Monday, September 15, 2014

Origin Story

original photo
First I will confess I am tired of origin stories.  As a comic book reader in my youth I read so many stories about how superheroes came into being.  And very often the comic book writers rewrote those stories with new details, so I got those stories over and over.  Now that all the Marvel and DC movies are coming out to the big screen, I am seeing all these stories again.  I get it though, producers need to introduce the characters to new audiences.  Origin stories answer questions like "Why" and "How" the characters got to where they are now.  Who will ever forget: Adam and Eve, A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, the Earth on Turtle's Back, or Krypton exploding.  They are both memorable and powerful.

I have probably written enough about how I became involved in a hobby called letterboxing, my need to carve my first stamp, and my letterboxing handle "jackbear."

But an origin story that I haven't told in much detail is the one of how I turned an avocation into a vocation.  It answers the questions, "How did I create JackBear Stamps?"

It began with an email and a photograph in May of 2008.  I received a message on Atlas Quest, my favorite letterboxing website.  A letterboxer, going by the handle of JBBK, contacted me to carve a portrait stamp.  She was not confident in her own skills yet to carve faces, and she had a photo of her friend's boys (or maybe it was a relative?) that she wanted carved into a stamp to give to him as a gift. She wanted to know how much I charged.  I told her that I wasn't really carving for cash, but since I didn't know her at all up until this point, she could just order me some PZ Kut from, my carving medium of choice from my online supplier.  She was very pleased with that arrangement, and I had an opportunity to test my skills without too much pressure.

I ran the photo through some filters in photoshop, and managed to teach myself how to transform a full color photo into something black and white, and then into a line drawing that I could carve.  We worked out a size and I got started carving.

finished custom rubber stamp image
I don't remember how long it took me, but after I proofed it for the first time, I felt like I was onto something.  The biggest challenge for me, and many newer carvers, are "eyes."  If you don't get them right, the person looks strange.  If I had to carve the stamp again today, I would make a change or two, but for my first commissioned stamp for compensation I was pleased with the result.

The feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive. JBBK and the recipient of the stamp loved it, and I got some extra PZ Kut in the arrangement.  But more importantly, it sparked an idea in my head. Up until this point the people I knew through letterboxing all carved their own stamps.  No need for my services.  But after this transaction I realized there might be people who weren't confident yet in their carving skills, or they might have friends who were NOT in letterboxing that needed a stamp.  That had never occurred to me before.

Around the same time I had learned about  Now there was a marketplace with low overhead that I could market my work through.  I rapidly researched how to set myself up as a business and get a sales tax number.  By that Fall I opened my etsy shop, and started selling stamps.

The rest is history as they say.  Every time I look at this stamp I think about how this was the one that started me on this journey of JackBear Stamps, and I will always remember it as part of my origin story.


Mary Gerber said...

I love this story. Thx for sharing it! Sharkboy and Lavagirl,

jackbear said...

Thanks for reading!

Dick -Photographer said...

Great to know how it all started.

Sandy said...

I love true stories. Better yet — to know the author! Your stamps, your pods, your writing are great testaments to your creativity!