It is the question that I get asked the most...what are you carving?
It's not Lino....
It's not wood....
And no, its not sandstone (a slightly left-field assumption by one of my followers!)
My favourite material to carve and print with is easy-carve rubber. My favourite is a brand that is readily available here in Australia called EZY-carve by Renoir but I also really like Derivan Soft Carve. Speedball Speedy-Carve is also fun to work with but it’s more expensive and harder to come by here in Australia.
So why do I chose to carve PVC rubber over wood or lino? Here are my main five reasons that I choose to carve rubber.
1. It does what is says on the box
The first reason is easy-carve is just as it’s name suggests….easy to carve 😂! I get very sore wrists when I carve lino which means I can’t carve for very long and it’s not very enjoyable. Who needs that? Rubber is far easier on the wrists and makes for a far more zen-like carving experience.
2. Inking up is easy
Soft-carve rubber is versatile in that you can use ink pads, relief printing inks, acrylic paint or fabric printing inks when printing your block. Unlike Lino which can be 'thirsty' and take a bit of repeat inking before you begin to pull clean prints, rubber prints well from the first inking.
3. It is thick enough to pick it up and print with
My favourite rubber is 1cm thick which means there is no need to mount your stamps. The thicker rubber is easier to handle when stamping your image and not having your finger tips close to the paper when stamping means less smudges!
4. It is relatively easy to clean up
While relief printing ink can be tricky to remove from both rubber and Lino, with rubber you don't need to worry about that annoying hemp backing that you get with Lino (this can warp your block when it dries). When cleaning relief printing ink from my rubber blocks I like to use baby wipes to remove most of the ink and then wash the block with water to remove the remaining ink.
5. You don't have to sharpen your tools as often
We all know that sharp tools are safe tools but because PVC rubber is soft, it does not blunt your tools as quickly as Lino and wood does. You can get away with sharpening your tools once a week or even once a fortnight (rather than every time with Lino).
I hope this gives you the confidence to give carving rubber a go!