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How to use clay stamps and rollers.

example of marking clay with wood stamp If you are working with water based clay, let it dry a little before you stamp. In my studio this often means overnight (under loose cover), but your studio may be different. Your stamp has about 1/8" depth and if you are careful not to press extra deep you should be able to get a nice mark without picking up the background of the stamp base. If you do pickup a mark from the edge of the tool, just smooth it away with your finger.

Our customer's have told us the best release agent to use on your stamps might be WD-40. Spray on the stamp surface before you mark the clay. And re-coat as needed. Other methods can be used also as shown below like corn starch powder on the clay itself or Vegetable oil instead of the WD-40. All burn off when you bisque fire. For polymer clay you probably will not need any release agent. And for PMC clay use the same release agent you use on your other tools.
Video demo - stamp marking the bottom Video demo from Palmtreepots instagram page, made by Robert Martindale, showing stamping technique on the bottom of his pottery. He is using two stamps in combination, his maker's mark made with our Signature Writer (R) Surface on wood handle. The second stamp is a date stamp made of the same materials, we sell date stamps each year for a lower cost, or sets of 3 years. Years can be combined with TM or copyright symbols.

Video demo - using fixtue to mark pottery Video demo from Bear Hands Art Factory, showing stamping technique on the bottom of his pottery using a support fixture. The fixture is called Stamp-Eaze but you could also make something like this in your studio, it gives you the idea how best to stamp center bottom on pottery. If you stamp in other locations like the side or closer to the base a support like this might not be needed. Also the smaller your stamp the less you will need support like this.

Video demo - triming & stamp marking This video shows that stamp marking, notice that he rocks the stamp a little bit to get a good open mark.
Video demo from Palmtreepots instagram page, made by Robert Martindale
Video demo - triming & stamp marking Supporting the inside of a wheel thrown piece is key to success with marking the center of a bowl like this sometimes. Notice he is supporting the inside clay using a small metal cup held to the surface inside, this gives something to push on with the stamp to get clean crisp marks without distortion of the vessel clay do the pressure you might need to apply. The bigger the stamp, the more you need this support inside for good results.
Video demo from Palmtreepots instagram page, made by Robert Martindale, showing stamping technique on the bottom of his pottery.

clay stamp marks in stoneware Practice is the best way to get the feel for using stamps.   Practice on some scrap pieces before you go to mark your best work.   And let the clay get to the correct firmness for best results, there is a time element to using stamps with water based clays.   Like most skills with clay art work, practice is the best way to achieve cool results.   Not all designs work in all places but we have a wide selections of hundreds of stock images like these that can be used alone or in combination to decorate your work, to see them all click here.
using vegetible oil on stamp for release from clay If you apply a very thin coating of vegetable oil on the stamp surface this will help you cheat and stamp sooner and later than the optimal dryness of the clay for a good stamp mark.   I apply using a small 5mm size paint brush, and be sure to coat down into the small areas of the design.   The vegetable oil works well on booth wood stamps and our premium Signature Writer (R) Stamps.   If you are having trouble with clay sticking in the detail areas of your stamp try this method first.
using corn starch on clay for release from clay I have been using corn starch on larger slabs of clay recently, using a paint brush to "powder" the stamp or roller and then I blow off the access powder before I mark the clay.   Or another nice trick is to make a small powder bag from 2 white cotton socks, one inside the other.   You just need the toe parts, put some corn starch inside the double layer socks and tie them shut.   The powder bag created will apply a nice even coating of corn starch on larger surfaces or the sides of pots to be stamp marked or rolled with texture.   Takes a little practice to get the right amount of power but works well.   In this example I am using our 4" textured clay roller to make a field of design on the slab of clay before I cut it to shape.
You can see all our texture rollers if you click here.
stamp marks with repeated stamping using corn starch as release agent Other release agents people use are talc powder, WD-40, corn starch powder, fine kaolin clay, and vegetable oil to aid in separation of the stamp from the ceramic clays. For polymere clay or precious metal clay (PMC) there are special release agents used for the those clays and they work best with our Signature Writer (R) Surface stamps. Wood stamps are not recommended for PMC. For very large stamps around 4" to 5" in size many people use a hand press becuase of the pressure needed to make a good mark in clay.
using corn starch on clay bowl for good release If you are just reading this and thinking about what to submit for a custom stamp, remember that some designs are easier to use than others.   If you have a lot of little text letters or other details that capture clay, your stamp will require more skill and experience to use.   You may want to consider a more bold simple design that will be easier to use, especially for your first stamp.   We can cut very complex stamps, but that does not mean they are easy to use.   Like most clay methods, skill and experience effect the results.   Some of our experienced return customers to amazing work with very complex stamps, but I would not recommend everyone start there.   The old saying "less is more" definately applys to stamp designs for easy fun results.
bottle stamped and rolled for surface texture If working on the wheel, let the clay dry enough before you stamp that the clay no longer will stick to your fingers if you touch it.   In my studio this means at least one hour minimum and sometimes several hours depending on the weather.   In addition you can use corn starch to help with release of the stamp tools.   Maily you just don't want the clay to be stick wet or you will end up with a stamp full of clay and a poor mark on the pot.

Support you work from behind while you stamp it.   If you are not picking up the center of your stamp image, it is probably becuase the clay is being pushed slightly inward by the outside parts of your stamp design.   Support from beind using your hand or a shaped object to support the wall of your vessel can make a big difference when marking thin walled pieces or the bottoms of pieces after you trim them.   For larger stamps on mugs, most production potters use a medallion of clay that is stamped flat on a table surface for good support from behind. They then use score and slip method to attach the pre-stamped medallion of clay to thier mug. This avoids needless loss of good pieces due to a mark gone bad for any reason.   You also have more control over the time of stamp marking using the stamp and apply method for mugs.
To care for your stamp

- Do treat with vegitable oil to prevent clay sticking
- Do clean with a little cold water and soft tooth brush
- Do press strait in or with slight rocking motion for best results
- After clay is dry it is OK to use a needle tool to pick out clay
- Do keep the stamp out of the slop bucket or sink
- Do NOT let the stamp soak in hot water
- Do NOT put in a dish washer
- Do NOT use solvents to clean
- Do NOT drop on concrete floors
- Do NOT let your dog near it, they will have new chew toy!

If clay does stick, clean it out with water and a soft toothbrush.   A needle tool can be used, but be careful not to apply too much pressure.   Once the stamp is wet, you will probably need to use one of the release methods above (talc, oil, corn starch) to prevent further sticking or let the stamp dry out first.

How to make clay stamps.

Step 1 - Create your ceramic stamp artwork using either a black pen or computer image in black and white two color art. (You can also ask us to create a layout for you based on your ideas, the service is free!)

Step 2 - Choose what size pottery stamp you would like to use. Our clay stamps are made of maple wood and come in several sizes from 0.5" to 3.5" (12 mm to 90 mm). Production of custom tools often takes 5 days or less, with express rush shipping stamps can be in your hands in as little as 72 hours after you send us a design.

Step 3 - Make your clay artwork and use your clay stamp to make your mark in clay.

How to use wood clay stamps.

Wood stamps are used while the clay is still soft, before the "leather hard" stage of drying.   While you will need to experiment with the best time to impress the stamp for a crisp mark, in general you will want the clay to dry for an hour or more before you use the stamp.   Some people use vegetable oil on the stamp to improve the release from the clay, however this is not required if the design is not too complex and the clay is at the correct stage of drying.   Like all aspects of working with clay, skill will improve with use of this technique.

Here is what other customers are saying about custom made clay stamps from Socwell LLC...

"They arrived safely today.  Very pleased with them absolutely excellent.  Thank you for the excellent and swift service."
- Colin Knightley, Lightcliffe, United Kingdom

"I love my new stamps and have long forgotten my hand carved plaster stamp I've been using for years! Thank you."
- Caren Helm, PIZZAZZ Pottery, Fairhaven, VT, USA

The most common use for clay stamps, is as maker's marks.   Maker's marks are used to "sign" a works of art and are common in metal working and ceramic artist work shops.   An individual's marker's mark can be used for a lifetime or can be changed for each series of works.   Many maker's marks also include a date code to allow collectors to later date the works and the artist using just the mark as a reference.   Of course, it helps to also keep a journal of what types of marks you use and what the date codes mean in your system.   Other artist's just use a separate date stamp or none at all, and let the maker's mark stand alone on the piece.
Another use for clay stamp tools is to decorate the surface of the piece with specific symbols or texture patterns.   With sets of tools, that all have a related design theme, a very complex group of symbols can be combined.   See some of the examples we have posted that use combinations of symbols from many stamps to create patterns over the entire surface of a piece.   This is the reason we provide stock designs in sets of tools rather than just one.   You will find that a set of tools will allow combinations that go beyond what a single stamp can achieve.

Addition of color can enhance the embossed images on the clay surface.   One technique is to brush on a glaze or oxide wash over the whole surface and then wipe away the color from the surface using a stiff sponge or cloth and leaving the color behind the lower areas of the stamped images.   See the example of the violin to the left, the rune symbols were colored using this technique.
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