Hand-Carved Stamp Maker & Block Print Artist
Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: Anna, the hand-carved stamps you create through Emissary Arts are so unique. When did you get into this type of art form?
Growing up, I experimented with my mom’s stamp collection, but it never really stuck for me. It did leave me curious, though, because I was really intrigued by the idea of creating original designs. And I wondered if it was possible to make stamps. Fast forward to November of 2018, and in a moment of creative energy, I started wondering about it again. The first thing that came to mind was carving a potato for a stamp. I ran to the store and grabbed a scalpel and a bag of potatoes. I carved a pinecone into a potato and stamped about 30 notecards. It was the closest I’d gotten to making a stamp and I was really excited. But at the end of the day, the stamp pad was full of potato water, the potato was shriveled, and I was a little deflated. So I scoured the internet, and that’s when I found the world of block printing. I don’t have any formal arts training. If I did, I probably would have been familiar with it. But not having that, finding block printing was like finding buried treasure, and I was immediately hooked.
What exactly is block printing?
Block printing is hand engraving a block of wood, linoleum, or rubber and then using that engraved block like a stamp. Cover the raised portion with ink, leave the recessed portion clean, press it on something like paper or fabric—and voilà!
You said earlier you never had formal arts training, but you’ve always been interested in art?
Always. I’ve never been able to stay away from it. It’s definitely a skill God gave me, and sometimes it’s expressed itself in ways I don’t always understand. As a kid, I don’t ever remember being bored (although my mom might remember differently) because I was always captivated by observing the world around me. Usually, I was analyzing color, shape, dimension, line, shadow, and light—before I knew to use those words. For most of my life that translated into creating things inspired by the beauty around me. I dabbled in art forms like drawing, painting, photography, cake decorating, clay modeling, and hand lettering, and my family was constantly telling me that I needed to sell my work. But it wasn’t until I found block printing that I felt comfortable narrowing my focus and branding my artwork.
How long have you been creating the hand-carved stamps?
I started right after that first potato stamp, so I’ve been at it for about 8 months. It’s been a steep learning curve, but one I’ve enjoyed.
What types of designs do you create?
So far, I’ve worked on two types of projects. One is making custom logo stamps (from already existing logos). Those are often for small businesses who want to improve their branding by stamping their packaging or products. The other is completely original block print designs—lately, it’s been florals or architecture—that I print either on notecards or on fine arts paper as stand-alone pieces.
Have you been surprised at the interest there has been so far?
Yes, there has been so much interest! I haven’t been able to accept every order given the fact that I’m balancing another job and chronic health complications related to Lyme disease. But I try to take as many as I can, and, honestly, I can’t tell you what an inspiration the support and encouragement I’ve received from my local and online community has been.
What other types of products do you create through Emissary Arts?
I’m currently working on expanding my custom stamp offerings to include some standard designs for last name and return address stamps. Besides that, there is so much left to experiment with, but one upcoming project that I’m looking forward to is stamping an entire wall in a local clothing boutique with one of my flower stamps.
That sounds neat! Looking ahead, what else do you hope to achieve with your art? Is this something you could do full time?
That’s a big question! Broadly speaking, I aspire to take everything that God has given me and use it to proactively reflect His beauty in a world where most of us have experienced something less than beautiful. If my art communicates that kind of hope, I’m content. Business-wise, I’d like to continue building my skill set, perfecting what I’m already doing. Going full time would depend on what level of creative freedom I could maintain. But I also love doing a variety of things, so taking the step to go full time with anything would be a big decision for me.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve noticed that most artists experience creative highs and lows, though we’re not always aware that’s what’s happening. One week you’re busy creating and feeling like you’re moving forward, and the next week you’re stuck. It feels natural to ride those waves. But just riding it out can make you directionless over time. Highs are great and lows aren’t always bad, but two things help me work with that cycle and use it to my advantage.
First, set actual, measurable goals. You may reach those goals mostly in your creative highs or you may decide to push through a slump. Whatever you decide to do, actual goals provide a point of reference to track your progress long term, which is encouraging.
Second, develop awareness. Be quick to recognize the emotional, physical, or environmental factors you’re dealing with. Then, you can adapt, whether that means stopping, pushing through, or finding another creative solution. I think that’s resilience—always moving forward, sometimes inspired, sometimes not.
How can people get in touch with you?
I’m very active on social media and you can find me on Instagram or Facebook as @emissaryarts. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!