|The Rycraft Story
Creating Sweet Memories & Family Traditions
We always like to tell the story of our family business in order to let you know what is behind the tradition that we are carrying on today. The memories we treasure the most are those we have of our family and friends - of baking cookies together on special occasions and holidays. The Rycraft family tradition was, and still is, to present beautiful hand-crafted cookie stamps and other high quality American-made products for you, your friends and your family to enjoy. We hope that by creating delicious treats, handmade gifts, and decorative accessories for your home, you - our family of friends and Rycraft collectors - will also be creating your own sweet memories and family traditions to be cherished for many generations to come.
Below on this page
(scroll down or click on a link below):
Handmade in America
The Rycraft Family Farm – Corvallis, Oregon
The Rycraft Story – told by Robin Rycraft
Eleanor & Carroll: 1967–1973
Eleanor & Family: 1973–1988
Robin & Carol: 1993 to 2015
David & Maggie: 2004 to 2005
Grand Re-Opening 2017
Handmade in America
Eleanor Rycraft and her husband, Carroll, started Rycraft's in 1968. As far as we know, Eleanor Rycraft was the first American artist to introduce finely-detailed, handmade-in-America terra cotta cookie stamps. Originally, Eleanor patterned her unique ceramic cookie stamps (pictured right) in the manner of the antique wooden Scandinavian stamps which have been handed down through generations. In her rustic workshop on the family farm in Corvallis, Oregon, she created over 250 designs in a diversity which appeals to all peoples. Most of Eleanor and Carroll's original designs have been retired now and the tradition of handcarving new designs was taken up by their son, Robin Rycraft, in the 1980's.
The Rycraft Cookie Stamp Collector's Handbook (pictured right), published in 1998, is a history and guide to Rycraft cookie stamps with pictures of each Rycraft stamp design, who carved it, the date introduced, the original price, and the date retired. To view the revised version of this book on our website, click here.
The more than 350 current designs in the Heirloom Collection are available in a wide variety of ceramic products. Not only has each beautiful and unique design been carved by hand, but each individual cookie stamp, craft stamp, Keep It Soft, and Christmas ornament has been cut out, imprinted and glazed by hand using the traditional production process which began over 50 years ago.
Today, Rycraft products can be found in finer gift and gourmet shops and craft stores around the world, as well as many websites and collectibles trading sites such as Ebay.
The Rycraft Family Farm
– Corvallis, Oregon
A 100-acre parcel of fertile Oregon farmland is the original home of Rycraft Cookie Stamps. For nearly 50 years Robin Rycraft lived on the Rycraft family farm where his parents' cookie stamp business began over 40 years ago. Rycraft Cookie Stamps are still being made by hand in the same tradition but in a new location in Arizona, while Robin's sister Judy and her husband Jim still live on the farm with their family.
Eleanor's ceramic studio is located next to the original 1880's two-story farmhouse where Robin spent his childhood. A wood stove in the center of the workshop added to the rustic atmosphere where Rycraft employees, at one time numbering 30 people, made each ceramic product by hand. They enjoyed peaceful vistas of farmlands and fruit trees, majestic views of Mary's Peak and sunsets, and a pond which hosts the resident wild geese and blue herons that inhabit the farm. Robin's brother Lon and his wife Christine have recently returned to the farm to remodel the shop building (the old ceramic studio and workshop) into their apartment and new studio. Lon currently pastors a church in Seattle, Washington, near their younger sister, Erin and her family.
The Rycraft family farmhouse
in Corvallis, Oregon.
The Rycraft Story
– told by Robin Rycraft
Eleanor & Carroll: 1967-1973
It was in 1967 that my mother, Eleanor Rycraft, made her first cookie stamps to sell at the Corvallis Art Center Christmas sale. She started making cookie stamps to earn a little extra money. The idea came to her after seeing pictures of wooden stamps made in Scandinavia and the Eastern Pennsylvania Dutch area of the United States (click here and scroll down to the 3/20/10 email to Peter in Germany re: Eleanor's first cookie stamps). Mom was always amazed at how many people loved her stamps. They became so popular at the Art Center that she and Dad set up a booth at the Junction City Scandinavian Festival the following summer. While Mom only thought of the cookie stamps as a way to make a little extra money at Christmas, my dad, Carroll Rycraft, thought making cookie stamps could be built into a business.
Mom carved each stamp individually in the beginning, but when Dad became involved, he carved wooden tools which pressed the designs into the clay stamp, simplifying the carving process for Mom. Most of the early geometric designs were made this way (see top photo at right from our Collector's Handbook online - the middle photo at right shows our first recipe booklet). Dad designed many of these first stamps offered for sale.
As an artist and ceramicist, Mom did many other things: she painted china cups and saucers for the PEO. She designed and painted tiles picturing cooking herbs for a friend’s kitchen. She braided beautiful wool rugs for our home. She always had something going on at the dining room table. Mom had also studied landscape design, so when we purchased our farm in 1952, she turned the horse pasture that surrounded the farmhouse into a wonderfully landscaped garden. Together with my dad, she hosted many ceramic workshops at our farm’s riverside campground where a large updraft bank kiln was built and fired with wood.
My dad was more of an inventor and folk artist. He didn’t talk too much about what he did, he just did it. He made simple things beautiful. He made arrows for me each Christmas when I was young. One Christmas he cut a maple tree with lots of moss into firewood size logs, put on big red bows and gave them to all our family friends. He got together with Hap Gathercoal one year and made about a dozen fireplace bellows; they hammered sheets of copper with woodsy designs and the family surnames, and attached them to each side of the bellows. I purchased one of these at a flea market some 35 years later for $20. It was the same bellows made for the Bethel Vernon family in Alsea, Oregon.
Eleanor & Family: 1973-1988
When Dad passed away in the fall of 1973, we had three people working for us. Mom wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I had been attending California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland and Portland State University studying ceramics and calligraphy. In 1976 I returned to the farm to help Mom manage the cookie stamp business, where we began working together to develop new glazes. Over the next few years the whole family helped out in one way or another. Lon, my younger brother, my younger sister, Erin, and Judy, my older sister, were involved directly in the early years, a family of artists, all on a different track.
By 1979, twenty-five people were working full time. The popularity of Mom’s cookie stamps soon extended far beyond the borders of Oregon, especially into many Scandinavian and Pennsylvania Dutch communities across America where decorating cookies with beautiful designs has been a tradition for generations. Mom passed away on October 15, 1995. Like Dad, she is really missed. Both of them were an encouragement to all of us in so many different ways.
Today our Heirloom Collection Cookie Stamps are still handmade with the same tradition in mind. After growing to a
company with over 30 employees in 1996, we have recently downsized and relocated to Prescott Valley, Arizona where we are a Mom & Pop company once again. Our goal has not changed: to offer quality handmade products which will help you create sweet memories and family traditions.
Robin S. Rycraft
|Shown above are examples of Eleanor's early stamp
After graduating from Corvallis High School in 1961, Robin attended Oregon State University where he studied art, jewelry and ceramics. During the summers he worked construction jobs in order to save up the tuition to attend the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, where he studied design as well as jewelry and ceramics.
In 1967 he returned to Oregon and attended Portland State University where he studied calligraphy and then became interested in bookbinding and making marbled papers. This led to Robin’s ongoing interest in the art of making handmade paper.
In 1970 Robin and his first wife, now Peggy Skycraft, opened a studio at Hillside Center in Portland where they earned their living selling handmade books and marbled paper. During his years in Portland, Robin was part of a group that put together a recipe booklet Twenty Scandinavian Cookies printed in 1971, copyrighted and sold by Rycraft, Inc., and then reprinted in 1976.
After his dad passed away in 1973, Robin returned to the family farm in Corvallis to help run the cookie stamp business with his family. Robin also taught bookbinding at the University of Oregon as a visiting artist from 1979 through 1981. During the years that the Rycraft family worked together to build up the business on the farm, Robin learned the art of relief carving designs in clay.
When Eleanor's health began to decline, the family decided to close the business for a season, after which Robin reopened Rycraft's in the summer of 1988 as the only one of the Rycraft family still working in the business. He did all of the carving, with only a handful of part-time, seasonal employees to help with office work and production. By 1990, Robin had retired the majority of the old cookie stamp designs and replaced them with new designs reflecting his own tastes and distinctive style of carving.
Robin & Carol: 1993 to 2015
Robin married Carol May in 1993, and a year later they introduced their 2 1/2" craft stamps and their first book The Art of Paper Casting. In 1994 the couple began exhibiting Rycraft Cookie Stamps at national trade shows such as The Gourmet Products Show and The Hobby Industry Association show. Buyers for America's finest gift and gourmet shops were charmed by these delightful collectibles, and Rycraft earned a reputation for beautifully-detailed designs and high-quality craftsmanship.
Robin and Carol at the 1994
SFO Gourmet Products Show.
In 1997 Rycraft developed its website at www.rycraft.com. Since then, Rycraft cookie stamps have been featured in a variety of national magazines (see our Publicity Photo Album) as well as on television and cable network shows, among them Martha Stewart's Living, the Home Shopping Network, the Family Channel's Home & Family Show, and Aleene's Creative Living. Robin and Carol now work together, using requests and suggestions from their customers, to choose the new designs which they introduce each year.
The Knockoffs and a Lawsuit:
1997 to 2001
In 1997 Rycraft Cookie Stamps were "knocked off." A company in Pennsylvania came to our booth at a trade show in 1996 and said they wanted to carry our products in their catalog, so they asked for samples and a list of our best sellers. They then promptly went to China where they had duplicates of our 80 best-selling designs made, not only copying our "trade dress" (the look and feel of our cookie stamps), but also the individual designs and naming them as we had done, even using the exact same names.
The knockoffs looked like Rycraft cookie stamps: 2" diameter, terra cotta clay, a 1" handle, but they only had a clear glaze instead of the colorful glazes Rycraft offers. In February 1997, we discovered that this company was selling the knockoff cookie stamps to our customers in the gift & gourmet market at 1/3 to 1/2 of our price.
After 3 years we finally went to trial in front of a jury. It lasted 5 days and at the end of that we were awarded a total of $12 million in damages; however, the Supreme Court changed Trade Dress Law two weeks after our trial, and made it retroactive. Because it affected one aspect of our case, and because it was retroactive, it enabled the "bad guys" to ask for and receive a new trial scheduled for a year and a half later.
In the total of 4 1/2 years until the second trial in 2001, we lost all of our 28 employees, we went deeply into debt in order to keep our doors open (to close would have meant losing the case), and we had to mortgage the family farm to pay the attorneys fees – and the bad guys had time before the 2nd trial to restructure their company and develop a strategy to defeat our arguments in court... so that we knew we would not be able to win the 2nd trial; therefore, we settled out of court for a little over $1 million, which was much less money than it took to pay 40% to the attorneys, the taxes to the government on the money received in the settlement, and to buy back the family farm. In the end, we were deep in debt even though we had "won."
Part of the settlement was that we would receive the inventory of imported stamps which came in two tractor trailers. Consequently, we introduced the imported stamps as the Rycraft Import Collection of cookie stamps in 2002. We say they were "designed especially for Rycraft" because they were: they were designed to put us out of business. But we're still here! :)
David & Maggie:
2004 to 2005
In 2004 David and Maggie Montgomery joined Rycraft, Inc. as the new graphic arts/photography team. Rycraft's 2005 catalog was their magnificent creation, with Maggie making every single craft project and decorated cookie pictured, choosing all the props, and designing the layouts for the photo shoot, while David got the lighting just right and took all of the photos. In addition David did the pre-press graphics and photo editing to produce the catalog.
David and Maggie also happen to be Carol and Robin's "kids" (Dave is Carol's son), so it was great to have them working at Rycraft's while they were living nearby for a year or so. Robin and Carol are very proud of the work they did for Rycraft's (and have done a lot of bragging about them, too).
The Montgomerys now reside near Sacramento, California where Maggie manages the home front, cares for the Rycrafts' grandson, Gavin, and runs a home-based business, while David works as the Marketing Manager at ABC10NewsTV.
Robin and Carol Halloween 2015 at the Chester
storefront near beautiful Lake Almanor, California
Click here for the Rycraft's
LAKE ALMANOR Page
Click on images below
for larger view.
Egg tempura copy of Blake
painting (done in 1964).
Example of gothic calligraphy
by Robin Rycraft (1969)
Above and below: Papercuts
Robin and friends wrote this
recipe booklet in 1971.
Leather quarter binding
with marbled paper
by Robin Rycraft (1976)
of old-growth fir trees and stars
(Mary's Peak, Corvallis, OR 1976).
Above: Rycraft's Heirloom Collection 2" Terra Cotta
Cookie Stamp handcarved by Robin Rycraft.
Below: A cookie stamp from the Import
Collection (made in China) which
looks exactly like a Rycraft
Heirloom Collection cookie stamp.
August 2002: Robin, Maggie,
Makenzie, David, and Carol.
David at work at WPTV in Florida
before the move to Sacramento in 2011.
New Distributor – Peggy Luckwald:
2015 to Present
In December 2015, the Rycrafts sold their website at http://www.cookiestamp.com as well as their inventory of Import Collection Cookie Stamps (made in China), the 3 Rycraft books, Rycraft's Paper Casting kit and refill, Rycraft's inventory of cobalt blue Christmas ornaments (white clay), Rycraft Pot Savers (white clay), and Rycraft gift boxes, as well as various other Rycraft products to Peggy Luckwald in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Please give us a call if you have any questions at 1-208-398-9156.
Click here to see which Rycraft
products are available here
on this website an which others
can be purchased
from our distributor at
–– BACK TO TOP ––
Announcing the END of Our
Very Short Retirement
OUR GRAND RE-OPENING
After closing our storefront in December 2015,
we headed for Costa Rica, looking forward to the
low cost of living and beauties of paradise found there.
Here we are holding our hometown newspaper upon our
arrival in Alajuela, Costa Rica, June 2016.
After what turned out to be only a 4 1/2 month
vacation instead of long-term retirement, we
returned home to our beloved USA
just in time to vote in the 2016 election and then
move into a little house on a 1-acre farm in Idaho,
where Robin has his new studio/workshop
overlooking our rather large vegetable garden.
Click here to see photos of Robin's studio REMODEL!
Click here for the Rycrafts'
2016 CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER
Click here to go to:
Well, here's what happened that is confusing you...
Before we "retired," the Rycraft website used to be COOKIESTAMP.COM – but when we closed our brick-and-mortar studio/workshop at the end of 2015 and moved to Costa Rica in 2016, we sold that website to our exclusive distributor, Peggy Luckwald in Michigan, along with all the Rycraft companion products and the Rycraft Import Collection of cookie stamps. Peggy has changed the cookiestamp.com website so that it now looks very different from our website here at RYCRAFT.COM, where we offer once again Robin's beautiful hand-carved, made-in-the-USA Heirloom Collection Cookie Stamps.
Rycraft Cookie Stamps - Historical Overview
Click here to go to the main page for:
The Rycraft Cookie Stamp Collector's
Online Handbook of Retired Designs
CALL us at 1-208-398-9156
Copyright © Rycraft, Inc 1978 - 2018.
Rycraft is a trademark of Rycraft, Inc.
All Rights Reserved, Emmett, Idaho
Search by Keyword
Note: All prices in US Dollars