As a paper crafter, I would have to say my favorite tools are the ten I was blessed with at birth, my fingers. I can do almost no project of any kind without getting my fingers dirty. The paper crafting industry has many tools and gadgets available to the artist today. Some are modern versions of old standbys i.e. the Teflon bone folder. Others are still being invented and evolving to suit what we are creating and imagining in the realm of possibility. One of the more recent tools that have come onto the commercial market is the stamp positioning tool. I had been dragging my feet on that tool from both an expense perspective and a “did I need it” point of view. I have finally purchased one and thought I’d share with you my journey in hopes that it might help you in your decision process, for this and other tools
I used to be a manager in a Fortune 500 company and ROI was something we looked at when thinking about doing things. I soon found myself thinking about things in my life the same way including my expensive wardrobe required in the same fashion. How many hours did I have to work for that pair of shoes and matching handbag? If I bought a blouse for $100 and wore it every other because I loved it at the end of the year it cost me about $3.80 each time I wore it. There were clothing items that I loved and wore so much that I eventually should have sent a check to the designer because it was now only cents to wear.
This digression is important because I think the same thing should be applied to our purchases of art and craft supplies. We all have some kind of financial limits on our ability to buy what we want. I often compare a stamp purchase to a greeting card. If a greeting card costs $5, and a stamp set costs $15. If you can get three cards out of a set, then it is probably a good purchase. If not, maybe not so much. Expensive tools and gadgets are harder to break down so simply. All the new and upgraded die cutting machines fall into this category; I am still using my crank Big Shot in nasty colors. It works for me and my art. I felt that the stamp tool also fell into this category. And so I worked along using my acrylic blocks and thinking that I was okay.
My first foray into the stamp press was borrowing a MISTI from a friend for a stamp I needed for a mixed media mini album I was working on. This stamp had a large area that was a solid color. It was near impossible to get that solid area black enough on a single image press and the odds of lining it up for a second stamping will sketchy at best. I liked the tool and the results I got, but I choked on the price. I’d have to work for more than two hours at a job for the tool and I wasn’t sure I wanted it that bad. I also found the solid/lipped edges to be a negative for me. Everyone who knows me, knows I use all sorts of sizes and types of materials. The lipped edge was probably perfect for people who worked with fixed sizes smaller than the edge, but not for people who work in 6×6 today and 7 1/2 x 10 1/2 tomorrow. Lastly, it had a religious quote on it. I am a strong believer in religious freedom and market freedom. The developer of the product had every right to put that on her product, as I did to not want that quote on my product. There were just a lot of things against this product for me; price, limitations and someone else’s religion. So I just did without. It was the wrong purchase for me, but I could see benefits.
Next, the major brands in the market came out with their versions of the MISTI and the lawsuits were on. It took awhile, but eventually, versions were deemed different enough and consumers had choices. Though not al the initial tools that were developed survived the lawsuits. It was too bad for the consumer because some of the variations were quite interesting and had much lower price points.
The first post-lawsuit product was from Tim Holtz. He had what I was looking for in a tool, two open sides. I could put my assorted sized art in the tool and have at it. His tool had eliminated the need for a sponge insert to compensate for the thickness of different stamps. This tool compensated by having a thin side and a thick side to the lid. for rubber and clear stamps. Once again I was lucky enough to have a friend willing to allow me to borrow her tool before purchase. I was once again stamping my go-to travel stamp with the large solid area and I was stamping on attached pages in my journal. I found that I missed the foam pad. Clear stamps to me need some sort of giving surface to get the best image. The unlipped surface was perfect for when I wanted to stamp in journals, but the base was large enough that I could not get even medium book let alone smaller books into it. It had gridlines, but not as nicely done as the MISTI. I did like that it was a little less expensive and the industry was and still discounts the product more than the MISTI product generally is. I liked it but I still wasn’t sold that it had what I wanted enough that I wanted to give up eating out two or three times just for a stamp tool.
We Are Memory Keeps came out with their version open on two sides, but it was based on pegs that you put your stamp plate onto. No one I knew had one to borrow, but I was sure that I would break off those pegs eventually. The idea was great because you could buy several stamp pad surfaces and the idea of a direct press vs a hinge press being clearer made sense to me. Unfortunately, it was of a similar size to Tim Holtz and I had already made up my mind that I wanted something a little smaller. So I never put this in my hand and all my judgments and biases are based on others using the tool as demonstrated on YouTube. It had the lowest price point yet and retailers were offering sales.
Just recently Stamp’in Up came out with their version. I was fascinated by what I saw. I was in serious pause mode, because of the price it was the second most expensive one, and there were no sale options. Its size was smaller than all the other ones with open sides. It had this two gate system which to me seemed a little like a schtick, but it had huge appeal to me as I work in small segments and could imagine wanting four fixed stamp surfaces at one time. I watched YouTube after YouTube looking at how folks were using it. I asked questions of strangers. A local demonstrator offered to allow me to use hers. I decided it looked nice, but I had lived for more than a year without a stamp tool. I really did not need it.
Once again, I found myself working on a handmade book and wanted to use stamps that I could not get the kind of images without a stamp press. It was time to borrow again, except I have this rule in that if you borrow something more than twice it is time to buy your own. Now the debate was one which to buy. I knew what I had tried and what shortcoming was on each of those for my kind of craft and artwork. I finally decided to go with the one I had not used from Stamp’in Up because of the four surface option.
It has now been several months of using my stamp tool and I have some thoughts.
- If space is a premium, you may not need a stamp tool, because access is critical.
- If you stamp a single image on smooth cardstock with very little solid imagery you may not need a stamp tool.
- If economics are a factor, you may be able to get by without a stamp tool.
- If you stamp on rough surfaces i.e. watercolor paper, a stamp tool likely will improve your success.
- If you stamp when you are done with your design, a stamp tool will reduce the number of mistakes you have to cover up
- If you stamp with multiple stamps for a single project, a stamp tool will reduce the number of mistakes you have to work around.
- If you mask stamps, a stamp tool will reduce your mistakes or incomplete images.
- If you use stamps with solid areas, you will get a better solid.
- If you like layering stamps, it will be easier.
- If you like stamping your sentiment last, a stamping tool will make a world of difference.
- If you like using alphabet stamps for custom words or sentiments, once you master the tool you will never be without again.
- If you make multiples of the same card, it can be a time saver
- If you like that watercolor technique where you mist stamps, it likely will take you to a new level.
I said yes this is me to all but one of these items. I now own a stamp tool and I am glad that I do. I am also glad that I waited until I knew I would use this tool more than just a time or two. I have also changed how I stamp and find myself using my stamp tool more and more for routine things that in prior times I would have done with a stamp block by hand. I like the results.
What would I say to someone before they buy it? They are too expensive to not use. Make sure you figure out how to keep it handy. In a drawer is not handy. Make yourself use it. Watch YouTubes not only for the stamp tool you bought but also the others brands. As yourself what if, and try it to find the most uses of the tool for yourself. If you decided you don’t need, don’t feel like you are missing something. Be happy with what have and your decisions. Don’t buy tools you want but don’t need, buy more stamps, paper, embossing paste stencils that you will use.
What tools do you consider critical to you?