I was looking for a stamp to brand my parcels as I couldn’t afford stickers and found a kit that allowed me to make them with a little desk lamp. So I bought the kit and made my first stamp…
Clare Freemantle has the mindset of a maker – and skills to match. Her business Serious Stamp began because she needed a personalised stamp for her craft business but couldn’t find what she wanted on the market, so she made her own. We caught up with Clare and learned that James Bond and CBeebies stars Sarah & Duck are now among her happy customers (sort of)…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, I’m Clare Freemantle and I make stamps that both me and my customers design. I take a black and white drawing and turn it into a stamp that can be used on pretty much any surface. I specialise in personalised stamps that are made to order.
If the scissors and tape went missing at home when I was a kid, then they were invariably in my room. I was always sticking, cutting, sewing or knitting something!
Have you always been creative?
Oh yes. If the scissors and tape went missing at home when I was a kid, then they were invariably in my room. I was always sticking, cutting, sewing or knitting something!
How did you start making stamps?
Well, I started off making teddy bears (bear with me here… no pun intended) and I was looking for a stamp to brand my parcels as I couldn’t afford stickers but I couldn’t find anywhere to get one with my logo on it. They were all either text only or a selection of images and I wanted my logo. However, I did find a kit that allowed you to make them with a little desk lamp. So I bought the kit and made my first stamp. It was so much fun and I proudly put my new stamp up on Flickr and people asked how they could get one. Pretty quickly, the kit had paid for itself.
I take a black and white drawing and turn it into a stamp that can be used on pretty much any surface.
When did you realise you could create a business making stamps?
I initially made them as a sideline because I wanted to make bears, so I only really made them as people asked for them. But then I had my little boy and since he wouldn’t cooperate with my desire to sew, my mind started wandering to making my own stamp designs. So I revamped my ‘spare’ shop, stopped making bears and started to concentrate on the stamps… and it just grew and grew.
I look to online communities for inspiration. My planner stamps came about from discovering the #planneraddict hashtag on Instagram, and a very helpful group on Facebook helped me decide which symbols and words to choose.
How do you come up with your own designs? Where do you get your inspiration?
I try to think of alternative ways to use stamps. Many people think of them as something for scrapbooks and card making but they can be used for so much more. So I look to online communities for inspiration. My planner stamps came about from discovering the #planneraddict hashtag on Instagram, and a very helpful planner group on Facebook who helped me decide which symbols and words to choose. Some of my designs come from trends but most just come from useful uses of stamps I’ve spotted or fun ideas I’ve seen as stickers that would translate well as stamps. When my son comes home from school with a sticker for good work, I always check them out to see what they say or what design they have on them.
I recently made a 007 custom wax seal for the premier of the new James Bond film Spectre in Northern Ireland. That was pretty exciting!
You also make custom stamps from people’s illustrations and pictures. What’s the most unusual or interesting request you’ve had?
There’s a chance that only mums and dads will understand, but I made one for a member of staff on the creative team behind the CBeebies show Sarah & Duck. That’s a big deal when you have a two year old! I also recently made a 007 custom wax seal for a PR firm that was working on a partnership with Aston Martin for the premier of the new James Bond film Spectre in Northern Ireland. That was pretty exciting!
Can you talk us through your making process? How do you make a stamp?
First I convert the image to black and white. With a stamp it either prints or it doesn’t, so you have to have a black and white image before you start, otherwise it looks like a splodge.
Then I switch it to a negative, print it out and check it can all be seen, and all the letters and lines are clear. After that, the negative gets sandwiched together with a thin pack of sticky gel and put under a UV light.
Where the light hits the gel, the gel goes hard and where it’s black the light can’t get through so the gel stays runny. After a set amount of time, I cut open the gel pack and wash off the runny gel. Then it goes back under the light to fully set.
After that I test stamp it to make sure it’s come out right, stamp the piece of wood the stamp will sit on, spray the wood with varnish so it stays looking good, and mount the stamp on to the wood.
Stamping a new stamp for the first time is pretty special because some of them come out so well it really makes you want to punch the air
What’s your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part is washing out the stamp, when you see the design appear out of the gel. That’s the magic bit. After that, stamping a new stamp for the first time is pretty special because some of them come out so well it really makes you want to punch the air .
Can you describe your workspace?
Until about three months ago it was my kitchen, but in a fit of ‘shy bairns get nowt!’ mentality (for the Non-Geordies, that’s ‘don’t ask, don’t get’) I applied for a studio space that was about five minutes from home and got it. It’s a really small space but it fits everything in and I get to work here whatever time I need to. (As I’m writing this it’s 8pm and there are fireworks going off outside my window.) Plus if I need to leave a mess behind me I can because the space isn’t needed to cook dinner in afterwards. I have prints on the wall and gifts around me from lots of my favourite Folksy sellers and if I need to I can bring the kids with me.
My new studio is five minutes from home. It’s a really small space but it fits everything in and if I need to leave a mess behind me I can because the space isn’t needed to cook dinner in afterwards!
Is this your perfect studio – if not, what would your dream studio look like?
Pretty much like this, but with a bit more space, so I could set up somewhere for the kids to play or nap.
Who are your design heroes?
This is a tough question actually. I’m not sure I particularly have any, which sounds weird but I wouldn’t say there are any designers that I slavishly follow. You can’t fail to be inspired by Leona at Lucky Dip Club – what she has done in a short time is amazing. I love what Marceline does at Asking For Trouble and I was so glad when she said yes to me working with her on stamps. I love the style of Kim at Finest Imaginary, the sense of humour of Pobble and Ping and the typography of Bread and Jam. Seriously, when your job is being surrounded by so many talented people it’s too hard to choose just one.
I get the fixing bug from my dad and some of the crafts I do from my Mam as she taught me to sew, knit and crochet.
What’s the best thing about making for a living?
The making part. I think I’ve always been a maker at heart, no matter what I’ve actually made. I like to fix and repair and create. I get the fixing bug from my dad and some of the crafts I do from my Mam as she taught me to sew, knit and crochet.
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Give it a shot. You can really start up with pocket money. The first kit I bought (which they sadly discontinued) cost £40. It doesn’t have to cost much and you never know where you might end up.
What would I say to someone thinking about selling their work? Give it a shot. You can really start up with pocket money.
How would you spend your perfect day?
A lovely day out at the seaside with the kids and my husband. The kids wouldn’t squabble (HA!) and it would be sunny. We’d fly kites on the beach and eat fish and chips with salt and vinegar on the sand. The kids would fall asleep in the car on the way home and after we got them to bed, we would enjoy a nice glass of wine with something like Sherlock on the TV. I’d probably knit while we watched it ;-)
Have you got any exciting projects on the horizon?
My work has just landed in a fantastic independent retailer in Newcastle called Whosit & Whatsit, which is exciting as it’s my first bricks and mortar experience. I’m hoping for at least one other thing to come off, but it’s too early to talk about yet. Really, I just hope that all of my Christmas preparation has been worth while. I’ve made lots of stock and I’m pretty much ready, but, oh my, I hope it all sells!
Get 20% off all ready made and personalised stamps by the Serious Stamp Company with the discount code FeaturedSeller. Valid until 15th November 2015