In New York City, I found my Disneyland – my own personal version of the happiest place on earth. After a long day of vending at the book fair, the Baron and I high-tailed it down to the east village to a place called Casey Rubber Stamps. While in SF, and before leaving for NYC, a couple postal-modern friends of mine assured me that Casey’s was where it was at. “It’s well worth your time,” one friend told me. “J.C. will set you up,” another enthused.
I thought I had a pretty good idea.
I had absolutely no idea.
Casey Rubber Stamps goes by different names, depending on who you talk to, and how long that person has lived in New York: “John’s place”, “J.C.’s”, and “that-rubber-stamp-place-in-the-village-that-has-really-weird-hours” were all terms I heard bandied about when discussing Casey’s with folks. But they all agreed: among mail artists, it’s legendary.
Herr Baron and I arrived with about a half an hour to spare – whew! Outside, a table was set up with a basket of rubber stamps and ink pads for trying out; I was caught up in a rubber stamp-induced swoon (it was their windows that did it — all that dusty old stuff!) so I completely overlooked the treasures outside. The shop, while small and narrow, is crammed with shelves and baskets and boxes of rubber stamps, still made onsite.
The two chaps behind the counter weren’t sure what to make of us at first: who was this rubber stamp obsessed groupie in their store? And what about that guy in a bowtie, toting a camera? Once we mentioned we were visiting from San Francisco and looking for a good place to eat, the stories and recommendations started flowing. Best Irish fiddle band in NYC? Covered. How about late night jazz? A decent omelette? Or the best view of the Hudson River?
Keat and Bill are your go-to guys — honestly.
I rummaged around, poking under stacks of newsprint, behind stamps on the shelves; new stamp-ish curiosities seemed to appear under every sheet of paper and in each cardboard box. I loved the fact that there were open inkpads available to try out certain stamps. I also loved that there was a bottle of Old Overholt on the counter. “These are my people,” I thought to myself.
In the end, I walked out of Casey’s considerably lighter wallet, but it was well worth it. These guys are keeping the old-school mail art aesthetic alive: their rubber stamp inventory consists of many victorian/art deco cuts, funny slogans, postal themes, and a fairly big selection of interesting letters and alphabets.
You’re not going to find any of those twee rubber stamps which haunt the aisles of scrapbooking stores, and that’s a-ok by me.
Leaving Casey’s with a huge smile on my face, I promised Keat and Bill that I would send them a postcard using all of my new rubber stamps. Here it is (surrounded by my Casey’s treasures):
Keat and Bill: you’re the best!
PS: stay tuned for “Big Apple part 3” — Katz’s Deli is involved and you’re not gonna wanna miss it!
PPS: all above photos taken by Von Span/Sartoriana