Friday, January 23, 2015

Putting my own "stamp" on things...

I inherited my Dad's boyhood stamp collection. When I was a kid, sorting the stamps, deciphering foreign names of countries, identification... it was a treasure hunt. To me the stamps were miniature works of art, exquisitely detailed, hinting at history and events beyond my awareness. They evoked travel - would I ever see the places where this slip of paper had originated? These stamps encouraged my inquisitiveness, and my desire to learn, to experience...
One of the containers... 
I still have the stamps. I let go of the bulky book that was largely blank pages... Dad never really took to the whole hobby thing, and I didn't make huge progress in filling the pages either. I have stamps from countries that no longer exist. Its a window into history, a link to the past - both mine and the world's.

 Here are a few favorites:  

Folk costumes from Poland, report Greek myth stamps from Greece,
Classical monochromatic beauties from France, a few gems from down under. 

A childhood favorite - Austrian  farm girl; florals from Hungary, USSR, Gabon, Congo, San Marino;
Czech flora and fauna; Irish blackbird. 

Warning: if you are a hardcore philatelist, what you are about to see may shock you. 

I think stamps are a natural choice for mixed media pieces. The scale is perfect. I appreciate a little weathering, a postmark - they allude to travel, time, distance... a history. If you search for stamps in jewelry you will find a million and one offerings using resin and/or glass tiles. Logical first step - I have been there. These three new mixed media pieces are still on my work table waiting for necklace pairings. I started with a mother-of-pearl donut, designed a metal backing, and created a frame for the stamp. Attachments are made with either tabs or waxed linen. The stamps are sealed with Diamond glaze for durability and protection. 
Simple stamp under resin; three new mixed media pieces - mother-of-pearl bezels and copper/brass backings. 
These polymer pieces debuted at Beadfest last August. The settings are molds made from vintage stampings. Resin seals and secures the stamp image. The polymer color palettes are drawn from  the stamp art itself. ( I'll be teaching a similar class* at Beadfest in April.)
Polymer focals showcasing stamps, sealed with resin.  ( Mexico, USA, Italy, Malaysia)
And a ring, a class sample, just for fun. 

If you think stamps are for you... you don't have to start lurking in antique stores and flea markets. I personally doubt that any of my Dad's stamps are hidden treasures worth wagons of money... but I have seen Charade!  ( Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, stamps, Paris... whats not to love?!) There are plenty of stamps available now that are lovely and inspiring: 

Souvenir 'stamps' from the National Gallery of Art. I adore Matisse!
I've been holding onto this sheet for... umm... over 25 years! 

Current stamps in circulation. Images from

The Breast Cancer awareness stamp was perhaps the first one I used in a piece of jewelry. I was teaching full time, maybe 20 years ago - and I made a pin, a sterling frame for the stamp depicting Artemis. It was for my dear friend and colleague who had just successfully battled breast cancer and won! 
The USPS lists this information about the stamp artist/designer: 
As of June 2014, the stamp has raised over $78.9 million for breast cancer research. By law, 70 percent of the net amount raised is given to the National Institutes of Health and 30 percent is given to the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense.Designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD, the stamp features the phrases, “Fund the Fight” and “Find a Cure” and an illustration of a mythical “goddess of the hunt” by Whitney Sherman of Baltimore. 

As an artist, I find the design  process of stamps fascinating. They need to be easy to "read" from a distance, but rather detailed for their size. Many commemorate people, places, events, and some more recent motifs raise funds for research and conservation. The USPS site/store lists these and more available for purchase. And - for artwork they are rather affordable. ( As stamps, they are kind of expensive... LOL)  

Have you ever considered stamps as art? As jewelry? I'd love to hear how you put your 'stamp' on things. (Had to do it... ) 

Philately (/fɪˈlætəl/ fi-la-tə-lee) is the study of stamps and postal history and other related items. Philately involves more than just stamp collecting, which does not necessarily involve the study of stamps. It is possible to be a philatelist without owning any stamps. For instance, the stamps being studied may be very rare, or reside only in museums.

* My Spring 2015 Beadfest class info can be found here


  1. I have a big box of stamps from my childhood in my cupboard, and I keep meaning to use them in mixed media jewellery pieces. I did use some a couple of years ago to make simple charm/pendants under resin, which was fun, and I think I need to revisit them!

    1. Yes! And the fun thing is - you will see things that interest you NOW that you may have passed over a year or so ago!

  2. I bought some stamps on ebay to use for pendants and never got them made. My daughter collects stamps now - she would love your dad's collection! I love that little tiger at the bottom and found it at the site and I've ordered some to make some pendants of! Thanks for posting - it reminded me of stamps and their potential for jewelry!

    1. Awesome! I appreciate that the USPS puts the artists names in the info - I mean people will recognize your creations as having a stamp in there, but its nice to be able to research and give credit. And best of all - that tiger stamp raises funds for conservation, doesn't it?

  3. As a former postal service employee, I have a soft spot for stamps - and I LOVE what you did with the MOP donuts and metal backings!

  4. I collected stamps while growing up. I love how you have displayed them though your art!

  5. Jenny, these are works of genius. I KNOW your father is looking down and grinning.

    I wrote my daughter a letter every single day when she was in college AND I decorated the envelopes. I often incorporated the stamp into the envelope design.

    I had a "Woodstock on a telephone line" stamp and I'd extend the "telephone line" across the envelope and put bird stamps on the line.

    I had some 1 cent butterfly stamps and would often write one of my butterfly haiku on the envelope and put one of those butterfly stamps next to it.

    My daughter still has every one of those letters, ten years after graduation.

  6. I had not thought of stamps for jewelry but it is a great idea. Thanx. You are lucky to have possession of such a wonderful childhood memory and a connection to your Dad.

  7. Jenny, I really enjoyed your post -- it evoked memories of my childhood stamp collection. My husband and I enjoy visiting a local post office when we travel outside the USA. I shared a link to your post on FaceBook for members of the Greater Birmingham Bead Society (Alabama). Thank you!

  8. I've used stamp art in designs in the past, Jenny, but used high quality colour copies. It would have broken my heart to use my stamps. I'm just funny like that. (Plus not expert enough to recognize rare ones LOL) I still have the old albums Dad started with me as well. He always said the poorest countries had the most amazing stamp art (and he was right... ie. 1960's Albania)

  9. Great post Jenny - you are always inspiring to think in new ways. Thank you my friend.

  10. Loved the post. It gave me some ideas that I will use sometime in the future.


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