Carving her own stamps

Junior Melody Hsu is not your average artist. She handcrafts her own stamps by carving her original art onto blocks of wood, and in two to three months, they will be ready for her to use or sell.

After learning how to make block prints from her art teacher four years ago, Hsu has made block printing her hobby, and she implements her own artistic style by incorporating different elements of nature into each piece.

“I wanted to try something new, [not] normal pen and paper drawings, and I thought it would be interesting to try. Almost all my designs are integrated with nature in some way. The details found in the flowing shapes [are] more interesting to carve, and I feel that [nature] offers more depth to each of my works,” Hsu said.

To make a stamp, she first sketches the image of the desired print on a wood block. She then outlines the sketch in black, and the rest of the block is carved out with a wood carving knife. After carving, a layer of ink is rolled over the design that is formed, and it is pressed onto a piece of paper, leaving behind the imprint of the stamp.

“I like making [stamps] because it’s enjoyable to see something become so intricate and complex from a simple spanse of material. I’ve become much more open to new ideas and now have a broader sense of art as a whole. It takes a long time to do even a small part. This sort of art emphasizes the little aspects of different details in objects because you can only focus on two colors, [the black of the marker and the brown of the wood],” Hsu said.

With the tedious work required and slow progression of carving, Hsu continues to exercise her patience and creativity with each stroke of the knife.

“I find that I’m really detail-oriented. As a detail-oriented person, I find that every flaw of my art is vital to the composition of the work. I think I have really practiced my creative skills and simultaneously become much more technical with fine details. I’m able to express myself creatively and explore different skills in various fields of art,” Hsu said.

Hsu sells her stamps to those who request special designs, and the prices vary according to the complexity and time it takes to complete. She has made a total of 15 stamps, including requests for animals, calligraphy prints and abstract geometric designs.

“At first, I was surprised that [people] would want me to make [stamps] for them because I was used to only making them for my own enjoyment, but I’m always curious to see how I can turn a subject of interest into a pleasing form of art for others,” Hsu said.

Although she is unsure whether she will pursue block carving as a possible career, Hsu hopes that the traits she has obtained from her years of experience will be useful in the future.

“I think this skill, [block printing], is an important attribute, as it has taught me to see that beauty can be formed by mistakes,” Hsu said. “Carving cannot be undone, [but] mistakes and imperfections in each carving all contribute to the overall uniqueness of the work. It’s satisfying to see something be created from removing the unwanted space and feel how each knife cut in the block contributes in some way to the overall image.”

By Melissa Kim, Staff writer
Photos courtesy of Melody Hsu