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A signature look with sponged designs.

Using foam blocks from a toy store, it's easy to transform furniture, fabrics, even walls

FOAM STAMPING IS much like stenciling, but to Los Angeles writer and artist Ellen Melinkoff, it's better--and more fun. She finds the repeated forms of stenciling too neat and orderly, and stamped images more bold and spontaneous. She carves her own stamping blocks from dense lightweight foam and colors them with bright paint, then uses them to decorate walls, ceilings, furniture, picture frames, fabric, and wrapping paper.

Stamping is an easy and inexpensive craft project for all ages, but it's especially satisfying for people who find it difficult to draw or paint freehand. Work with acrylic paint to decorate everything but clothing and other fabrics; for those, use water-base fabric paints.

The idea is to carve a simple, graphic shape in a block of foam, apply paint to its raised, smooth surface, and stamp it on something else.

It's similar to using rubber stamps and ink pads, but the carved shapes are larger and less detailed. You can experiment with the density of the paint or even apply multiple layers of different colors.


You'll find the high-density foam you need for these stamps at toy stores, where it's sold as safe bathtub toys or building blocks for children. It's available as thin precut letters and shapes, or in bigger blocks that measure about an inch thick.

Although children will enjoy the painting and stamping, carving the blocks is strictly for responsible teenagers or adults. You must use a sharp craft knife to cut away the excess foam. Other supplies required are a straightedge ruler, a pencil or pen, a flat paintbrush, a supply of acrylic paints (art and craft stores sell them in 4-ounce bottles), and newsprint or scrap paper.

To make a stamp, first draw a pattern on the foam. Start with simple geometric forms that have straight edges. Once you get the hang of it, experiment with free-form shapes. Melinkoff created a series of bird and star forms inspired by the works of Matisse.

To remove the excess foam, hold the knife vertically and push in and out with a gentle sawing motion. To avoid ragged edges, try to follow straight or curving lines in one continuous cut, without withdrawing the knife blade.

Once you've cut around the shape, cut into the waste (nonprinting space) from the side of the block about 3/8 inch below the top. Pinch and twist out the excess foam. Don't worry that the surface you expose is rough or jagged--it lies well below the printing surface.

The stamp patterns on the walls and furniture shown here all started with simple geometric shapes--squares, triangles, and circles. You can cut them as individual shapes, but for repeating smaller shapes, such as grids of squares or triangles, it saves printing time to cut a number of them in one larger foam block. It's also easier to establish the spacing of a repeating pattern this way.

Apply paint to the block with a brush. The amount of paint can vary--a heavy coat yields a richer, more opaque print. Add a new coat of paint to the block before stamping with it again.

There may be times when you want to overprint with a second or third coat of contrasting color that lets the base coat show through. For top coats, try to remove most of the paint applied to the block by first printing on newsprint before stamping over the base coat. Or you might thin the paint or only partially cover the block with paint when overprinting.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Whiteley, Peter O.
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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