Rubber Soul: Rubbercut Printing

A month ago, I joined Craft MNL‘s Screenprinting Workshop taught by the duo behind HOCUS. Last Saturday, it was another crafty weekend when I joined the rubbercut printing workshop taught by Fara Manuel. I didn’t set out to attend a workshop every month but that’s not a bad idea at all.

My finished matrix

I’ve been interested in rubbercutting for a while now because I’ve been wanting to learn how to make my own stamps. I even bought a set of wood carving tools that’s also used for creating them from an arts and crafts shop during my last visit to Hong Kong. These are the same as linoleum cutters and those that are being produced by Speedball. But if you’re planning to be serious about rubbercutting or stamp-making, these are just the basic tools, and you’d really benefit from investing in both smaller and bigger tips. Fara said that these are hard to find in the Philippines and would be easier to find through international online sellers.

Wood carving tools from HK

So when I learned that Craft MNL was offering a rubbercutting workshop, I immediately signed up for it and invited my good friend Vanessa to join me. We’ve been friends since grade school in Davao and it’s been 10 years since we shared a classroom together so I got even more excited to join a class with her.

The initial process of both rubbercut printing and stamp-making is the same but during the workshop, we used a different process to transfer our designs from the rubber to paper. With stamping, the design is usually mounted on something we can hold and then ink is applied by touching the ink with the stamp face down and then applied the same way on paper. With printing, we used inks applied with a tool called a brayer (looks like a paint roller) and a glass plate where the ink was placed on.

Brayer and ink

Can you believe that that was the easy part?

The first part, which was cutting the rubber itself, was so HARD! Most of the difficulty came from handling a material that I’ve never handled before. The rubber was quite tough to cut into (but still easier than wood since wood has grains) and the design that I had prepared was not as simple as I initially thought. I didn’t have the tools necessary to make my lines thin enough. But even though it was hard, and I had to edit my design to make it simpler, I still feel really proud of what I’d accomplished at the end of the afternoon. I’d done something that I’ve never done before and I had learned something new. More importantly, I felt so energized and inspired to learn more and perfect my personal technique. I even asked Fara how long it took her to get used to her craft and she said 3 years! Wow!

Me, hard at work prepping my rubber block

My design went from this…

To this! Haha. I couldn’t make the hearts and eyes properly so I decided to scrap them.

Vanessa was a natural! I also felt so proud of my friend and I’m glad that she had a great time, learning a new skill. Everyone loved her dog print and Fara was always complimenting her technique. Does this mean that I’ve gained another craft buddy? We’ll see! 🙂

Vanessa’s dog print

I had a super time at the workshop, spent time with old friends and acquaintances, met new people, and definitely gained a great respect for the craftsmen who’ve been doing this their whole lives. It’s something that needs a lot of patience but the rewards you get once you’ve finished a matrix (what they call the cut rubber block) is beyond what I ever imagined it would be. There’s really nothing as fulfilling as seeing a finished product of your own hard work.

If you find yourself facing an opportunity to learn this craft, whether it’s in Craft MNL or not, I highly recommend that you take it!

Do you want to see more pictures of my rubbercut experience? Head on over to the Stars for Dreams Facebook Fan Page and browse through the Rubber Soul album.

2 Comments

  1. Tracy June 28, 2012

    We did this in FA, too! Super enjoyed it! 😀 Although instead of using wood carving tools, I made use of my good ol’ cutter from National Bookstore, haha! I tried using the tools that my friend had, but they were really hard to use compared to my cutter. Medyo sad that we did this for only one plate, though, I wanted to do another one! Cutting through the rubber was surprisingly relaxing for me, hahaha. (: Cute ng designs niyo! 😀

    Reply
    • starsfordreams July 3, 2012

      Cool talaga ng FA sa UP. 🙁

      I don’t think kaya ko ng cutter though kasi tinry rin namin during the workshop na magcutter to shape and resize the block, ang tigas! I’m looking for the smaller v-tool ngayon kasi plano ko magfocus on smaller stamps. Ang hirap dahil masyadong malaki yung tools ko for the size of the cut that I want. May parang X-Acto knife dun sa set of tools na nabili ko, useful sobra pero pang prep daw yun mostly sabi nung teacher.

      Reply

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