Faux postage is a really fun mixed media project to make because it’s relatively non-threatening to create tiny works of art in a format that everyone is familiar with. There are lots of craft products you can buy that make it easier to make artwork that looks like postage stamps. A long time ago I designed some rubber stamps for this purpose and some of them are currently for sale in my Etsy shop. You can make this project with any other small stamps that you own also and a selection of paper crafting supplies. Enjoy!
1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the first page for Part 1.
2. Cut out some paper rectangles that are 1 3/4 inches tall and 1 3/8 inches wide from dark paper. You will need at least 16 rectangles.
3. Trim the edges with a paper edging scissors and arrange on your Low Tech Faux Postage sheet Page 1. You can think of your sheet as one composition made up of 16 tiny compositions if that helps you to get ideas. Glue down your trimmed paper rectangles.
4. Use a 1″ square paper punch and start by punching out one square for each rectangle from a selection of random scrap papers. Arrange until you are satisfied. If you have similar sized paper punches in other shapes such as circles, feel free to try them out. As you look through your scrap papers, you might get inspired to cut out other shapes. If you are moved to do so, go ahead and cut out whatever you like and glue down on your sheet without worrying about whether or not you’re “inside the lines”.
5. Take some tiny rubber stamps with words, phrases, numbers or symbols that have to do with philatelic stuff like stamps or cancellations. Stamp them in permanent black ink on light colored pieces of scrap paper. When the ink is dry enough to handle, cut or tear out what you have stamped.
6. Glue the torn or cut pieces to the collage work you’ve already done to help make each rectangle suggest a postal stamp design.
7. Continue to add embellishments to your stamps until you think they look finished. Here are some suggestions for what you can add:
More cut collage papers, found or commercial
Drawing – paint and gel markers are interesting choices to experiment with because you can write with them on slick surfaces and sometimes dark backgrounds as well
Stenciling Image transfers
8. When your stamp sheet is done, you can frame the whole thing to display it, cut apart your stamps to make tiny artworks, make color copies then cut apart the color copies, or put the whole thing in an art journal. Your imagination is the only limit and the most important thing is to have fun!
Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!
Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.
First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.
I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.
Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.
There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.
The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?
For additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?
I’ve been out of the Mail Art and ‘Zine scenes for over 20 years now, and to my surprise for some reason I’m getting nostalgic about it and thinking about getting back into it a little bit. I’ve never stopped making faux postage designs, rubber stamped art and Dada-influenced collages, but I stopped networking except through my web site because I got spooked by some of the extreme networkers I was occasionally in contact with. I figured I no longer had the stomach to participate in the “underground”. I mainly was networking for art and creativity and I’m still inspired creatively by what I did back then. I was not in it for anarchy, political change or social change except for some social commentary that I occasionally included.
I think part of the reason I feel like possibly participating again is that when I got spooked, I was in the middle of a couple of Mail Art group projects that I didn’t finish and I never sent out the documentation. I’ve felt guilty about this for a long time. One was called the “Turn Off Your Television Project” and another was called the “Fish Tapestry Project”. After writing the research paper I just published yesterday, I think I might want to finish that documentation and fulfill the obligation I took on myself 20 years ago. I probably won’t be able to get in touch with all the people who participated but I can try.
My friend Mark Reed who co-hosted the fish tapestry project with me passed away late last October and it would be a great tribute to him if I could finish that one too someday. I have only this week been able to bring myself to look again at some of his artwork that his family gave to me. I always thought he threw away too much of his old work and I’m glad that I have some of it. I may even finish some of the stuff that is unfinished. We collaborated and shared ideas a lot back in the day. I think he would like that.
I would be pleased if someone finished my old work after I’m gone. I’d rather have that happen than it be thrown away. I always have a lot of unfinished projects that I take up and put down at various times. I’m sure I’ll be leaving some unfinished ones behind someday. Actually it’s been painful for me to look at a lot of my old work and archives for a long time because so many of the people that I lived that time of my life with are dead. Maybe now I’m finally able to start dealing with the memories. Also I felt like much of my old work was an embarrassing failure. Looking at it now, some of is indeed embarrassing but some of it is not so bad! A former abusive relationship made me feel like I should not do any art because I was no good and didn’t deserve to do it just because it was good for me and made me feel alive. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I was ever going to take it up again.
My Mail Art name was Carolyn Substitute, my ‘zine was called the Lime Green News, and my faux postage was produced under the name “Lime Green Post”. I decided today to do an online search and see if I could find any references to my old Mail Art activities.
If you would like to explore this world I found the following:
stardust Memories Mail-aRt-Links and projects – bless this person for putting a link to my old web site on archive.org! I haven’t seen it in so long. I redesigned it in 1999 and I don’t think I looked at the old one since then because it made me so embarrassed!
Lime Green Evolution World of Art – 1997-1999 – My first web site, how I transitioned from analog networking to digital networking. Thinking back on it, printmaking class in 1987 led to rubber stamping, rubber stamping led to Mail Art, Mail Art led to ‘zines, ‘zines led to taking a class to get better at desktop publishing, which led to published a web site, that led to being a web designer, which led to doing marketing which led to me working on a marketing degree. No wonder I called my first web site Lime Green Evolution. And I didn’t even put in all the other tangents I followed along the way! I used to stay late a lot after my web design job ended at 5 pm to work on my personal web site and wait for the traffic to die down.
One of the things we are studying in my Mass Communications class is how people make media meaningful for themselves. Back in the ‘zine / grunge / Mail Art era we used to do a lot of collages, small press publications and mixed media projects. I’m sure there are still people out there doing these things and with technology we have a lot more options available. Most likely I’ll be exploring this in a future research project.
Edit: here is my new page on the International Union of Mail-Artists web site. I’ll be putting some old and new work there.
Yesterday my husband Tom and I attended the last day of the Gauguin exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention. Our friend Mike went with us and treated us to the tickets that he had earned from doing volunteer work.
When I first became interested in studying art, I wanted to be a painter. When I took ceramics and printmaking for the first time, I lost interest in painting and stopped reading about it as much as I used to in favor of my new passions. Over the years I also have done some pretty intense study of fiber arts, various crafts, collage, Dadaism, neo-Dadaism and Mail Art, ‘Zines, book arts, Outsider Art, Pop Art, photography, computer animation, web design, architecture, graphic design, the decorative arts, archaeology and anything Mid-Century Modern. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were the first kinds of painting that drew me in but over the years I came to prefer Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism as painting styles. I hadn’t done any reading on Gauguin for a long time.
I really enjoy artists and designers who work in a variety of media, such as Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and Frank Lloyd Wright. A lot of times I feel guilty about having so many interests and dabbling in so many different occupations and areas of study. Today’s society seems mostly to expect you to do only one thing but that is not and never will be “me”. So at this Gauguin show I was very intrigued to see some of Gauguin’s ceramics, wood carvings and woodcut prints alongside the paintings. There were ceramics and decorative objects from Gauguin’s personal collection as well as Oceanic and Peruvian art that was representative of the cultures Gauguin was influenced by. He was also at various times a sailor, a stockbroker and a writer. People like this make me not feel so weird!
As a former ‘zine publisher (Lime Green News 1991-1998), I was excited to see a woodblock print graphic in the exhibit that Gauguin carved to help him publish his own newspaper, which could be considered a type of ‘zine. I’m currently taking a Mass Communications class and in our textbook Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future by Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, I’ve highlighted a very intriguing sentence: “Extremists were often forced to rely on older media like pamphlets, handbills and political rallies.” I don’t know if Gauguin would have been considered an “extremist” in his time but he was critical of religion and government and his lifestyle was, to put it politely, pretty “bohemian”. When I read the above sentence in my textbook I thought of the history of self publishing and the many forms it can take. Before movable type printing presses, documents were hand written or perhaps laboriously printed with hand-printing methods such as stamping and wood block printing. Later there were typewriters, carbon paper, mimeographs, copy machines, desktop computers with printers and the World Wide Web, making self-publishing easier and more accessible.
When I was ‘zine publishing, I used to make my originals on paper to be copied on a copy machine at the office supply superstore. I started out with text printed out on an inkjet printer on my 1983 Commodore 64 computer, which I used for all my word processing until 1995. I essentially made big collages for my pages, combining the printed text with a variety of graphics, collages and hand-drawings. If I wanted to add color I would sometimes carve a rubber stamp and stamp it on the finished prints. I think the largest edition I ever made of my ‘zine was 100, so stamping 100 times to add a bit of color was feasible.
I got a Windows computer in 1995 with a black and white laser printer. At that time I got Internet access for the first time and started reading on the World Wide Web. My first web site went live in 1997. Gradually I made my ‘zine using more modern desktop publishing methods and by learning software such as the Microsoft Office suite, Corel Draw and Photoshop. The last years of my ‘zine incorporated more and more “modern” techniques but were still made as big collages with some hand-embellishments before copying. In 1998 I just switched my ‘zine content over to my web site, which although a bit out of date in spots is still live (www.limegreennews.com). It needs some (ok a lot of) work because I’ve been neglecting it in favor of the blog you are reading now.
Publishing online is very satisfying, but I miss the lower-tech, handcrafted methods of self-publishing sometimes. I still like book arts in various forms. I’d like to write about or engage in some self-publishing as I work on my master’s degree if possible. It’s been on my mind ever since reading that sentence in the textbook. I got out some of my old ‘zine originals to go down memory lane and think about some possible research ideas. ‘Zine publishers do a lot of trading and I had a big collection of other people’s ‘zines plus material they sent me for consideration for publication. I donated the bulk of my collection to the Poetry and Rare Books collection at the University of New York at Buffalo some years ago but I did save a few things I especially liked. I have no idea what they kept of my collection if anything, but they did have a subscription to my ‘zine when it was in publication and I didn’t know of anyone else who might be interested! I didn’t save much of the “extremist” stuff for my own collection because it frankly scared me and was one of the reasons I dropped out of the printed ‘zine scene – it helped contribute to a major anxiety attack that I eventually received treatment for and recovered from. I don’t think I’ve ever said publicly why I dropped out of the ‘zine and Mail Art scene suddenly but that is a major part of why I did that. I do miss aspects of it though. I’m kind of hoping that working on my degree will bring opportunities to do some research on this era of communication or even get back into it in some way. I might even re-publish on this blog some things that are not too embarrassing that aren’t yet online. We’ll see!
Just for fun, since the art show I just saw included Oceanic art and some work by Gauguin that shows how he was influenced by that art , here is what the cover of Lime Green News #2 looked like. I took a postcard with rubber stamped art work that I liked from another mail artist and taped down some sketches from my then-current Oceanic art history class. I drew and stamped crudely around the sketches and the postcard to make a cover. On the left is my original, on the right is a simulation of what the cover would have looked like after copying it on a black and white machine at the office supply superstore. I don’t know if I even have a printed version of this issue in my archives, I probably just have the original. At that time, if my memory is correct, I used to print about 10-15 copies just to trade with people.
What do Ross Perot and Oceanic art have to do with each other? I had no idea then and don’t now, but one thing I have not ever grown out of is making collages out of random things. Now I call it Art Journaling and use it as one of my artistic outlets since I don’t really try to make “Fine Art” type art any more. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas, I do, I just don’t see what good it would do for anybody. But I never know what older ideas I’m going to go back to!
1. Download and print out one of the faux postage templates.
2. Tape a piece of acetate over the printed template.
3. Using a metal ruler as a guide and with the self-healing cutting mat underneath, use your mat knife or X-acto knife to cut out the squares on the template. You will cut through both the acetate and paper layers as you do so.
4. Remove the paper from the acetate. Now your template is ready to use.
Make the stamps
Tools and materials
Dye-based rubber stamping ink
Light colored cardstock
Faux postage stencils
Rubber stamps in a spring theme such as flowers and butterflies
Word rubber stamps for backgrounds
Tiny faux postage rubber stamps or other tiny word and number stamps
Decorative edging scissors
1. Tape a piece of light colored cardstock down on your work surface. Tape your acetate faux postage stencil in place over it, hinging it at the top with tape so you can lift the acetate between steps.
2. Squirt a few light analagous colors of rubber stamping ink on a palette. For example, light yellow, ochre yellow and light orange, or light pink and light peach. Sponge these colors inside the openings in the stencil while blending. Try to get the colors lighter toward the middle and darker toward the edge.
3. Lift the acetate (this is so that you don’t melt the stencil) and dry well with a heat tool. Stamp a word stamp as a background in a light taupe or light tan color. Dry the ink again.
4. Outline the inside edges of each opening with an analgous color of colored pencil – for example orange with the yellow inks, magenta with the pink inks.
5. Select a stamp for the main part of your image and stamp it toward the middle of each opening in burgundy ink.
6. Select some tiny faux postage stamps and stamp them in black around the edges.
7. Cut stamps apart with a decorative paper-edging scissors.
Following are the stamps I used in each sample.
The background stamp is by Stampington. Butterfly stamps are from 7gypsies then in black I stamped the following stamps from Carolyn’s Stamp Store:
Yes it might seem a little early to talk about Halloween crafts – usually in early August I feel like I’m just getting used to the summer lifestyle. The Fall 2015 issue of RubberStampMadness is out and I want to let you know about it because my article “Stamping Halloween Postoids” is featured within! If you want to read it check the newsstand at your favorite craft retailer or go to the RubberStampMadness web site to order a copy. My four-page article will guide you step by step in creating your own Halloween Faux Postage stamps to decorate your Halloween mail and crafts.
I also have a selection of Halloween and Faux Postage rubber stamps available in my online shop Carolyn’s Stamp Store. I have complete postoid stamps and parts to help you design your own artistamps. Check out my newest designs featuring skeletal animals, crows, creepy bugs and more!