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Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Forget stamps: Try vegetables

  • The end of an okra pod is cut off and its seeds scooped out to stamp the image of a delicate flower. It's the element of surprise -- when an ordinary ...

    Kristin Sutcliffe

    The end of an okra pod is cut off and its seeds scooped out to stamp the image of a delicate flower. It's the element of surprise -- when an ordinary vegetable imparts a beautiful image -- that grabs people who stamp with food.

I was chopping vegetables for dinner recently when my 14-year-old daughter, Grace, disappeared with the unusable end of the bok choy. She returned five minutes later with paper, a stamping ink pad and the pilfered vegetable.
"Look, Mom," she said, and held up a stunner: The bok choy head, refuse to me, had stamped a beautiful blooming rose onto the paper.
I discovered what some crafters have long known -- the beauties of stamping with food. Part of the pleasure derives from the experimentation, and part from the element of surprise when an ordinary vegetable imparts a beautiful image.
Kristen Sutcliffe of Oberlin, Ohio, came to love stamping while teaching preschool in Japan, where it's popular, she says.
Her favorite food tool? Okra.
"It's so pretty," Sutcliffe said. "It looks like a little flower."
Heads of bok choy and celery stamp pretty roses. Pull off a stalk of either to stamp U shapes. Peppers, sliced in half and deseeded, stamp wavy rounds for making flowers.
Garlic is the favored stamp of Sarah Raven, program director for a group with the acronym GARLIC (Green Art Recreating Life in Communities) that encourages low-income residents of New Haven, Conn., to make art from recycled items. Garlic, too, can create a delicate flower image.
The discovery was part of the thrill, Raven said.
"I tried to ink the entire garlic and that didn't work," she said. Then she pulled a single clove out of the bulb and realized it looked like a finger and a flower petal.
"The individual clove becomes a stamping surface for individual flower petals," Raven said.
Terri Ouellette of Phoenix has a tip: Cut and air-dry citrus and other watery fruits and vegetables, sometimes overnight, before working with them, she said.
Be watchful because they dry out quickly.
"Anything with a very high water content does not work very well," said Ouellette, who posts craft videos to YouTube and her own website, Super Simple with Terri O.
What works, she said: apples, oranges and pears. What doesn't: grapes, broccoli and lettuce.
Besides celery, Ouellette likes using mushrooms, cauliflower and potatoes.
Potatoes "can be cut up into anything and turned into a great stamp," she said. "You just have to carve in reverse."
As with other stamping, use a stamp pad or acrylic paint for stamping on paper. Use fabric-specific acrylic paint for printing on textiles.
Sutcliffe recommends soaking a sponge with tempera (poster) paint or pouring a thin layer of the paint on a plate and using either as an ink pad.
Once your prints are dry, add embellishments, such as stems or leaves, with colored markers or fabric markers, Ouellette said.
She has stamped aprons, placemats and tote bags with food.
Sutcliffe, whose book for kids, "Fabric, Paper, Thread," will be published in June, prints mostly on paper gift tags and note cards, and small swatches of fabric.
Story tags » FoodCrafting

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