So I'm back! Prompted again to write about the artistic pilgrimage of sorts that has been happening every year in early August for the past two decades. It doesn't happen in the desert, but in the suburbs of Cincinnati and it has a name -- Stampaway. Stampaway celebrated its twentieth year this year and that probably makes it the oldest show of its kind still taking place for those of us who are still hardcore stampers. I haven't been to every Stampaway, but I've been to my fair share so going each year has become sort of a ritual for me as it probably has to many many others who stamp. Every year I notice the difference between this year's show and the last. This year was no different I except that, being the twentieth year, I had a lot more to look back on and remember.
When I began heading to Cincinnati my kids were young and they had no interest in going to a stamp show with Mom so Dad would take them to Kings Island for the day while I indulged myself in a whole day of discovering all the newest art trends in rubber stamps, accessories and techniques. There were vendors there from all over the United States - literally, from California to Florida - hawking their rubber and showing off what could be done with those little wooden blocks if you just added a little imagination and, of course, the hottest newest accessory, too. In those days, you could find a rubber stamp that would help you create whatever you wanted. There were companies whose stamps were works of art in and of themselves such as Alextamping, Meer Image, Curtis Ayuda, PSX, Stamp Francisco and Denami. Other companies -- Ruby Red Rubber, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers, Ken Brown and VivaLasVegastamps-- offered humorous images and/or phrases. There were even companies (Auntie Amy's - Museum of Modern Rubber - Art Gone Wild - Toomuchfun - Coffee Break Designs) who offered stamps that helped you create art that popped, shook, rattled or rolled. Stampaway back then could get pretty wild and woolly. Stampers arrived days before the show to take all manner of classes; stayed up late making the most outrageous pins they could imagine; and then lined up hours before the doors of the show opened to trade those pins with each other to keep as mementos. Once inside, it was a mad dash to be one of the first to get to the pit o'rubber so that you could nab a good spot on the floor to dig through the mounds of unmounted stamps or downstairs to score one of the grab bags at The Rubber Tree. And you always wanted to get to Paula Best's booth early not only to get first choice of her awesome stamps, but also to add a silver charm to your collection. It was a glorious time of creativity and fun to be sure.
These days, my kids are grown and it's just me and my husband (number two) who make the drive from Nashville to Cincinnati. But I don't spend the night before the show frantically making trades and I don't arrive early enough to stand in line because, although the line of people waiting for the doors to open is still there (albeit not nearly as long), the days of frenzied trading --whether of crazy pins or ATCs -- have gone. Very few people bring anything to trade anymore. There's no more pit o'rubber or Paula Best silver charms. Instead, now people run to the Stampers Anonymous booth to check out the latest Tim Holtz ideas or, as this year, to gather and watch while the man himself struts his stuff through back to back demos all day long. Others, like me, make a mad dash to the Artful Illusions booth filled with steampunk-style ephemera, unmounted stamps, unique tee shirts and pretty much anything else you can imagine. As for the stamps, the crazy, irreverent sayings and artistic images have largely been replaced by stamps more suited to cardmaking than collage. But I don't care. I still love it all. Of course, I miss the crazy days. But I love being in the creative environment that Stampaway creates and I love the opportunity to meet up with old friends who I don't get to see other than when I make that August pilgrimage. Sadly, another two of Stampaway's more popular and well-established vendors announced that this would be their last year at the show. Hopefully, it won't be mine.