. It was a really fun experience. In the book I teach the process of stamp-carving as well as how to make stamps from other materials like bubble wrap and foam. I think there is definitely an interest in this whole DIY trend where people are looking to learn a new craft and I think that’s exciting.
Do you price your stamp by size of the stamp and detail?
I’m so glad you asked that! A stamp can take me anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours to carve. It really depends on the size, the amount of detail, amount of text, and then if the person provides the design or if I design something for them. Custom stamps generally start at $20 and can go up to about $75. My most popular stamp is probably a 3” logo stamp and averages $45.
What different local shops have you worked with that we might know of?
I just finished two logo stamps for East 40 Electric, a soon-to-open shop on Antique Row in East Sacramento. I’ve collaborated with Rosaura the hand-lettering genius of Pigment and Parchment. And I’ve done multiple trades with the talented soapmakers, Sudz by Studz. I love working with other businesses here in Sacramento and I feel very lucky to have met and befriended some amazingly talented people.
What’s your favorite thing about Sacramento?
I moved here a little over a year ago from the Bay Area so I’m still getting to know all the creative people and places that are here. I have done a lot of trades with people and collaborated with other makers and artists and it’s great. I love the creative energy that’s here.
Can you tell us a little about the City Scout stamp?
Felix and I worked together to finalize some designs for the stamps. You guys had your cool circular City Scout logo and we started brainstorming some other ideas that we could adapt your design to (for) some other stamps. Sometimes adapting a design or making small edits is necessary because my hand-carved process doesn’t always work for some things like super small text. Occasionally I’ll work with a customer to break up their design and create a set of stamps which is really fun because then you can stamp them together or separately. It really opens up a lot of possibilities.
This is one of the things I love about the process–because it is completely done by hand, people can give me a sketch or a logo that is imperfect (or low-resolution) and I can work with it. So it’s cool because I feel like a lot of people try to order rubber stamps online and they don’t know what size image to send. Their file has to be super high-resolution. I’ll tell them, “You sketched it on card stock? Send it to me. I can work with it!” Just the other day I created a logo stamp from someone’s handwriting and it turned out beautifully.You can find Meagan’s various stamps, including custom stamps, in her etsy shop. We’ve seen her collection and assure you, there is almost no limit to her custom carvings–business logos, portraits, children’s drawings and more. We’ve seen them for ourselves and the finished product doesn’t disappoint. Contact her and share your crazy idea; it just might end up on a stamp.
Have something to add to the conversation? Tell us in the comments.
Photos | Sandra Kordazakis
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