Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Treasure at the antique store

I have a great antiques store right around the corner from me in historic downtown Mooresville, and today, I had a few minutes to spare and popped in. And look at what I found! These were marked as “antique wallpaper stamps” but I think they were used for printing or batiking fabric. They look African to me, or maybe Asian. 

They each weigh about 3/4 lb., and are about 6" x 3" and made of wood that is stained almost black (it comes off on your fingers when you rub it). They have an interesting smell that I think might be wax. I paid $18 for each. 

Anyone out there know where they came from, and if I am right or not? And did I get a bargain, or ripped off?

I am eager to test these out, but it will have to wait a bit. 

NOTE: After I posted this, I e-mailed the photos to my friend Janet Lasher; I just knew that she’d have more information. She said I got a bargain! Here is more information from her:
“They are MOST likely Indian – from India…  given that the have black stain (I have some similar ones) they were likely used to do block (relief) printing with print ink (very thin watery ink) on to wall paper or textiles.  This is usually done OVER other colored/patterned work.

These would not have been used for Batik – since wood is a horrible conductor of heat – they would not hold the wax hot enough for printing – however, you could use them for some other resist application.

The ink is likely to come off when you get them wet… (but has also likely penetrated the wood – don’t expect the ink to STOP oozing out of the wood….  Maybe ever!  So beware if you are planning some tightly designed printing with light colors on to white as you may get some halo-ing effects that will not be controllable (although the “stain” as you say looks WAY minimal compared to other stamps I have seen).

These usually come in pairs – although the pairs are rarely found together in the “west”.

As I say, I have some – they are fun to use – but they are heavy – and sometimes hard to handle – because of the shape of the handle – you may drop them on the print table – or the piece as you are printing.  So you can print with textile paint/thickened dye etc – be careful that the details don’t get gunked up when you are printing unless you can live with that much “hand printing” distress/inaccurate outcomes.

The stamps look great… even if you only mount them on your studio wall the are great objects that have a clear historical and cultural reference to the work that we try to accomplish with fiber.”
I tried wetting the stamps, and sure enough, the black comes off. Thanks, Janet!

Another friend sent me a link to this video, which shows a very skilled man demonstrating block printing in the Anohki Museum in Amber, India using blocks very similar to those I purchased. Check out how he creates mitered corners! 


  1. If they're not I don't see why you couldn't use them for batiking. Certainly interesting!

  2. How cool! I don't think you got ripped off at all! Even if they are 'newer' they are unique wood stamps!! An 'art' play day in the future for you!!

  3. I have never seen anything like this. Your guess is as good as any as to what they are and what they were used for. A great conversation item.

  4. They look like wood tjaps...you got a deal!


  5. Cool! They look like fabric stamps used in India. If they were for batik, they would have copper to heat up and hold the wax. It looks instead like the color was put on with the stamp. Just an educated guess. Great buy though!

  6. What a neat find and they will be fun to experiment with.


  7. What a lucky find. I am rather envious. You will have fun with these.

  8. I've seen them in the $30's, so I think that's great! I have a few of these too, and they just make great decoration! I have a couple in my office, and everyone wants to know what they are - great conversation piece!

  9. I just bought about 25 of these at a flea market. They are the coolest. I plan on displaying them as a grouping.


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