|To create text with a stamp carve the mirror image|
First, create your design. I did this activity with my 5 year old so he did the design and I did the carving. The easiest way to cut the design you want is by directly drawing it on your stamp surface. Remember however that stamps do print as a reverse image. This is especially important to know when you're carving text. An easy way to see what your text should look like when carved is to write your word or phrase on a piece of paper and then hold it up to a mirror to see the text as you'll need to carve it. There are other tricks for this too but this one is pretty simple.
Next, we'll begin to carve out the stamp. What you're going to want to do is carve everything around your image. To begin, use a small v-tip and outline your shape. The rubber does want to tear so if you're doing an area that is highly detailed you're going to want to cut around your shape with an X-acto first. This will stop the rubber from tearing into your image. SUPER IMPORTANT!!!- Always Cut AWAY from yourself and never hold the stamp in a place while cutting where you might slip with the carver and hurt yourself. We are working with sharp blades which is why I don't allow younger children to handle the carving tools. After you do the detail carving around your image then go back with a gouging blade (they're shaped like u's) and carve out the rest of the area around your image. There is an element of design to keep in mind while you're carving- the carve lines. Everything you don't cut out will print- SO if you like the look of the block print you don't want to cut everything away, but leave a line here or there to print. I like the look of borders around my stamps so I'll usually leave the rubber around the very edge of my stamp untouched.
Proofing your stamps- We are working subtractively so you can't add more print area once you've carved that rubber away. So err on the side of too little and then do this proofing process until the stamp is perfect. Once you've completed your initial carving you'll find you have a little rubber crumbles left in the lines of your stamps. These could muck up your ink or your image so you need to get rid of them. I've tried brushing them out, knocking them out, but the best way to clean your stamp off is to run it under your faucet and gently rub your lines clean. Dry your stamp off with a towel and then ink it up and print it on a scratch piece of paper or fabric. If you do this and find there's an area that's not as detailed as you'd like or there's a line you don't want then go back to your carving area and fix it. Continue doing this until it stamps the image you want. When done, clean off your stamp before storing it somewhere flat.
This is a really brief "how-to" for relief printing. If you'd like to know more about inks, brayers, and printmaking papers there are a number of books on the market. It really is a fascinating process and so fun to know that when you're done you've created an unique tool that you can use in your work over and over again.