|Chinese Printing Blocks - their size is about 1/4 inch wide|
Photo Credit: Jenni Konrad
Around 1040 AD, the Chinese also invented movable type in clay, and shortly afterword in wood. This is a more flexible system than woodblock printing because it allows for moving various individual pieces. This became a successful method when printing thousands of books.
Printing with Eraser Stamps
We first decided to carve our own movable type out of clay. After the deadpan stare I received for suggesting they create a font and carve their own alphabet, we tried the more reasonable task of carving the letters to a short word, that could be used regularly on cards. For example, Elle decided on MERCI, which is French for Thank You.
We cut our blocks, drew our templates, carved them with toothpicks and paring knives. We let them dry, dipped them in ink and we got - smudges. We tried with paint and an ink pad, but still the same result, a series of spots and smudges. I think because we used clay, between the carving and the drying, our letters weren't level, which is important to create an imprint. Disappointed with all that hard work and nothing to show for it, we put printing aside for a bit. Then we did the tried and true carving of erasers.
The materials needed for this project are:
- 1 or more white erasers (we got 3 letters per eraser, therefore used 2)
- small carving tool
- cutting mat (for a non slip surface when carving)
- dark fine tip marker or pen
- ink, ink pad, or paint
1. Cut your eraser into segments - we cut ours into 3 equal pieces.
2. Because we were carving letters, the stamp carving needed to be reversed. Rather than trying to draw it reversed, we created a template: trace your eraser pieces on a piece of paper. Within those squares, draw what you want to stamp. We did capital letters for the word MERCI. Outline your drawing in dark pen/marker - something you can see through the paper. Color in fully your drawing with a pencil. Cut out the templates. *For anything other than letters, forget this step and draw right on the eraser.
3. Turn your template over onto the surface of the eraser. Can you see the outline of your drawing? Using a pencil, trace the edges of the template, and color it in again. This should transfer your template in pencil onto the eraser.
4. Using the carving tool, carefully and slowly carve away around your drawing. Make sure to get the edges of the eraser. To get the hang of using this, Elle started by carving out the edges, and worked her way towards the letters. When using the carving tool, carve away from yourself, and make sure not to carve towards the fingers holding the eraser.
I helped Elle out with some of these - R was a little tricky, but we weren't looking for perfection. It is easier to start off with simple shapes or letters, with straight lines.
5. Stamp onto a piece of paper. Elle made a thank you card to mail to her aunt and uncle for her amazing Christmas gifts.
Can you imagine carving Chinese characters? On a 1/4 inch square surface? When there are over 10,000 Chinese characters? Incredible...
You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:
You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups: