Potato Stamping Exploration

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Objective: Print wallpaper patterns using repeated square blocks.


  • Paper, paint, potatoes, knives

(see the discussion page for a more extensive list)

General Instructions

Read these general instructions first, then begin with part one.

  • Cut off a chunk of potato. You want enough potato to hold on to, and you'll need enough flat area to make a large square. Try to make the cut as flat as possible.
  • Cut the sides of the chunk so the flat area is square. The sides need to be exactly the same length, so use a ruler or mark a piece of paper to measure them.

How big a square to make? About 2 inches on a side. A bigger square is easier to carve, and takes less stamps to fill a sheet.

  • Dry the potato well with a paper towel.
  • Draw a design on the potato with a felt tip pen.
  • Carve out the design. Remember - the parts you carve will be white. Trace the edge, cutting about 2mm deep, then shave off a thin piece of potato.
  • Dry the potato thoroughly.
  • Make an arrow or mark on the back side, for orientation when stamping.
  • Using a brush or sponge, apply paint to the printing part of the stamp. Don't dip the potato - it won't coat evenly.
  • Press the stamp firmly on the paper.

Use plain white copier paper for experiments. When you find a satisfying pattern, print a finished work on better paper. Over the course of this project, your group should make 3-4 high quality prints, which you will hand in.

One Asymmetrical Stamp

Make a stamp. For this part of the project, use a design with no symmetry.

Choose two-by-two number arrays, as in Square Block Pattern Exploration, and print the associated block patterns.

A Stamp and its Mirror Image

  • Prepare a new stamp, with a square exactly the same size as your first stamp.
  • Press the first stamp onto the second, which will print a mirror image of the first stamp onto the second.
  • Carve out the mirror image pattern.

You should now have two stamps which are mirror images of each other.

Use these to make new prints with new symmetry groups. Try to get pgg, with glide reflections in two perpendicular directions.

Interlace Patterns

Escher's designs for ribbon stamps

Escher desgined a set of four stamps which produce prints that look like crossing ribbons. You can try these stamps with the EscherTiles applet.

Make your own ribbon crossing stamp. Probably two crossing ribbons is as much as you can do with a potato. Make sure the ribbons meet the stamp edge in the same place on all four sides.

Use two colors (one for each ribbon) and make some prints.

If you have time, experiment with more ribbon stamps. Try making another ribbon tile that matches up with the first one at the edges. You could use the mirror image of the first tile, or have the ribbons cross in different manner.

Handin: 3-4 finished prints