Mabel Stark (1889-1968)

This relief print of Mabel is my contribution to the Short Stack Press 2024 collaborative calendar! Find out more.

Although she may not be a household name, she is considered one of the greatest animal trainer of all time. Born into a farming family with the given name Mary Ann Haynie, she was orphaned by the age of 17 and struck out on her own to find a livelihood. By the year 1916 she had suffered a handful of attacks one of which left her unconscious with a mangled and broken arm. Stack was not discouraged by these attacks and adopted a small, sickly Tiger named Rajah. Mabel raised Rajah in her small apartment where they would develop a wrestling act that would come to astound audiences. In 1922 Mabel was hired by Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey Circus where she performed with a group of tigers and one black panther. Mabel was married five times and worked throughout the world in circuses and films. The one consistent in her life was working with tigers and when she was unable to continue she took her own life in 1968. The final passage in her autobiography, Hold That Tiger, she wrote, “Let them come, out slink the striped cats, snarling and roaring, leaping at each other or me. It’s a matchless thrill, and life without it is not worth while to me.”

Trailer for Leslie Zemeckis film Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer.
Relief Printmaking

Yes, I am a printmaker!

If you would have told me a couple years ago that I would identify myself first and foremost as a printmaker I would have thought you were crazy. And yes indeed you may be crazy, but you would have been absolutely correct! I have become obsessed with printmaking, most specifically relief printmaking. I am a printmaker!

I stumbled into printmaking completely unaware. One day I was inspired by a post on Pinterest on how to make your own DIY rubber stamps. I purchased a Speedball carving tool and piece of pink SpeedyCarve rubber block. I was so proud of my giraffe, bear and bunny. I went on to make a series I called “My Heroes.” The first of the series was Martin Luther King Jr. and a favorite MLK quote. The letters were barely legible. Next was Octavia Butler and Princess Leia. Well it was at that point that I knew that I had caught the bug and I just kept carving and carving and stamping.

I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic, hold up with my family I just kept carving. I had to make an emergency purchase of a basic black rubber stamp pad from a local stationary store (thanks Toluka Paperie). Unbeknownst to me I was making relief prints. Who knew! It wasn’t until one day someone commented on a social media post of one of my images. “That’s a great relief print.” I had to find out more about this thing called relief printing. I made a purchase of water soluble relief ink and a cheap hard rubber brayer. I tried my hand at spreading the ink and transferring that ink onto my rubber block. The results were blotchy at best and uneven but I was entering the wonderful world of printmaking.

I soon found out about different linoleum materials — soft cut, easy cut, battleship grey, mounted and unmounted. I still mainly returned to my trusty 4 x 6 blocks of pink rubber. I had found an inexpensive no name supplier and I would buy them by the 18 count box, ferocious carving and carving and carving some more. I still approached the “printing” process with hesitation, using my worn wooden spoon tentatively rubbing to make the image appear.

Then I decided to take the plunge and buy a big tin of the Speedball “Professional” relief ink in Supergraphic Black designed by the amazing artist Bill Fick. I felt like a fraud—could I really use the “professional” ink? Wow! What a difference! And I haven’t looked back!

In the last two years I have shown my art work in five local art shows. I have printed on mulberry paper, tea bags, wood, tissue paper and desk drawers. And I have even sold some of my pieces, which means my artwork is on actual walls in actual houses!

I can seriously say that printmaking has changed my life. The process (daydreaming, sketching, carving) is therapeutic and I’m proud of the results. And I’m most inspired by how much I don’t know. What is the best paper to hand print on? Does it work on handmade paper? Can I make an inexpensive press using a cold press laminator? Can I make a reduction print with more than 2 colors? I have also been trying wood cutting (excited to say my holiday card is made from a woodcut…more about that soon!) I now know that there is a difference between wood engraving and wood cutting. Yet, do I sand the wood before I carve? Do I use a sealer on the wood? What wood is best?

I’m so happy to know that I am a printmaker and that I have ALOT to learn!


Missing Lawrence

I moved from Arizona almost 20 years ago and somehow I believe that it is exactly how I left it. It will always be the place of my youth, the place where I first skinned my knee, the place where I first got my heart broke, and the place where I spent countless nights listening to live music. I believe that time has stood still and I can still find my way to smoke-filled Long Wong’s and there will be Lawrence Zubia belting out “Nothing Lasts Forever.”

Lawrence died the morning of December 19, 2020. Like so many, I was so shocked and saddened when I heard the news. Since then, I have had The PistolerosHang On To Nothing album on repeat. We miss you Lawrence. Thank you for the music, the soundtrack of my youth. As a way to channel my sadness I carved a memorial lino. I have made a limited edition of 30 prints to honor Lawrence. The prints are hand-pulled relief prints using Speedball Professional Supergraphic Black ink, 9 x 12 on Japanese Kozo paper. I would like to share these prints with other fans. I just ask for the cost of postage and I would love it if you would consider making a donation to Lawrence’s charity of choice Shot in the Dark Phoenix. Please email me at or direct message me if you are interested in getting one.


Dream Big

Christmas card with a yellow VW bug with a giant candy cane tied on top.

We all need to dream big this year! I’m excited to share with you my very first handmade Holiday card! Each card is hand stamped, hand painted and signed on archival high quality 140lb watercolor paper. Each one is truly a one of a kind. The print is 5 x7 and can be removed for easy framing. Order one today, limited quantities. $11.50 (free shipping in USA). Please email me or direct message me via Instagram or Facebook. (Actual online shop coming soon!) Happy Holidays!

Artwork Uncategorized

Making of a Dolly Christmas 2020

A Bleuette doll is Dreaming of a Dolly Christmas!

I’m so excited to work with my sister Bebe Brown to bring you a Dolly Christmas. I have designed and hand made items that can be purchased through Bebe Brown’s Doll Haul. I was inspired by an adorable Blythe doll that is part of Bebe’s personal collection. I also used a beautiful antique doll and a Bleuette doll for inspiration. Here I will give you a little tour of how these items were made.

It all starts with a pencil sketch on tracing paper. I then flip the image and transfer it to the rubber block. And then it is all about the carving! I use a speedball cutter and a basic pink rubber block.

I got a little help making the wooden blocks in order to mount the stamps. Each stamp was coated three times with a substance called polyurethane.

It was so much fun turning my studio into Santa’s workshop! If you want more information please visit Bebe Brown’s Doll Haul. Thanks!

Artwork Uncategorized

Stars and Stripes!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! What a year this has been. I recently had the opportunity to create a custom image, “Stars and Stripes” for a dolly celebration my sister, Bebe Brown was hosting. Bebe is a doll enthusiast and she runs the company Bebe Brown’s Doll Haul. To celebrate Independence Day this year she put together mystery boxes for her customers and I made this custom print to be included in the boxes. I hand- colored four versions of this image. Each box had a signed and numbered reproduction. The proceeds from the 4o boxes sold went to fund a non-profit doll hospital/info center in Arizona. It has meant so much working with my big sis on this project.