Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Monograms. What are they? Wiki says, "A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol." You find them embroidered on luggage and bags, or maybe on a piece of personal stationary.

I've carved some monograms for a few custom orders, and like them so much I have decided to offer them as a regular custom item in my Etsy shop. I love the way that some simple letters can create the perfect logo. The sky is the limit of course, with so many fonts out there, and so many different ways to organize the letters together.

There is some monogram etiquette also. In the three initial monogram above, the middle letter is actually the first initial of the last name, or surname. The first letter then becomes the initial of the first name, and the last letter in the trio is the middle name. That is convention for an individual, but a married couple might combine there names, and keep the middle (largest) letter as the last name, but use their first initials for the flanking letters in the logo.

Whether you use one, two, or three letters, a monogram is a great way to mark a letter, envelope, or card as something that came from YOU! I can't wait to carve more of these little treasures.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Holiday Rush

On December 5th I participated in a Vendor Fair at Wilson Commons at the University of Rochester. This was my first real show as a vendor of Jackbear Stamps. I really had a great time, and did well. I sold a few stamps I had made from the table, but more importantly, I made a lot of custom sales for Christmas that I am now working on. It was great to meet face to face with people and talk about the work I do. I worked on a UR themed bookplate all day and managed to finish by the end of the day. I got enough custom orders that I took my custom orders sign down in fear I would take on more than I could handle. But the carving is progressing nicely, many are already done, and many are in progress. I should be able to get them all done on time for the Holidays. It was a great experience I hope to repeat in the future! Thanks to anyone who stopped by!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


So, I don't think I will be at this site for long, but this week, I'm the featured artist at Cafe Handmade. This it out!

I am also selling stamps at my first show this Friday, December 5th at the University of Rochester Vendor Fair. I'm working hard growing my inventory, so I hope it pays off. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 24, 2008

There Be Treasure!

Yaaargh! So ye be lookin' fer me treasure ye be? Well ye be needin' a map. A treasure map!

I love maps. I love looking at them, exploring with them, I even like folding them! So when the Mad Scientists of Etsy selected Cartography to the be challenge theme for November, I was excited. I decided to create a hand carved rubber stamp set that would allow a young (or old) pirate to make his/her own treasure map.

Treasure Island and Lord of the Rings are two of my favorite books. Probably because they both have maps. I guess I'm a visual person. So the idea of carving nine rubber stamps that would make up key parts of the map sounded educational and fun. I used to teach an orienteering course to kids, and part of the lesson was learning the different parts of the map: title, key/legend, scale, compass rose, etc. So I knew I had to have those. Then I decided to add some good pirate map symbols, like a rock, palm tree, waves, a dash for making a trail, and of course, an "X Mark the Spot."

So, if you be wantin' to make yer own treasure map, check out this stamp kit at my Etsy store.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Little Brown Packages

One of the things I pride myself on is using padded mailers that are made from recycled materials. I also take delight in decorating each one with my "Jackbear" stamps, which are bear tracks. I package each stamp I sell carefully in a small ziplock bag, with a business card stapled to the top. I also include an index card with the stamp's image on one side, and a personal note to the buyer on the other side.

I have not been including invoices because I believe if my buyers on Etsy need a hard copy, they can print that off of the Etsy site. I don't want to waste another piece of paper if the person doesn't need it. This fits with my efforts to reduce the amount of waste in the mailing process. I hope that my buyers understand and appreciate these efforts, as we all try to do our part.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Electric Mayhem

I worked on a couple custom bookplates this weekend, and managed to squeak in some time to do this little set of seven stamps of transistors, capacitors, diodes, and chips. I think they would look great on a card for an electrical engineer, or computer geek.

You can purchase these stamps on Etsy.

Coming soon, a set of cartography stamps...think "Make your Own Map."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Read all about it.... the new Holiday Gift Guide at KidsOutandAbout.Com a Western New York website for families. Jackbear Stamps gets mentioned in the scroll down, and a stamp of ours appears right at the top of the page too! This is a wonderful website will lots of great information on things to do in the Western New York area. Thanks to Jackie Perrin and Debra Ross!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Got an Idea for a Rubber Stamp?

You need a stamp? Well do you....punk? Make my day.

Seriously though, I hand carve custom stamps, but I'm always looking for input for rubber stamp ideas. I got started in carving rubber stamps because I needed a stamp of a bear track, and couldn't find one for sale. So I'm hoping there is an idea for a stamp that you have had, but can't find at the craft or stamp store.

So here is my CHALLENGE to you!
1) Post in the comments of this post an idea you have that would make a good rubber stamp and why.
2) Please make sure the idea is a generic one, like "spaceships", not "an X-Wing Fighter" (since that would be a violation of copyright.)

[Please note, the Clint Eastwood stamp pictured was never a stamp for sale, it was only used for my personal use! I don't sell copyrighted work!]

If I like your idea, I'll probably carve it!

Let's hear you idea!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Indiepublic is a social networking site similar to Facebook or Myspace. Indiepublic describes itself as "an independent art and design community." They advertise that, "if you're an artist, designer, retailer, blogger, or just someone who gets giddy when they buy indie" then you will feel at home at Indiepublic.

Like my Facebook promotion, you can sign up to be my friend on my profile page. I will contact my friends from time to time with special discounts and promotions!

I'm a member of a couple of groups so far at Indiepublic that you might enjoy looking at, which include the Western New York Etsy Team, Carvers United, and the Land of Etsy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Become a Fan on Facebook

I am a member of Facebook, and if you are also on Facebook (because lets face it, it isn't EVIL like some people think, its fun and very useful to contact others) you can become a fan of Jackbear Stamps!

On my fan page, you can connect to by blog, see listing for upcoming special event, see my photos, and this is key...I will be contacting my fans through Facebook with special discounts and promotions!

Don't wait...become a fan TODAY! Yeah!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Holiday Orders

I am now taking pre-orders for custom hand carved rubber stamps for the Holidays!

My favorite gifts are those that I knew required some thought and effort. Sure, it probably is easier to walk into Walmart, pick up some plastic foreign made trinket, and stick it in a box, and call it a gift. However, when I get a gift that was handmade with love, I know that someone cares for me. I also know that there was an artist or craftsman who was not only compensated for their trade, but who felt good about selling a piece of their hard work.

There has been a lot in the news lately about sustainability. Which simply means supporting the things that we can replace as easy as we used it. Supporting artisans and craftspeople who do their work on a small scale, supports sustainability. I don't have to mass produce a lot of junk that will never sell. This way I don't waste resources, and don't make more trash. The environment is important to me, so I use recycled mailers for shipping as well.

But back to my point, why not this Holiday season, buy something handmade? I like this website where folks pledge to buy Handmade.

Also, I think when you give an item customized for the recipient, you know it will be a big hit! I can create a custom bookplate, a custom portrait, or anything else you can come up with, and carve it into a rubber stamp.

Things will be getting busy real soon, and custom orders take a little longer to produce, so contact me now so we can get your order going, and to you in time for the Holiday rush!

I do ship Internationally!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Geothermal Challenge!

The Mad Scientists of Etsy have a monthly challenge that revolves around a theme. The theme for October 2008 was "Geothermal." Each artisan creates an item that is inspired by the theme. Some create soap, jewelry, plush creatures, you name it! Above is my contribution!

As you know, I'm a rubber stamp carver. I carved a rubber stamp of the image of Old Faithful, taken from an old Parks Service poster that is available in the public domain. I stamped it in black, blue, and then "photoshopped" the four color version in the middle. I can't decide which one I like best? Which one do you like?

This is a little sneak preview for my readers, this stamp will be offered for sale in the coming week in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Why would you use a rubber stamp? At the mundane office, you might use it to save time, by stamping something instead of writing it. If you are a business owner, you might use a stamp to mark your packaging or merchandise.

The folks who participate at Splitcoaststampers take the art of rubber stamping to a whole new level! The folks here come up with AMAZING ways to use a rubber stamp, from cards, to scrapbooks, and everything else you can think of! This community of craftspeople has a very active forum, and galleries that they post examples of their work through. If you have never checked out this site, and you are into rubber stamps, this is the Nirvana of Rubber Stamps artwork. It is rated #1 in rubber stamp websites!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Carving Like Crazy!

Wow! I have had a great day today! I have had multiple requests today for custom made stamps. I am working on three small portraits, a shop name logo stamp, and a cute little avatar. I also put a logo stamp in the mail today to Canada!

I have to give a shout out to the leather artisans of Etsy because I'm working on my third stamp that has come from that community, and they are so talented, you should check out their fine leather wares, namely RADCOW, sewlutionsbyamo, and leatherfromtheabyss.

I also got a couple more science stamps in the shop. The one pictured here, a cool little pair of vintage binoculars (because I'm an avid birder, and you need to have good optics for birding), and a cool old microscope!

Anyway, better go get carving!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

WNY Etsy Team

I have joined another team as well, but this time with a team that is local to me, the Western New York Etsy Team. This team is made up of artisans and crafts people from all towns west of Syracuse in New York State.

Lots of the sellers in this group are located in Buffalo, and participate in an interesting arts and crafts show each month called the Buffalo Indie Market. Buffalo Indie Market is open every second Sunday of the month from 12PM to 5PM. I hope to be able to attend one of these in the future, it sounds awesome! It takes place at the Pearle Street Grille and Brewery and it's indoors (smart move for Buffalo, right!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mad Scientists of Etsy Team

I am very excited that I am now a member of the Mad Scientists of Etsy Team (MSOE)!

The Mad Scientists are a group that all sell handmade items on that are either scientists themselves, have a science degree, or are in some way connected to the field of science. They have banded together as a group to help promote science, and the science related items that some members sell.

The Mad Scientists also have a blog and website where they announce monthly challenges that group members can participate in. Challenges are based on a theme, and members try to create an item focused around the theme. For instance, the theme for August was microbiology and September is Copernicus. October is "geothermal" which sounds king of hard, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. You can see what other members have come up with on the Flickr site.

So I hope you check out what the MSOE Team has to offer, and you buy some items from these members for all your science type friends!

Stamps in Spaaaaace!!!

Remember the Muppets, "Pigs in Space" soap opera spoof? Anyway, I'm doing some rubber stamp carvings of mankind's journeys into space. I'm starting off my line of space stamps with Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launched by the Russians, and with the Apollo 11 module that carried the first humans to the moon and back. The photo to the left here is my interpretation of re-entry for the module. I have plans to follow these up with some other stamps, including Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong taking that historic first step on the moon. You can check in my space section in my Etsy shop.

I have taken most of the images from the NASA website, which the folks at NASA have made in the public domain (thank you!). I also have heard rumors that NASA and the folks at Etsy are teaming up on a special project. Maybe I'll get to send one of my rubber stamps into spaaaaace! More about that in the future though.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blinded by Science!

I have a new line of science stamps now available. More stamps will be added in the near future, but we get this line started out with the most famous (was he the most brilliant?) scientist of all time (OK knowing scientists we can argue this) Albert Einstein. I have also added hand carved rubber stamps of Charles Darwin, and Bill Nye.

I love doing portraits and plan on adding more. If you have a famous scientist you would like to see a stamp of, leave me a comment!

I have also added a set of some science symbols, including "radioactive," "biohazard," and "atomic" symbols. This is a fun little set that you could use to decorate up the portraits or to warn people of the dangers of atomic energy...muhhahhahaha.

I plan on adding some more sets, like a set of lab glassware, maybe some instruments, microscopes, telescopes, etc. I take special requests, so let me know if you have anything you would like to see!

Now back to the lab!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Custom Work

One of the best parts of carving a custom made stamp for someone, is that the stamp is new and original. I've said before that carving the same things over and over again is a job for a machine. But carving a unique and different stamp for someone is a challenge (which I like) and keeps the task fresh and new each time.

I've made my first sale on Etsy (, and it was a custom logo stamp for another Etsy shop. There was a good deal of text, which is always a bit intimidating. However, I have found that I'm getting better at it, and I try to keep in mind that a letter is just a "shape." I've played around with font size a little bit, and have found that a font size of 20 is fairly easy in most styles of font. Smaller gets trickier depending on the font. As with anything, practice makes perfect!

I have a couple of orders in the works right now, both custom. I'm working on a design for a bride for her invitations and a stamp for the tables at her reception. I am also working on a custom bookplate. I'm looking forward to carving both after we work out all the details on the stamps (size, fonts, style, etc.).

I've added a custom bookplate listing on the Etsy site, and will soon be adding a line of "Science" themed stamps. I also updated the "look" of my previous listings so it was a bit more clear what I was selling.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Soft Opening

Jackbear Stamps is now open:

This is a "soft" opening, meaning not all my inventory is up yet, but everything is operational. I will be adding products over the next several weeks, so please keep checking in. I will do a "GRAND OPENING" when everything is in order. Thanks for stopping in!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


There probably isn't an original thought anymore. If you think about everybody who has ever lived, and all the thoughts they have had, it seems unlikely that we might have a thought in our head that no one has ever had. I hope that isn't true.

To this point I have carved lots of stamps to this date, but I can't say all of them have been true original works of Jackbear. It's clear from the slideshow you see to the right of the screen, that not all of the images are things I thought of from my head! Some of them are downright copyrighted! Gasp. Keep in mind however, I'm not trying to sell a stamp of a "Mountain Dew" logo, or a "Tusken Raider." These are examples of stamps I have carved for my own interests. They were never meant to be bought or sold. I post them as an example of what a hand carved stamp can look like.

The kind of stamps I want to share and sell to a broader audience will not be copyrighted or trademarked works. That's illegal. But more than that, to me it seems unoriginal. I want to be as original as I can be. I want Jackbear Stamps to be known for being quality hand carved stamps that are like no other. This is one reason I look forward to doing custom work. Someone gives me a picture, and I turn it into a portrait stamp. I'm not really interested in making 60 copies of the same thing. I like making each piece a bit unique in it's own way.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Launching Jackbear Stamps

I am very excited to announce the launch of my new business, Jackbear Stamps. I am delighted to bring my talents as a hand carver of original and custom rubber stamps to a wider audience.

I began carving stamps as part of a hobby I got involved with in 2003 called letterboxing. This treasure hunt for hidden rubber stamps sparked a sense of fun and curiosity in me, and though some of my hobbies have come and gone over this time, letterboxing has only grown. My first challenge as a letterboxer was finding a stamp to represent me. I had already picked my trailname (my first name (John) = Jack, my last name (Ballou) = Bear (like in the Jungle Book. I started looking for a stamp in the craft stores. I wanted a bear track. I found lots of cats and dogs stamps, but no bears. That settled it. I needed to carve my own. I read lots of online tutorials, and found that I could carve a plastic eraser into a good stamp. After doodling and drawing for hours, I finally found the design that I liked. I traced it onto the eraser, carved away, and I had done very first stamp.

Not long after, I started to carve more and more. These stamps were very rudimentary compared to what I like to carve today, but we all start somewhere. The pine cone pictured above is actually about 5 or 6 inches tall in real life. I carved it to stencil a border around my guest bedroom which I decorated in my favorite style, Adirondack rustic. Each new stamp I carve is a learning process and a challenge, and that is what keeps it interesting to me. Though I have updated the materials I use, the passion stays the same.

Recently I have started carving more portraits, and stamps of people. I have found this very rewarding, as it is a subject that many beginning carvers shy away from. In fact it was by a request of a fellow letterboxer that really got me thinking that I could start a small business carving stamps. She had requested a stamp be carved of her two children. She didn't want it for a letterbox, she wanted it to stamp on thank you cards, or perhaps holiday cards. I accepted a photo from her, and carved from there. This sparked an idea in my head....there might be people out there who need stamps carved. They might be scrapbookers, or card makers, or other kinds of crafters. I could sell hand carved custom stamp to them (I don't sell stamps for letterboxing purposes as this is a non-profit hobby, and is not the place for commercial ventures). And so Jackbear Stamps began.

I am putting the finishing touches on my shop as we speak, so I hope you will join me on my journey to bring amazing hand carved rubber stamps to the world.