"Early Morning on the Lake: Fog & Mist," by Kevin Nakagawa, 1998
Kevin’s inspired use of color take his stamped scenes from beautiful sunsets to mystical meanderings. Today, we will hear a little about Kevin and how he created his company, Stampscapes (www.stampscapes.com).
1. How did you get into the stamp business?
I started working for A Stamp in the Hand Co. (ASITH) in 1987 and started Stampscapes in 1993. I was going to Cal State Long Beach University and ASITH was based out of Long Beach at the time. There was a career center there with a job board. ASITH had posted a job opening for production help. I worked there part time for about five years. I graduated from the university with a Fine Arts degree in illustration and was doing freelance illustration but I was still helping ASITH promote some of the stamp lines that I had developed for them. One of those lines was the first generation of modular landscape designs. I was intrigued by the potential of modular landscapes. I pondered the idea of starting my own company so that I could implement my own systems and decided to take the plunge in 1992. It took a year to work on the first batch of designs, make the plates, and get things into production.
2. What do you love about this business?
Without question the people. (Stamping) is a cottage industry so we don’t see many large corporate interests involved. You end up with a lot of users of the products getting involved with the business aspect of things. In other words, most of the people who have stamp businesses started with and/or still stamp. Stamping is a medium that allows the user to create great finished works in a relatively short span of time in comparison to many other hobbies, so it’s the perfect medium to give away or exchange the finished works with others. That being said, the medium tends to attract a lot of creative and giving people and that’s *very* easy to be around, as well as the types of associates and customers who are a joy to serve.
3. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Probably the type of companies and stamps offered, the creation of different accessories, and the availability/exposure of (these products). I think a fairly large number of early stampers used to be mail artisans (envelope art) and a lot of the companies seemed to reflect their esthetics. The late 80’s to early 90’s stamp art was based on dye based markers with the surfaces being white card stock in matte or glossy finishes. Now we have stamp pads by various manufacturers in a huge range of colors in dye based, pigment, alcohol, and permanent inks as well as specialty pads, such as resists, watermarks, etc. In the late ‘80’s to early ‘90’s most people hadn’t heard of the art/craft aspect of rubber stamps. I always had to explain to people that it wasn’t business rubber stamps that I was talking about and they would just kind of nod their head with a puzzled expression.
Nowadays if you say rubber stamping, many people will know what you’re talking about even if they aren’t rubber stampers because they might know someone who is a stamper. There are or have been stores all over the country dedicated to the medium, regional conventions have popped up everywhere, there are many publications on the subject of stamping, and now there’s the internet, which has probably had the biggest impact on things. We put up our first incarnation of our website in 1996 and, when doing a search on “rubber stamps,” it came up with 3 rubber stamp sites — and one was for business rubber stamps.
4. What inspires you?
I’m inspired by different things but, as far as our line of rubber stamps, which are modular nature designs, it’s easy to be inspired by nature itself. Ultimately, if you’re going to try to depict nature it seems to me that it helps to be inspired by it so you can try to transfer a part of that feeling into the designs or into the scenes created by the stamps.
5. How did you come up with the name?
I take no credit for this one. I was talking on the phone one night with a former coworker (a writing/literature student at Long Beach State.) She said maybe I should incorporate my last name, which translates into “middle river” (Naka-gawa), into the name. She brainstormed further and said that if I want something really corny to maybe add something like “Stamp-scapes” into it. As soon as she said that I knew what the company name had to be — sans the last name angle. I feel like it’s the perfect company name for what we do.
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