Rubber stamping, also called stamping, is a craft in which some type of ink made of dye or pigment is applied to an image or pattern that has been carved, molded, laser engraved or vulcanized, onto a sheet of rubber. The rubber is often mounted onto a more stable object such as a wood, brick or an acrylic block. Increasingly the vulcanized rubber image with an adhesive foam backing is attached to a cling vinyl sheet which allows it to be used with an acrylic handle for support. These cling rubber stamps can be stored in a smaller amount of space and typically cost less than the wood mounted versions. They can also be positioned with a greater amount of accuracy due to the stamper's ability to see through the handle being used. Temporary stamps with simple designs can be carved from a potato. The ink-coated rubber stamp is pressed onto any type of medium such that the colored image is transferred to the medium. The medium is generally some type of fabric or paper. Other media used are wood, metal, glass, plastic, and rock. High volume batik uses liquid wax instead of ink on a metal stamp.
There are three distinct types of rubber stamps: traditional, where the pad is in a separate container from the stamp; Self-inking stamps, which have a self-contained die that rests against the pad until the die is flipped 180 degrees to make an imprint; and pre-inked stamps, where the die itself is actually impregnated with the ink.
Rubber stamps for business commonly show an address and corporate logo. They often have movable parts that allow the user to adjust the date or the wording of the stamp. They are used to date incoming mail, as well as to denote special handling for documents. In some countries it is common practice for formal documents such as contracts to be rubber-stamped over the signature as additional evidence of authenticity.
Business stamps are generally available from stationers or direct from the manufacturer. Popular stamps include address stamps and check endorsement stamps. Among the few areas where business stamps are seeing sales growth is in the merging of the commercial stamp market with the creative/art side. Many people are opting to add color and art for a decorative effect to their address stamps.
Some artists have been using such stamps to decorate pieces of art for special effects or in an ironic way.
Document marking can be done from within the user's word processor. This can be done manually by creating the "stamps" to appear on the documents in automated document marking software for Microsoft Word. This allows each page to be stamped as it is printed with the user selected stamps created electronically. This provides the user with a standardized and consistent document management solution for paper-based workflows.
Art stamps have become fashionable in the United States, more so than in Europe. While they are mostly regarded as children's toys in Europe, in the U.S. they are available in intricate designs and are used to decorate objects. Art stamps can be used for decoration of useful things like paper for letters and greeting cards and similar things, but also can be combined with other techniques to create traditional art.
As rubber stamping increasingly gains popularity, mostly in the United States, it also gains a reputation as an art form. Some participants choose to carve their own rubber stamps, either of old-fashioned gum erasers or eraser-like rubber. Companies like Speedball or MasterCarve supply carving sets to amateurs wishing to carve their own rubber stamps, with some including linocut tools. The print from the carved rubber stamp is viewed as work of art on its own, or one or more stamps are used to embellish a work of art with other components.
Other materials besides rubber may be used to produce a stamp. Woodcut and linocut, the carving of linoleum, are art forms based on the same principles. Linoleum is much harder than rubber and thus requires special tools. Woodcut is mostly used by professional artists, requiring much talent and patience. Rubber carving material can be purchased, but is marketed as a child's toy and not widely used. Additionally, photopolymer stamps are growing in popularity. They are most often produced in a set of coordinated images using a clear polymer material on an acetate carrier sheet for storage and packaging. The stamps are peeled from the carrier sheet and applied to a clear acrylic handle. This allows the stamper to view the image through the handle and effect precise placement of the image where desired. Photopolymer stamps are generally produced in the United States for sale domestically and internationally. Similar clear stamps made of silicone are produced by U.S. companies in China. Silicone stamps have many of the same properties of the photopolymer stamps. The production of clear stamps makes storage of a large collection of images easier, since they are all used with just one set of various sized handles. They are also often very economical being produced in sets of several images which work together to form a cohesive look.
There are several possibilities to vary the look of carved stamps. Paints, pigments and dye inks create different effects, extending the use of rubber stamping from paper to fabrics, wood, metal, glass, and so on. Ink pads can be purchased that allow for embossing and there are markers that can be used to ink stamp pads with colors for a multi-color look. The use of rubber stamps can be combined with other materials. The image may be embellished by the addition of chalks, inks, paints, fibers and a variety of other ephemera and embellishments.
Hand-carved rubber stamps are often used in mail art or artist trading cards because they tend to be small and allow the making of series. The TAM Rubber Stamp Archive has a collection of prints of rubber stamps mail-artists used since 1983 (see link). Stamping is also often used in handmade cardmaking, scrapbooking, and letterboxing.
Stamping has become a very popular home based craft, and there are a number of forums, some with many thousands of members. Craft stampers tend to be associated with other paper crafts, such as card making and scrapbooking.
3. Marking Devices Publishing Company 
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