Friday, 2 March 2012

The art of rubber stamping

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The only American I knew as a child was the school librarian - Mr Tucker.

A very tall man, balding, thin, dignified and with a slow deep voice (albeit a New Yorker, I think - trained in the Library of Congress, so he told us).

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For us he embodied in living form the whole of the United States - on July 4th or similar days he was metaphorically wheeled-out in front of school assembly in order to explain the significance. In this context he was the first person to read me Robert Frost - Mending Wall.

I can recall a short comic item in the school revue (dedicated to gentle mockery of all and sundry) in which we were invited to stand and salute A Great American with a slide projected onto the back wall of the theatre and some suitably grandiose Yankee tune.

In place of the expected Washington, Lincoln or Neil Armstrong we, of course, saw a gigantic photo of Mr Tucker sitting in his Librarian's booth...


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Mr Tucker had made an art form from his business of rubber stamping books with the return date.

It was hypnotic to observe.

First he placed the book in front, the pad of ink was to his left.

He would press the rubber date stamp gently onto the pad, then place the date stamp exactly between the lines on the paper slip, exactly below the mark from the previous date stamp, remove the date stamp by elevating vertically with zero lateral movement...

- then blot the ink, close the book and hand it to the transfixed schoolboy.

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If you can make an art form from rubber stamping, you can make an art form out of anything: which is true.

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4 comments:

The Continental Op said...

"If you can make an art form from rubber stamping, you can make an art form out of anything: which is true."

I think that's going too far. Can you make an art form from a bowel movement? Modern artists seem to think so, but I'm not seeing it.

His rubber stamping wasn't an art form, but he did it with style or flair, which I think is different.

bgc said...

He wasn't doing it for us, he wasn't getting any extra pay or prestige for doing it - it was disinterested (for the glory of God, probably). Of course it's an art form!

Not high art, obviously - but something like scything or using an axe -

Robert Frost - Two Tramps in Mud Time.

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

Colin said...

A man after my own heart. I take great care over my stamps too! Rubber Stamps are my passion

Toby said...

Rubber Stamps are indeed a passion for many people and I do believe that they are an 'art form' but like a poster said above you have to be different in how you use them!