Meet the Maker: Andrea Trace

Artist Andrea Trace picked up stamp making to add dimension to her mixed media artworks – but the stamps became art unto themselves.

March 16, 2024 | | Arts

The earthy exposed brick wall of Andrea Trace’s studio space in Orangeville’s Dragonfly Arts on Broadway is a rustic, aesthetic match for the hand-carved wooden stamps this artist makes and sells here.

Hanging on display are individual stamps – forming outlines of nature-inspired shapes such as a windswept tree or a playful fox – as well as card-making kits with all the ink, stamps and paper a budding stamp enthusiast might need.

In her studio space at Orangeville’s Dragonfly Arts, artist Andrea Trace carves a piece of wood-backed linoleum to make one of her signature stamps. Photos by Pete Paterson.

Andrea views stamps as an accessible gateway to creativity, allowing beginners to explore their artistic inclinations without the stress of starting from scratch. “Rubber stamps are confidence builders. You can make something beautiful without fear of failure. It’s a stress-free way to express yourself,” she says, adding that many customers use her stamps for journalling and crafting, so she soon plans to offer beginner journalling workshops.

Her own journey into working with this kind of handheld printing press started with her studies at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in 1979. After working in the music industry and as a graphic designer, she sought out stamp carving for both work projects and her own painting.

“I loved using words and graphic elements in collages and paintings, but I could never find the right rubber stamps for my mixed media art. When I started carving my own, I realized the difference between hand- and machine-carved stamps. Hand-carved stamps offer a magical, unique quality that can never be replicated,” she says.

An intricately carved horse stamp.

In addition to selling stamps at Dragonfly, Andrea offers stamp-adorned mixed media artworks, buttons and greeting cards. She also stocks emoji stamps on champagne-cork bases and creates logo stamps for business clients.

“I usually start with a drawing in my sketchbook, or I’m inspired by a natural object – a tree, leaf, feather or flower. Sometimes I look at the wood mount the stamp will be adhered to and let the ideas flow from the shape of that piece. Stamps can also start as a digital drawing that I transfer onto the lino for carving.”

Andrea favours soft linoleum, aka lino, and often draws a light outline with a fine pencil. She then uses a fine blade – a Speedball lino cutter, to be exact – to carve. To secure the lino onto wood, she uses marine epoxy, a rubber-to-wood adhesive.

As she eliminates what she doesn’t want to appear in the stamped outline, a process she calls “removing negative space,” Andrea stays firmly in the moment. She’ll sometimes, for instance, watch a flower form from the centre outward. “It’s a lovely way to relax and lose yourself,” she says.

Andrea often repurposes materials from her surroundings. Fallen birch branches from her Adjala property provide wood for the mounts, or she may deploy vintage wooden toy blocks found at neighbouring store Blumen on Broadway. As we discuss this, she proudly holds up a bag of scraps that resemble a school of fish. She’s saving these for future designs.

Once the stamp is ready, Andrea uses inkpads from Ranger Ink for her own creations. This ink is archival, permanent and waterproof, allowing her to use watercolours to paint over the stamped images. To achieve a pleasing alchemy, she often uses at least three colours of ink for each design. Or she stamps in black and then fills in the print just as she might with a colouring book.

A sample of Andrea’s stamps and the impressions she makes.

For Andrea the physical nature of printmaking is thrilling. “The impression into the page, almost embossed, adds a tactile quality that really resonates with me.” Her excitement is contagious as she describes the physicality of pressing ink onto a page, allowing the weight of her body, gravity, the stamp’s characteristics, and the liquidity of the ink to interact with the paper to get the print just right.

Add to that the fact that no two prints will be identical, and you’ll come close to understanding Andrea’s glee. “Humidity, atmosphere, and the steadiness of your hand all contribute to the creation of each image,” she explains. “Every time you lift the stamp, there’s a surprise. The reveal is awesome; it’s a joy to see the tiny artwork you’ve created.”

Find Andrea on Instagram at @andreatrace or on her website:

About the Author More by Janice Quirt

Janice Quirt is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

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