The Funniest Things Change Our Lives

July 15, 2009

Hand carved wooden stamps from India

Hand carved wooden stamps from India

When I was a teenager there was an import place that was pretty cool to hang out at.  Trident Imports had stuff we had not really seen before.  It was exotic and it was the 1960’s so anything from India was hip.

I came upon some hand carved stamps there that intrigued me.    I didn’t know what I would do with them,  I just knew that I wanted them.  I loved the designs.  They were very stylistic and simple.  I think this began the turning of my mind to design.  I started paying attention to paisley prints, Peter Max, stretched soda bottles and paper dresses – all stylizations of the era.  I started noticing all the colors, the patterns, how they went together or didn’t.  I think Trident Imports made a fundamental shift for me in the direction I was to eventually go.   This combined with the then new Flair felt pens of a zillion colors and hours of drawing patterns later, (I still have my purple Flair pen from 1971).

My original collection of hand carved wood stamps from India, ca. 1968

My original collection of hand carved wood stamps from India, ca. 1968

I didn’t know at the time that these stamps were originally used for printing onto fabric in India.  I just knew that I loved the forms of them.  I began using them with a black stamp pad from the office supply aisle of Pay n’ Save (now long gone as is Trident Imports).

A couple of years later, when reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, I got into writing in Tengwar (Tolkien’s Elven language).   I used these stamps to embellish my letters and notes.  They seemed to be appropriate for Tengwar written messages at the time.

This is my entire collection of wood stamps to date.

This is my entire collection of wood stamps to date.

Who knew that among the red plastic pillows with large black dots, elongated Coca Cola bottles with paper flowers in them, and the capiz shell curtains that these unassuming little objects made for an every day purpose in another culture would send me off to become a designer?

It wasn’t until I learned that these stamps were used to print fabrics that it even occurred to me how different cultures create fabric.  The Japanese used a number of techniques.  They dyed the threads first so that when the threads were woven, a pattern would emerge. They also tied already woven fabric and would then dye it, a precursor to our tie dying, among other ways they use.

The East Indians weave their fabric in solid colors and then use these stamps to pattern it.  In the old days of England they would weave their different colored threads to create patterns like plaids, stripes, etc.  There are always a variety of ways to do the same thing.  It depends on how you think and what you come up with to do it.  Certain ways are best for certain people.  Each way is good.  The innovation can be the method but usually is the actual end result, isn’t it?

Mehndi designs have the same stylization as my wood stamps.

Mehndi designs have the same stylization as my wood stamps.


16 Responses to “The Funniest Things Change Our Lives”

  1. Nice Mer!!
    I love the flash back. Remember the harvest gold, avocado, and burnt orange paisley wall paper? My parents had that on a living room wall. They were so styling.

  2. I love these stamps!

  3. Syd said

    Very cool stamps – I envision t-shirts with Tengwar messages. Peter Max was one of my early influences, too.

  4. Lynn said

    I really like the stamps. The Indian designs are beautiful.
    I remember making trips down to Seattle specifically to go look around Trident Imports. I miss it.

  5. chaya said

    I realy like the stamps.

  6. zahida said

    i like these designs. but these are not so simple so any one cannot draw hem

  7. alina yahya said

    its good designs but difficult!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. dear sir, i love this stamps and else, so, i need stamp for my own. where is it available.

    ths n rgbds
    rajasekaran s
    south india

  9. priya said

    i’m proud to be an Indian. i lik these designs.

  10. pratibha said

    ths r awsome…..i m proud 2 b a part of a country whr ths kind of awsome stuffs r produced…..hats of 2 those who produce them……………

  11. can i get more patterns.i am daily visitor of your blog.will love to see moire designs

  12. If you like to express yourself with Mehndi pattern pro hands you are vacant to need approximately skilled patterns to help you with your then Mehndi project. I would like to help you understand approximately of the generally standard symbols and patterns and could you repeat that? They speak for so you can add a little morsel of your own unique personality in to your then design.

  13. puci said

    Hi Meredith!

    I also loved Trident Imports. Here’s a facebook group you might like to join, called “Friends of Trident Imports”:


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