Monday, September 7, 2009

Manufacturer Mania: the Stampsmith

This month we are featuring great images from the Stampsmith!

Always a huge fan of the Stampsmith's photo-style stamps, I was delighted at the new turn the company is taking by adding a line of illustrated stamps to their repertoire! Life is about balance and climbing to new heights. This new collection of stamps, aptly called Balancing Act, expresses both of these ideas!

I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing the fascinating creator of this new line, Jack Sherman. Jack may be new to the world of stamp design, but his experience in the world of art and illustration stretches back to his childhood.

Q: Jack, can you tell our readers a bit about your art career?

A: I've always drawn and sculpted but it never really occurred to me as a kid in Brooklyn that one could make a living doing such things. In college (SUNY Binghamton), I took a double major in English and Fine Art and then did graduate work in Art History, fully expecting to become an academic.

Art, I thought, would remain a lovely avocation. But, to pay the bills, I got a job teaching high school English (at a small central school in upstate New York where I was the entire English Department, but that's another story).

My wife meanwhile got hired as a reporter at the local paper. I became art critic for the paper and contributed the occasional illustration. This led to my leaving teaching and working halftime at the newspaper as staff artist (as the entire art department, really) and book review editor. The other half of my time was spent Art Directing a number of publications at nearby Cornell University. Then came the offer I couldn't refuse to become director of illustration for Newsday on Long Island.

We moved back downstate and I had a gratifying 23 years in art directing pages in every section of the paper, contracting thousands of illustrations from illustrators across the country and executing hundreds of my own images. Since my work is more cerebral than decorative, almost all of these were for the OP Edit and Book pages. With the downturn in the newspaper business, I took a buyout last year and have moved on to other challenges.

Q: Has illustration always been your primary artistic outlet?

A: I've always been a reasonably good amateur carpenter and my post-newspaper time has been spent largely working with wood. I worked with one of my sons-in-law constructing stage sets for regional theaters and have been producing wooden toys and prototypes in my workshop.

I still do the occasional (maybe once per month) freelance illustration for Newsday and recently painted a large faux rug in our dining room. I was doing this when I was working on "Balancing Act" and included a tightrope walker in the design.

Q: I love the philosophy behind the Balancing Act illustrations. What made you chose this theme for your first collection?

A: It was my idea to suggest to stampers that they might push in the direction of metaphoric illustration, i.e. they could make a point or express an idea or opinion with these images.

"Balance" could help represent the delicate and difficult choices we all face. Along with boxers, see-saws, American Gothic, desert islands, donkeys/elephants, Uncle Sam and many, many other symbolic images, "balance" of one kind or another has long been a staple in an illustrator's repertoire.

Q: How you describe the look of Balancing Act?

A: The style of "Balancing Act" is meant to be simple and retro, but not of a particular period. I'm hoping for charm without kitsch; the figures owe much to the "everyman" types that populate the New Yorker...imperfect, aging bodies doing what they do. I use a different, harder-edged, woodcut-ish style for serious Op Edit illustration.

Q: When designing these illustrations, were there are stylistic changes you needed to make to create images that could be used for rubber stamping?

A: There were actually very few accommodations that had to be made for the drawings to become stamps...just the occasional line to be thickened.

Q: This was a sensational debut release. Will we be seeing any new collections in the coming months?

A: The response has been very gratifying and yes, I'm now working a page of "The Seven Deadly Sins".

Jack is in the process of developing a website which will showcase his woodworking efforts, much of which he tells me are directed toward wooden blocks. The website will also contain links to his stamp plates and his illustrations.

As his website is still in development, Jack was kind enough to share some photos with us of the faux rug that he described earlier in the interview.

He gave me some more detail:
"Each corner is devoted to one of my kids. There is a ring of family phrases, jokes andreferences that resonate with all of us.

The many penguins relate to a favorite family toy.

The tightrope walker is me (kind of) making my way from A to Z.

The painting was executed in acrylics and many coats of poly to protect it from wear and tear."

I would like to thank Jack for taking time to invite us into his studio and to get insight into this remarkable new line of stamps. You can find Balancing Act at the Stampsmith!

Look for other Stampsmith images featured throughout this month on Gingersnap Creations and enter our challenges for a chance to win some great blog candy provided by the Stampsmith.


  1. Beautiful stamps, FANTASTIC series of cards Sharon, and Jack's work is so inspiring!

  2. This was a really interesting interview and it's great to get to know the artist behind the stamps. I love the images and now love them more I have an window into how and why it was created. Thanks Sharon and Jack!

  3. Can't wait to see more of this artist's work and I love the simplicity of your cards. I believe I will have to borrow this idea!

  4. Sharon I just love the way you have used these stamps with the bold colours behind them and the matching borders. Perfect.


Thanks for your wonderful words!

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