Leo's Stamp Guy
posted: October 6, 2006
John in his rubber stamp store...
A few days ago, Leo suggested I interview and paint the owner of a little rubber stamp shop in the East Village.
John's face...
Yesterday Leo sent me the address and I went down and interviewed John Casey of Casey Rubber Stamps. His shop is a couple steps down from the street, and a steady stream of East Village art types tramped in and out to pore over the wall of rubber stamps, while I talked with him.

In John Casey's own words:

My first love, as a child, was with coins. When I was a young child in Ireland, you could still get Victorian pennies and ha'pennies, and I collected them. When I was six or seven, my father had a dance hall, and he used to go to this print shop to have posters made, and they also made rubber stamps. So, because I was a kid and they knew I liked coins, they made me a rubber stamp of a printer's block they had for the coin. And, you know, it thrilled me and it stuck in my mind.

I get a lot of weird projects. I have a couple of English artists that are always giving me these fuzzy, pixellated things that drive me crazy, because I'm always trying to make things sharp and crisp and clear, and they want things fuzzy and broken up. They drive me crazy. But they do great art with them! Some of them use up to 35 stamps on one original.

Years ago, in the 80's, I used to do a lot of heroin package stamps. I just didn't realize what they were. Funny enough, the local cops wanted to know if they could put up a camera, but I said, "You gotta understand, you're only gonna get runners, you're not gonna get anyone serious; you're not gonna get any top guys."

I used to see busts on television, and since heroin is not very photogenic, they would show the stamps, and I would go, "Oh! That's one of mine!" Actually, an acquaintance of mine used to collect them, the glassine bags with the stamps on them. Unfortunately, he died--not of an overdose; he was an alcoholic--and I didn't know how to ask his girlfriend about them. But actually I'd feel a little leery about seeing them, to tell you the truth.