01 August 2016

Designing a Japanese-style souvenir stamp

When Marceline showed off some of the souvenir stamp designs she’d gathered on her recent holiday to Japan, I had the bright idea that we could design them for our own towns! Marceline has set this up as a little summer challenge, so if you design your own, post it to Instagram with the hashtag #mysouvenirstamp and tag @marcelinesmith.
Often known as eki stamps, or station stamps, these rubber stamps are found not just at train stations but at all sorts of tourist attractions, temples, etc. Collecting them is a fun way to commemorate your visits to various places. On my first trip to Japan, I only got one, at Mount Fuji, but on my second trip I carried my travel journal with me and sought the stamps out where ever I went!

I found designing these stamps a very similar process to that of designing my personalised Japanese crest – thinking of items to sum up a person or place, my home town in this case, and fitting them into a circular design.

Not all souvenir stamps are circular, of course. They can be square, rectangular, octagonal, or other shapes. But the circle is one of my favourite shapes for them, and it’s quite appropriate for my home town of Glenrothes which is famous for its roundabouts!
I started with some sketches to put my ideas together. Glenrothes is also famous for its town art. There are sculptures throughout the town, and some of the best-known ones are the hippos, mushrooms, and irises, so I wanted to use these in my design. I also wanted to add a kawaii element to go with the Japanese inspiration, so I decided my mushroom and hippo would have cute faces.

I used a couple of stencils to draw concentric circles, and then drew my ideas inside them in pencil. When I’d done that I went over them in pen, and decided which of them I liked best. I discovered that I am not very good at drawing cute hippos! They often looked like some weird cow-horse-pig-moomin hybrid. Mind you, I was maybe not too far off with the Moomin resemblance, since Googling “cute Japanese hippo” gives images of Moomins!
I wanted some Japanese lettering on my stamp, and, not feeling confident about translating Glenrothes into katakana, I decided instead just to have the katakana for Scotland across the top.

I chose one of the drawings, but preferred the flower from another, so once I’d scanned them in I used Photoshop to combine them. I changed the colour, tidied up the drawing, and used the Stamp filter to give a smoother appearance to the lines. Then I added a layer on top where I used a brush to cover some areas with white. This gave a faded, dotty appearance to mimic the use of a real stamp.
I enjoyed the process so much that I went on to design more stamps representing the architecture, and town park!
I also experimented further in Photoshop by changing the colour of the stamps, and by making double-stamped images.

Why not join in the fun yourself, and design a stamp for your own town, a local tourist attraction, or somewhere else you like? You can draw it or try carving it from a stamp blog. Post your stamp on instagram with the hashtag #mysouvenirstamp and tag @marcelinesmith


Anonymous said...

Thank you, I really enjoyed looking at this. Someone lent me the DVD of Joanna Lumley's 'Japan' series and I really liked the idea of the stamps and wondered about creating some for my own favourite places. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hello! You are really creative and it seems like you are coming up with lots of nice ideas!
I was just going through your old posts and then realized that N for ScotlaNd is wrong Katakana. What you used is katakana for the sound SO(ソ). So it looks Scotlasodo.hehe N is ン. I'm not sure if you can see the difference.. but it's the very common mistake that people makes. I totally understand that Japanese is a very hard language. I wouldn't even try a bit if I wasn't Japanese! Anyways, nice work and I enjoy all your work very much!

Emma said...

You are so right, Anonymous! It's hard for me to tell the difference between some of the characters (now I know how it feels being a child learning to read!) and it's even harder for me to write them! It's fun learning new things, even if I get some of them a little wrong, and I'm glad it made you giggle a little bit though :D

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