Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Manufacturer's Spotlight: Oxford Impressions

The first unmounted stamps I ever bought were two plates from Oxford Impressions, Beloved and My Story. I had seen artwork using the Beloved plate and fell totally in love.

Artwork by Suzanne Melvin.

I was a bit nervous about using photo-style stamps or even unmounted stamps for that matter, but when I received my order it included not only a wonderful image key sheet for each plate but also detailed instructions and tips on mounting and stamping with these gorgeous images. There was even a sample image included. I followed the directions and was hooked immediately.

So it was a dream come true, when I got to interview Suzanne Melvin, fabulous stamper and owner of Oxford Impressions, for this month's Manufacturer's Spotlight.

All the artwork used in this post was crafted by Suzanne Melvin and has been used with her permission. Click on any photo to be taken to the corresponding plate at Oxford Impressions.

Q: Suzanne, how long have you been creating stamped art?

A: I began rubber stamping in 1996. I had just moved to California and I was invited to a home party by one of my new neighbors. I was reluctant to attend, but I'm so glad I did! My first stamp was a PSX heart shaped wreath I purchased from the hostess. By the end of the week, I had located all the local stamp stores and bought three more rubber stamps!

Q: When did Oxford Impressions open for business and what was your first release?

A: Oxford Impressions started as a hobby for me. I loved the highly detailed rubber stamps and couldn't find enough of them. Photo-style stamps were very new and seemed like magic! I decided to try and design my own and, in 2001, I located a company willing to make them for me. My plan was get a few extra copies and sell them to my stamping friends to pay for the manufacturing. I was just trying to break even so I could afford more stamps!

I posted a notice on a few yahoo groups and was totally shocked to find all copies spoken for in about a week. I quickly went into production on my next collection of stamps. The first release of Oxford Impressions was "Paris Poste", a collection of French-themed rubber stamps. The next month I created "La Bella Vita", an Italian collection. (I am still very partial to romantic travel themes.) So, the stamps came first; the business second.

I found such joy in the creation of the stamps themselves, that it seemed natural I devote myself to it full-time. In short order, I took over the manufacturing of my rubber stamps and I am still involved in every aspect of production.

Q:Your art work space reflects your love of antiques and vintage items. Can you describe it for our readers and how it inspires your art?

A: I have a production office attached to my home where all the rubber stamps are actually made and I also have an upstairs studio space where I design and create art. The studio space is an interesting mix of contemporary and vintage. A large computer, scanner and printer are necessary to my work and take up their own corner. The walls of the studio are a light gold with creamy trim that sets off my rotating collection of art and at the same time provides a compatible backdrop for my vintage pieces.

Most of my antiques are white, tan or pale bleached wood. I keep my magazines in an old wooden crate that advertises "Glove Brand Rubber". My stamping table is a 1940's era breakfast table with a distressed white wood base and a white metal top. The table top was scarred and stained to begin with, so I use it with abandon. Vintage glass milk bottles filled with white buttons and old crystals line my windowsill.

The pride of place, however, goes to my dressform. It is a late 1800's form with an impossibly tiny, nipped in waist and an elaborate metal skirt and base. The form shows some definite wear, but the muted tones and textures are simply fabulous! I find the soft, pale colors of my space very comforting. I need to be relaxed to do my best work and I've created a space that makes me feel at peace and at the same time, inspired.

In my more quiet moments, I love to imagine the past attached to my antiques. How many pancakes were enjoyed at this table? Was the wasp-waisted woman happy with her dresses or did she chafe at the restriction? Just where has this suitcase traveled? I think this unconscious story telling is definitely a part of my creative process whether I am making a collage or designing a stamp collection.

Q: You are a passionate collector of contemporary art. How does collecting original pieces of art influence your own creative style?

A: My own paper art is not contemporary in nature. I tend to create in a more romantic, fantasy style. The act of combining colors and elements into a cohesive whole brings order to chaos. I take joy in creating something beautiful. I've been hesitant to express some of the moodier aspects of my character when creating. Instead of successfully hiding that part of my personality, I have recently come to realize that I've just been expressing it in other ways.

It was a bit of a shock when I realized I was buying art that actually reflected the inner me. I started collecting contemporary art after hearing a gallery talk by encaustic artist Miranda Lake. I so enjoyed her art and hearing about her creative process that I wanted to take a little piece of Miranda home with me. I chose an encaustic "fish out of water" piece with a whimsical little bunny-eared girl. The next year I saw myself in D.J. Pettit's piece "The lady of the house". The year I moved, I bought a piece called "Window of Opportunity". It is funny how the subconscious works. I did not recognize at the time I was buying art that I had been too fearful to make.

Q:Oxford Impressions features so many great vintage images in diverse themes. What type of image are you drawn to most often?

A: In a way, my rubber stamps are truly my art. I didn't realize until recently how closely my stamps also mirror my personal life. I always start with people and give them elements to show the lives I imagine them to have. I spend a great deal more time crafting the images and stories than actually using the stamps. When I am feeling positive, my stamps are sweet and playful. When I'm going through personal difficulty, my images are more somber or wistful. During the hardest year of my life, I only created one stamp collection, "Cowgirl Blues". None of the characters are smiling and half the women have guns! Fortunately, things turned around for me and I was able to create "The Bird's Nest", a collection filled with images of hope and new beginnings.

Q:Your recent Marie Antoinette release and the coordinating French Script and Beau Monde plates are very popular. What is it about Marie Antoinette that has captured your imagination?

A: After confessing that my stamps mirror my life, I guess I should explain my Marie Antoinette collections! My collections have a heavy French influence because the romance appeals to me. My friend and Design Team Member, Shelly Hickox, originally suggested the Marie theme and I was intrigued. A Marie Antoinette collection would be a new way to integrate French imagery into the Oxford Impressions line without being repetitive.

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and capture the queen's life with images, but how to show the opulence without showing the misery was a real problem. Then I watched Sophia Coppola's gorgeous "Marie Antoinette" movie staring Kirsten Dunst. The movie focused on the beauty and hopeful freshness of a young Marie and ended before the mobs and riots, so young Marie became my theme.

Q:What is your favorite part of being in the rubber stamping community?

A: My favorite part of being in the rubber stamping community is the personal connections one makes with other artists. I get great pleasure from hearing from people if they have been inspired by my designs. I love to see art from my customers! It really, really thrills me to see my stamps being used. I also especially enjoy the camaraderie that exists between rubber stamp manufacturers. Most of them seem to be artists as well as business owners, and have a generous spirit. I belong to a manufactures professional group and it is a blessing to have the wisdom of experience to draw from. We all have the same issues and challenges, but since we offer unique products, we are able to freely share without feeling as though we are competing with one another directly.

Thanks so much, Suzanne! It was a delight to get an inside peak into Oxford Impressions and to get to know you better!

To check out all of Suzanne's collections, go to the Oxford Impressions store. She also offers collage sheets, mounting supplies, paper and ephemera.

On the main website, you can access tutorials and galleries for all the collections. Check out Suzanne's own blog, Studio Suzanne, for more wonderful art. It will inspire you to create and to play!


  1. Great interview! Suzanne I am so happy to know a little about you and Oxford Impressions. I've seen many of Shelly Hickox's pieces using your stamps and getting to see these pieces that you made with the same stamps is such fun. Thank you for being willing to be interviewed. And Shar thanks for such an interesting and inspiring piece.

  2. Suzanne seems like a very interesting and talented woman. I actually have a few of her stamps, and they are wonderful to work with. Thanks for this great interview!



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