Tag Archive | stamp

Carving and Printmaking

Our university’s international student center has a new artists and writers collective whose meetings Isabelle and I have been attending. At the last meeting, Isabelle taught everyone how to carve stamps out of plastic erasers with X-Acto knives. The erasers are nice and soft. For my first ever stamp design, I eventually decided on a bass clef, and the result wasn’t too bad. It’s like a rustic bass clef.

Two days later, we went to a linocut workshop hosted by the Horn Press, UCLA’s book arts society. Isabelle is quite experienced with linocut, but I had never done it before, and it’s a bit trickier than plastic erasers. We used gouges of various shapes and widths to carve linoleum plates mounted on wood blocks. It took me a while to come up with a design again. I tried thinking of things I used to draw when I was younger that I actually felt turned out well, and I remembered these little birds made of simple shapes for the crown, eye, beak, wings, tail, and feet. I don’t remember what originally inspired those drawings; I think I must’ve seen a brush painting somewhere. Anyway, I set to work with my gouge, and of course I picked a design that required me to carve away most of the plate. But I finished.

First print at the workshop

Later I did some additional cleanup with some of Isabelle’s tools, and I tried printing again.

A Special Stamp Revisited

Today is the 365th day in the life of this blog!

You may recall the stamp a fellow linguistics graduate student made me when she was a prospie visiting UCLA. I brought it to my book signing at Children’s Book World last week, though I only stamped her book (and Andrew’s, because he requested it). She wasn’t entirely happy with the stamp because the phonetic transcription of “writer” is both a little odd for English and doesn’t reflect how I personally pronounce the word because I have Canadian raising (see the old post for relevant linguistic explanations). Well! She made me a new stamp, with a new transcription for “writer” that exactly matches how I say it! The old stamp is on the left and the new stamp on the right:

 Black StampRed Stamp

A few other newsy items:

  • I haven’t linked to any blog reviews of Sparkers before, but I really liked this one at Asian American Literature Fans (you have to scroll down past the reviews of all of Marie Lu’s books). I found the commentary quite interesting–it goes in a different direction than most of the reviews I’ve read–but I’ll admit I was also just tickled to see Sparkers called “part of the ever-growing archive of young adult fiction penned by American writers of Asian descent”.
  • Also this week in being Asian American, there’s a little piece about me on page 13 of the October issue of ChinaInsight, a monthly Minnesota newspaper about Minnesota-China relations (or more broadly, U.S.-China relations). It includes a photo from my Red Balloon launch party.

A Special Stamp

Last week, I hosted a prospective student while she visited our department. When not linguisticking, she enjoys crafting, and at the end of her stay, to thank me for hosting her, she presented me with a gift: a rubber stamp she made just for me, while she was here!


“For your book signings,” she told me. (How she found out about Sparkers is another story: There’s an ARC floating around in the department–surprisingly, not my doing–and it surfaced at the informal phonologists and phoneticians’ lunch I brought this prospective student to.)

For those unfamiliar with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the word in the center of the stamp is a phonetic transcription of writer (more on this in a moment). This present was completely unexpected, and it’s one of the most unique and thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. And this from someone who had only met me days earlier and whom I may never see again (though hopefully I will)! Just to give you an idea of how much thought she put into this, the prospective student apparently discussed with another grad student whether I “raise” in words like writer in an effort to make the transcription match my variety of English. They actually guessed wrong, but this stamp is so fantastic I’m not complaining! I love how it’s simultaneously the stamp of a writer and of a linguist, and it makes me smile to think of sending signed copies of Sparkers out into the world inscribed with a bit of IPA.

Speaking of the IPA, who’s ready for a little phonetics? Let’s deconstruct “ˈraɪtər”. That apostrophe-like mark indicates that stress falls on the first syllable of writer. The first sound in writer is of course an “r”; despite the spelling, there isn’t a “w” sound in the word. The American English “r” is actually represented by the IPA symbol [ɹ] while [r] represents the trill (or rolled “r”) used in languages like Spanish. However, in broad transcriptions, which omit precise phonetic details, the symbol [r] is often used for the American English “r” anyway .

The first vowel in writer is the diphthong /aɪ/. Now, I actually pronounce this diphthong differently in words like writer because I do something called Canadian raising. Essentially this means I pronounce writer differently from rider, specifically the sound represented by i. You can test yourself to see if you do this too. (I tend to think that everybody does this, because I do, and it doesn’t jump out at me if someone doesn’t Canadian raise in a word like writer. Clearly they don’t, though. This year, both my phonology professors used my speech as an example to demonstrate Canadian raising in class because I was the only U.S. student present who did it.) If you’re curious, the IPA symbol for the vowel I say in writer is [ʌɪ], and the sound change is called Canadian raising because the vowel raises, i.e. becomes higher, i.e. is pronounced with the tongue higher in the mouth. If you’re more curious, Canadian raising (at least the kind I have) changes /aɪ/ to [ʌɪ] before voiceless consonants like /p/, /t/, /k/, and /s/ but not before voiced consonants like /b/, /d/, /g/, and /z/. Hence the difference in vowel sound between write and ride (and, consequently, between writer and rider).

The “t” in writer is actually pronounced [ɾ] in American English. This sound is called a tap, and it’s the middle consonant in both writer and rider (which is why these words sound identical if you don’t have Canadian raising). Still, you can transcribe the “t” in writer as /t/, as in my stamp, because it starts out as a /t/ and only turns into a tap because it’s in between two vowels. The second vowel in writer is the upside-down e [ə]. This is called a schwa. And of course, writer ends with another “r” sound, though one often sees the entire ending –er transcribed with the pretty symbol [ɚ].

So, there you have it! If you see me this fall, I might be stamping this design in your book!