Classic Postage Stamp Replica Prints
I became a stamp collector at the age of 10. My father told me that stamp collecting was a good way to learn about the world, and perhaps he was thinking he might have a little Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the family. I was a Boy Scout then (father was troop leader), and the merit badge for stamp collecting was especially pretty. When I was given a hand lens as a part of the equipment of collecting, I was hooked.
My early favorites were the simple and elegant Japanese designs of the World War II era. In the late 1950’s the war was still a raw memory for the adults in my life, and for me the thought of the enemy having used the stamps on their correspondence was strangely compelling.
Stamps were my introduction to the world of the miniature, a world in which I graduated to fine microscopes in college biology classes, and eventually made a career in genetics and education. Through the years I cherished the stamp collection as a relic of my childhood.
When my working life came to an end, I thought I might challenge myself with the other side of my brain by trying my hand at art. As a scientist, I didn’t think of myself as having an artistic temperament, but took to printmaking right away. Working with paper, the ink, the linoleum to produce multiple copies of prints was strangely rewarding. The various aspects all came together to produce a thing of beauty that I could hardly believe I made myself.
In my first efforts I strove to replicate my favorite stamps from my collection, only scaled up to allow the viewer to see the fine designs at a size more easily perceived. I loved the carving, the preparation of the paper, the working of the ink and matching the colors, and the production of the final print. I loved all of it. When it came time to print, it was so much fun I could hardly stop. Others in the studio found this inexplicable, they found it tedious to print more than 10, but I always printed editions of 50 and more.
My prints are generally 4” x 5” on a sheet of paper 10” x 13”. leaving a wide margin for dramatic effect. The final product fits comfortably in a standard frame of 11” x 14”. I collage a genuine stamp in the lower right of the inked design, a position reserved for the artist’s signature. The classic designs I chose are by definition quite old, always from the time before I was born, and by designers now deceased. I sign as printmaker on the bottom margin, not as designer, who is often unknown.
The process is very straightforward. In the beginning I would computer scan a postage stamp and print in reverse onto thin parchment paper [Bienfang No. 100], then glue [Photo Mount 3M No. 6092] onto a type high linoleum block [Speedball or Jack Richeson]. I clamped the block against another blank block until the glue had set, and cut through the paper using rotating blade cutters [X-Acto craft swivel knife, Grifhold 114 swivel knife, and other cutting tools].
More recently I print unreversed onto copy paper and glue to a block with mat gel medium thinned to the consistency of coffee creamer. To assure a tight bond, I clamp overnight as before, then carefully wash the copy paper off leaving just the carbon from the photocopy. Then I cut in the usual way, using a stereo dissecting microscope [Bausch & Lomb 13x], a task made easier from years of experience as a geneticist using a microscope working with Drosophila fruit flies.
I have begun to collect stamps again, this time through on-line auctions. I look for graphic and colorful designs under a dollar apiece, and when I am sure I can assemble 50 stamps, I begin the process of cutting a block from which I can print.
Vertical / Standard Format