Ampersand Art contacted me sometime in the mid 90's. They're an art supply manufacturer and saw our line of stamps somewhere. At that time, they were hoping that they could get their fairly new product into the craft industry and thought Stampscapes could be their vehicle to break through into the craft market from the art market. They saw our stamp line as being somewhat "art oriented" from what they knew of stamping. Their idea was to maybe package a few of their boards with a set of our stamps.
Very brief history: In the mid 90's there were two basic surfaces that people stamped on --matte and glossy paper and usually almost always white. There were exceptions but not many. Raised dye based pads weren't even out so people usually used Marvy, Tombow, and LePlume markers on their projects. Colored pencils, watercolors, etc. were also used but not quite as much. With this in mind, I didn't think a product merger was a good idea. I didn't know if people would be ready to drop much money on a surface. At that time, the smallest size of Claybord (the art market name for the surface)was 6" x 9" too. Another thing was that scenic stamping was even more of a niche within the niche of rubber stamping back then. I loved how the stamps worked on the surface though so I sent some of this Claybord around to some prominent stampers to try out. They all loved it but I think we just didn't see a wide-spread application for it due to price point and the size.
Fast forward to about 2002. I had been thinking that the stamp industry needed some dynamic new products and was hoping that someone would develop it. I love new products like new lines of stamp pads but was thinking that what I had been seeing was just different incarnations of the same thing. New pad colors, new stamp positioners, new etc. I started seeing people taking things into their own hands as far as surfaces went with things like dominos, tumbled tiles, and those types of unconventional art/craft surfaces and I loved that. Specialized inks for those types of surfaces started coming out those types of things and I got to thinking about Claybord again. Here was a surface that was conceived to accept as much different media as possible, was smooth as a hot press paper, perfect for stamping on, and didn't require specialized media to adhere to it. I had some sample boards that Ampersand Art sent me and I did some experiments on it. I contacted Ampersand to see if they were still interested in trying to do something and they were so I developed a class for the material. I was teaching a lot back then and started taking it around the country. Everyone that tried the material loved it and I took it around from Washington to Maine and several places in between. It was a hard sell though to the stores. I'd have classes filled up ahead of time but stores were reluctant to get the material in stock for the class. There was this idea that Claybord was some kind of ceramics application or maybe some incarnation of a tumbled tile. But, after the class responses, everyone was ordering.
After about a year of teaching classes, I got to the convention in Akron, OH and taught a large class there. We --the class participants and I-- were sitting around during and after the class and we started talking about sizes for the material. I wanted to know what sizes they would like to see the material come in and took notes. There was the HIA show (now CHA) in Dallas, TX that Ampersand was going to attend for the first time to see what kind of response they would get from the craft world. They had flown me out to demonstrate in their booth. I think during the entire show, the only people that ordered or really came into the booth were my own customers for Stampscapes. Ampersand had a pretty good showing and were really pleased with the response. Now, I had gone to that show with an agenda as far as what I hoped to see from Ampersand in regards to the product. I wanted smaller sizes of the surface for card making, I wanted the name of Claybord changed to "Stampbord". It was an unknown material and wanted people to associate the product with being perfect for stamping on --which it is. Ampersand agreed to everything and the foundation was set. After another couple years of demonstrating the material and for Ampersand at the CHA trade shows we --Ampersand and I-- were pretty much on the same page as far as who should be demonstrating the material at CHA. Anyone but me. I didn't want the material to be possibly associated with scenic stamping as it's just a very versatile general surface that can be used with any stamps or stamping methods. It looks great with any kind of inks, paints, or media doesn't require a "tooth" to the surface such as chalks or colored pencils. Stampbord is generally too smooth for those. But, it's a medium that gives you perfectly smooth impressions, images never bleed, and it's a scratch-able surface that one can put reverse marks into just like scratchboard. It opens up a whole new realm of texture and dimension in stamped projects because of this.
It's fairly intuitive too. In classes, I teach people the basics on how to hold the scratch knives (the tools used for reverse marks) and people start out slow figuring out what they want to do and where but after about five minutes, it becomes the most quiet class in stamping I think. There's something about the process where people seem to get absorbed into what they're doing. I have my theories about this. I'm wondering if putting these reverse marks into pieces uses a different part of the brain. Everyone always mentions how relaxing the process is.
For further tips, the best thing would be to check out the Stampbord section on our site:
or check out Ampersand Arts website:
There's some lessons, samples, FAQ, etc. on the sites. I should note that I'm not affiliated with Ampersand beyond being a standard distributor for the material like anyone else. As I was writing the above, it occurred to me that I almost sound like a salesman for the product but trust me --I'm not. I do love the material and what it provides for our community. It's really the only surface of it's kind and a fun alternative to throw into the mix of people's techniques and materials. ~K