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Rubber stamps making new marks

Home decorating is another way to make colorful impressions

They're all the rage in scrapbooking clubs and an obsession for crafty gift-givers. Now, rubber stamps are making their mark in the home decorating arena.

Utah-based Stampin' Up! this week unveiled its new line of spring designs, which included several stamp sets designed specifically with home improvement warriors in mind.

The company's newest Definitely Decorative line includes a lighthouse motif, along with several floral stamp sets. Each set can be used to decorate walls, woodwork, furniture and other room accessories. The kits cost about $30 and include six to ten images. Paints and other stamping accessories are extra.

"The Definitely Decorative line was designed to cover space quickly and economically," Stampin' Up! marketing director Lori Berntsen said. "You can upgrade your whole room to a new design for under $50."

Founded in 1988, Stampin' Up! is a $100 million direct sales company that offers decorative stamp sets and accessories for greeting cards, craft projects and scrapbooking, along with the home decor line. The company has more than 18,000 "demonstrators" (direct sales representatives) nationwide.

Stampin' Up! tip-toed into home decor territory four years ago, company co-founder and chief executive officer Shelli Gardner said. But this year, the company hopes to make a larger market splash.

"The idea is one that sort of evolved over the years," Gardner said. " Home decor is very big in the craft world now, whereas it wasn't a few years ago. This year, we wanted to highlight what we thought was a wonderful opportunity for homemakers and homeowners."

Gardner isn't the only one.

Close To My Heart, a stamp and scrapbook company based in Pleasant Grove, introduced its own home decor stamps three years ago, spokeswoman Erin McClellan said, and currently offers 10 different styles appropriate for large-scale projects.

"Trends come and go, but we've been doing stamps appropriate for home decorating since 1998," McClellan said. "We feel that we're an industry pioneer in stamping and scrapbooking, and that includes using stamps in home decor."

Close To My Heart in 1998 also began publishing a magazine, "I Love Remembering . . . ," that "focused on linking stamps to home use, like stamping walls, hatboxes, and linens," McClellan said. Though not on newsstands now, back issues of the magazine still are available.

Both Gardner and McClellan said stamping has the potential to revolutionize home decorating in the new millennium. For the time-starved, stamping provides a quick way to change the look of a room. For the money-starved, stamping is a less-expensive way to paint, add a theme or link existing elements in a room.

And for the artistically-challenged, stamping is a way for the non-Picasso crowd to express itself without the fear inherent in other home improvement projects.

"With stencils, if it's not perfect, you know it," Gardner said. "With this, it doesn't have to be perfect. It is more spontaneous, more perfect in its imperfections.

"And if you make a boo-boo (while the paint is still wet), you can take a damp rag or one of those disposable diaper wipes, and the mistake is gone. It's fool-proof."

Stamps also can be used in conjunction with a plethora of colors and accessories, said Helen Snell, the rubber stamp buyer for All My Memories in Draper. That one stamp can then produce an almost-endless variety of colors and designs.

"For the person who can't really draw, the stamps do the hard part for you," Snell said. "You can take the person who doesn't have a lot of artistic talent, and they can create something really beautiful."

Snell said All My Memories, 925 E. Pioneer Road (12400 South), doesn't carry many home decorating stamps, mainly because demonstrating their use proved too cumbersome.

"If you don't have a class, and show people how to use them, the stamps don't really sell," Snell said.

Not a problem for Stampin' Up!, or Close To My Heart. Both utilize direct sellers, who are available for home demonstrations and often host "how-to" workshops for groups of potential decorators.

Though stamping may be the perfect home beautification answer for some, not all hard-core crafters have caught on to the idea.

Eleanor Zimmerman, co-owner of Zim's Inc. craft stores, said stamps definitely have an essential place in her full-line craft store. But she said she'd think twice about using them to decorate her home.

"I kind of wonder how many people will want to have their house look just like so many others," Zimmerman said. "There just isn't that much variety in the stamps that are out there now.

"If I had children's rooms to do, maybe I'd think of the big stamps. But if I were to do something for my own home, I'd look at stencils, because I could look at doing something a little more refined."