Well good afternoon.
My name is Allen Kane and I'm the Director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
I want to welcome you all here today.
It's a good day, we don't have any hurricanes, and storms and, you name it.
I want to welcome you to the 10th Annual Maynard Sundman Lecture Series.
And I want to begin by thanking Don and David Sundman who are sitting right here, for supporting this lecture series - thank you very much guys - in honor of their father.
And it gives us a great opportunity to present information to everybody that you wouldn't normally get.
I got to apologize first of all for having it here which is sort of not quiet and you know, open, but all our offices or all our spaces that we usually have this in are tied up with construction material.
We are actually under construction, big time.
If you don't know, we're building the world's largest stamp gallery upstairs on the main level.
It's the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery.
And next September, I hope you all come back and see it.
We should be up and running if we don't hit asbestos or something like that in the construction, we'll be up and running, and it's going to be kind of neat.
It's interesting, the difficulty in building the world's largest stamp gallery in this museum is we have two types of visitors, two types.
One is the professional philatelists or stamp collectors that want to see rare things things, that are very rare.
And the second one is the families and kids where we want to show the beauty of stamps and the educational value of stamps.
The stamp images are really the history, heritage, and culture of the United States.
And we want to convey that to families and kids.
So you got two very different audiences and I think, I think we've hit a home run on both.
And thanks to Cheryl, there she is, Cheryl and Daniel, our curators, I think they've been able to set this thing up next year to hit both both particular audiences which is very difficult but they are very good and they've been able to do that.
So I hope you all come back next year.
So I don't want to take up any more time.
We have a long program and at this time I want to introduce Don Sundman who's the Chairman of our Council a Philatelist and the President of Mystic Stamp Company and Don, welcome.
Thank you and thank you for coming.
This is great.
My brother David and I funded the Maynard Sundman Lecture some years ago and this is the tenth annual event.
And we really look forward to coming and meeting you and seeing you.
And my father and mother started Littleton Stamp Company after World War II.
And my father's dream was to bring the fun of collecting to a wide audience.
And he really spent his life doing that.
He passed away several years ago at 92 years old.
And my brother runs my father's company Littleton Coin Company and I run Mystic Stamp Company.
And we're continuing my father's dream which is to bring the fun of collecting to a wide audience.
And so the companies together employ over 400 people that we deal with tens of thousands of collectors each year and my father from my father's time till now it's been millions of Americans.
And when we were young, 1964, we took a trip around the country and it seemed like every town we went through my father would say, oh, we have customers here, we have customers here.
And so, I'm so proud of that we're able to do this in honor my father.
And I'm also really proud to introduce Janet Klug who's somebody, just a phenomenal person, and just gives so much to stamps and stamp collecting.
And I admire Janet so much, so.
I'm not sure where Janet is.
Ah, right in front, I'm looking in the back.
So here's Janet.
I love this hobby. Women are in the minority in this hobby and I get to kiss all the guys so it's it's great for me.
I have a couple of announcements before we begin.
Please set your cell phones to silent operation, and please hold questions to the end because we will have question period at the end.
So what Don didn't tell you is that I was I am also a member of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee.
Could we get the slides up for that? It's up? Okay.
We always refer to that is CSAC.
And the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee is a volunteer committee of currently 13 individuals.
They are diverse individuals and they have professional backgrounds.
I was honored to accept an appointment by Postmaster General Jack Potter in April of 2010.
As a stamp collector let me tell you that that was exciting So you might wonder, what does CSAC do? Essentially the committee advises the Postmaster General who has the authority of deciding what stamps will be issued.
CSAC attempts to recommend stamps that have a broad appeal and that reflect well in the United States and the Postal Service.
The Postal Service has been issuing stamps that inform, entertain, and serve as ambassadors to the United States for 165 years.
That's quite a record.
So you might wonder, how to CSAC work? Well we meet quarterly to review the many suggestions that are submitted by the general public.
The committee discusses creative work plans and for new stamps brought forward by members of CSAC.
And we review stamp art presented by the Art Directors.
You can suggest stamp subjects yourself. There's the address.
I won't read it to you but if you don't want to write it down or you can't write that quickly, it's also on the US Postal Service website www.USPS.com.
Okay, next one.
If you are going to suggest a stamp subject you want it to be a good stamp right? A really good stamp.
So what goes into making a really good stamp? What should you keep in mind? If you are going to suggest the stamp subject, you want to keep these things in mind.
There are four factors that, this is my opinion, of what makes a great stamp.
A great subject, a great story, popular appeal, and a great design.
So let's look at each one of those individually.
A great subject will entertain and enlighten you.
This is a personal favorite of mine, it's from the Black History series which is a fantastic series.
It started in 1978, so it's been going for 34 years.
And it introduces us to a lot of fascinating people that we may not have ever known about.
This is one of my all-time favorites.
It depicts a beautiful young woman named Bessie Coleman, and her story is one of those classic American stories where hard work and determination overcomes all obstacles.
Her goal in life was to fly an airplane.
Okay, now forget the fact that she was African American.
Forget the fact that she was a woman.
These people were not supposed to fly airplanes.
Only men were supposed to fly airplanes, correct? But she persevered.
She had that determination and she worked hard and she became the first American to receive an international pilot's license.
That is an amazing story.
I would never have known that story without this stamp.
If you look at it closely you'll see that it's also a beautiful image.
Okay a stamp designer designed this stamp.
The stamp designer is Chris Callie, which some of you probably know because he's also a stamp collector and he goes around to stamp shows.
So you see how I just told you a story about a really, a really interesting person that was pictured on a stamp? Okay so maybe now you might feel a little bit differently about it.
You see the sign behind me, every stamp has a story? Those stories grab you.
This is this this is a great story. This is a story of Owney.
Owney is the Postal Service's mascot.
And I'm not going to tell you his story because if you go back there you will be able to find out the story of Owney.
And if you don't know the story of Owney then you need to go on a treasure hunt and spend some time in this museum before you leave today and find out about Owney.
Now look at that, that's a great dog.
That's a really cute dog.
Okay that means it's going to attract a lot of people who love dogs.
And in fact it did do that.
It was one of the most popular stamps that was issued last year.
The factors that we were talking about with Owney are a great story, and a great image, and it led to popular appeal.
So popular appeal is important because it promotes stamp collecting and it's also great for the US Postal Service.
Popular appeal, need I say any more than just showing this picture? The Elvis stamp was issued in 1993 and it is the most popular commemorative stamp ever issued by the US Postal Service.
It's a great design too. It's a great portrait.
It was done by an artist named Mark Stutzman.
And who says stamps can't be sexy? There is a sexy one.
So great design, more than anything great design catches your eye and makes you want to own it.
It says pick me up and buy me.
Okay great design. Who wouldn't want to own this stamp? How many stamp collectors here? Okay, you're all drooling about now, aren't you? This is the 1898 $1.00 Cattle in the Storm stamp.
It was designed by a young man named Raymond Ostranders Smith who was hired by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing which printed all the US stamps during this time period.
His instructions by the Bureau were to create beautiful stamps that would appeal to the public.
And that's exactly what he did.
Because great, great stamps come from great designs.
And we are fortunate today to have great designers of stamps sitting right here that are going to speak with you.
So thank you for that.
Okay it is my pleasure and honor to introduce a friend of mine.
We became friends when he was on the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee and now Antonio Alcala is a US Postal Service Art Director.
Thank you, everybody. Good afternoon.
Thanks for inviting me to be part of this very distinguished lecture series.
My name is Antonio Alcala and I'm one of the two newest Art Directors for the United States Postal Service.
I was hired about a year and a half ago.
As an Art Director, I get assignments for new stamps from the United States Postal Service.
These may be for the collectible program and come from a list of approved subjects produced by the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee.
Alternatively, on occasion we develop our own subjects for the mail use program.
Sometimes an assignment to an Art Director will be based on having a general area of expertise like aviation, or military.
Or other times they can be assigned just based on the other our director's workload, scheduling concerns, or general aesthetic inclination.
To date, I've art-directed about 70 stamps for about 22 different series.
But as of today only one has been issued, the José Ferrer stamp from the Distinguished American series.
Two other sets, one commemorating Lady Bird Johnson's contributions and the other, a set of high denomination stamps have been announced by the USPS and will be released later next month.
So with only three subjects that I am permitted to speak to you about today, my options are limited.
Today I'll offer a brief insight into a bit of the process and thinking that went into the development of the high denomination stamps now officially called the wave stamps.
The story begins in March of 2010 when the USPS let the Art Directors know that the supply of the two-dollar Bobcat which you can see on the screen here, was running low and we should be thinking about a new design to replace it.
As a mail use stamp the USPS made no specific requests regarding subject matter.
They did note however that because it was a high value stamp there might be an opportunity to use more colors than usual and or integrate intaglio printing into the production of the issue.
It was also mentioned that while there was an immediate need for the $2.00 stamp design, we should keep in mind that $1.00, $5.00, and $10.00 stamp designs would eventually be needed.
I began this assignment by thinking about other high-value printed materials including stock certificates.
This is an old revenue stamp.
Lots of beautiful engraving.
These are chocolate bars and I chose this image specifically for Janet, because Janet loves chocolate almost more than anybody else I know.
And of course currency and in this case these are Dutch Gilder notes from before the adoption of the Euro that were just beautiful, beautiful pieces of art.
Many of these items have very intricate patterns as a dominant feature.
So, honestly I don't have the ability to do this kind of work and so I needed to find someone capable and comfortable with this kind of visual language.
I proposed USPS hire a well-known, highly regarded artist named Arian Bantius for this assignment.
Monacelli Press had just recently published a critically acclaimed book of her work.
Much of it including this design for a magazine cover, involved colorful, carefully planned and intricate patterns.
USPS thought this was a good idea and her selection was heartily endorsed by the members of the CSAC design subcommittee.
And after several weeks of work on this project she emailed me this mock-up showing her vision for the stamp.
Unfortunately USPS CSAC design subcommittee and I felt that this was not a satisfactory solution.
Not everything has a happy ending.
Some of our concerns were production-related.
Can you imagine the poor printer trying to make sure the perforated die-cut matched the printed pattern that ran to the edge exactly.
Others were content related.
For example, the dollar sign should come before and not after the numeral, the numeral two obscures the letter O in the word two, and still others were visual concerns.
Upon review many expressed a concern that the colors and patterns combined to create a feel that of a quilt more than something of high value.
It was time to move into another direction.
In order to avoid another misstep, I suggested that we hire a designer named Michael Dyer who works in Brooklyn, New York.
I worked with Michael before and knew he was an excellent collaborator with experience creating complex patterning in his professional work.
This is one of several examples of his designs I showed to USPS before getting the green light to hire him.
Just as an aside, one of my favorite things about being an Art Director, it's probably the best thing about being an Art Director, is when you get to telephone an artist or a designer and ask them if they would be interested in designing a stamp.
No one turns you down.
Everyone's extremely excited to work on a stamp and Michael was no exception.
This was in late July of 2011.
I explained to him the challenge before us and emailed him a lot of reference images including the ones I showed earlier.
I also sent him the technical details such as size, number of colors available, the technical capabilities of the press, etc.
We discussed possible directions and potential problems.
In mid-August he sent me a PDF with 52 different designs.
And I'm going to show you just two of them.
This was one, and this was one of the others.
From the 52 designs, I narrowed my selection to five directions offering advice to Michael about how I thought each one could be improved.
This might be the way the pattern fit on the stamp, the size of the typography, the placement of the denomination, etc.
Of the five directions we developed and presented to the USPS services, here are three sketches.
At the review meeting, USPS selected one approach, this one with the green wave's, and asked us to develop it further into a set with three additional denominations.
This is one of our designs for the $1.00 stamp.
We decided to make the series of stamps increase in size as the value increased, use a different color palette to make each stamp easily distinguishable from the others in the set, and we also decided to use a large number to identify the value.
Although on the screen and even in the USA philatelic catalogue which I'm sure you all are subscribers to, these designs look fairly simple but I want to show you a detail of one of the designs to show you the complexity built into these wave stamps.
Each denomination is built with six different sets of lines each in a separate color of ink.
As they grow thicker and thinner and overlap one another in different places they create changes in color and texture and develop different visual patterns.
In October of 2011 our final designs were presented to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee where they were approved unanimously.
The stamps then took many more months to produce owing to many production considerations involved in printing them properly.
Here are the designs that were announced to the public last month.
In the notes I shared with the USPS I noted the complex patterns of lines are inspired by the engraved lines found in banknotes and security documents as well as the look in sheen of high-end fabrics.
But one of the most notable aspects of these stamps is, unless I'm mistaken, and I'm sure there's a philatelist in the audience who can correct me - Daniel this is you I'm talking to - this is the only series of stamps composed completely of abstract imagery to be issued by the USPS.
What appeals to me so much about these stamps as abstract images, is they can represent anything the viewer wants to see.
The viewer is not told what to see.
These stamps can represent motion, or creativity, cloth, or architecture, rebelliousness, uneasiness, elegance, anything.
One might say these stamps represent freedom.
I hope you like them.
Sometimes people are lucky and they get to do a job they love for a very long period of time.
Our next speaker is somebody who has been designing stamps since the 1970s and his body of work is phenomenal.
It's my pleasure to introduce Howard Koslow.
It's been 41 years now that as an artist illustrator that I've been designing stamps for the US Postal Service.
Now that time frame is just about two-thirds of the total amount of years spent as a freelance artist in the New York area.
Back to the stamps.
They are mostly commemoratives, honoring important historical events, personalities, and structures.
The visual images to be viewed will also show the great range of subject matter and techniques used to illustrate each stamp.
And a bit of background.
In 1959 Stephen Dejanos, an esteemed fellow member of the Society of Illustrators in New York, became the Design Coordinator for the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, and in turn that the US Postal Service.
He was requested to update the look of the US postage stamps from the longtime utilized one color line engravings.
And Steve designed over 40 stamps of his own and recommended new stamp subjects and artist colleagues to design more than 300 others.
It was in 1971 that he selected me to design my first US stamp commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty and I responded with this very graphic design.
Many other varied stamp assignments followed including four jazz vocalists, aviation pioneer Harriet Quimby, and Washington's ... I'm sorry, and postal cards honoring Carnegie Hall, Princeton University, and Washington's very treasured National Cathedral.
Then in 1991 the Postal Service requested that I reprise the Antarctic Treaty on their 30th Anniversary.
A very different concept was called for and we have a full-color overview of snow-covered Antarctica featuring a US Coast Guard ship.
Quite a bit different.
Of the other commemorative stamps designed most prominent were two of my favorites because of their historical significance.
The 100th Anniversary of the revered Brooklyn Bridge, and the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution issued in Philadelphia in 1987.
Then in 1989 the US Postal Service Art Director Howard Payne came up with a novel idea to celebrate the Bicentennial of the four branches of government, the House of Reps, the Senate, the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court by portraying them each as a painted sculptural image.
This group of stamps required a great deal of research and extreme accuracy.
Then came to Celebrate the Century stamp program inaugurated in 1997, to commemorate the advent of the Millennium the year 2000.
Each of the ten decades were represented by a sheet of 15 stamps pictorially celebrating the major achievements of the 1900s decades and each was assigned to a different artist.
The project started with Art Director Howard Payne once again.
And I explored the early 1900s by creating many concept sketches focusing on historical landmark subjects.
The experimentation culminated in my receiving the 1940s period to illustrate and teaming up with Art Director Carl Herman who split the series with Howard Payne each being responsible for five decades.
After months of discussion and more sketches on the subjects selected for the 15 stamps depicting the 1940s, I ended up with seven stamps to paint.
The other eight were covered by existing artwork or photographs.
This project too required extensive research utilizing my own reference files and the books accumulated over the years, museums, public libraries, and PhotoAssist research corporation which is affiliated with the Postal Service.
Of the seven stamps, picture number six there, one stamp came under unusual scrutiny.
It was the abstract expressionism stamp featuring the famous artist Jackson Pollock portrayed in his studio.
I was officially directed to remove the ever-present cigarette from his image causing the factual purists to claim that we were changing, altering art history.
The facts are that the government did not wish to be seen as endorsing cigarette smoking.
And of course it had been done before, cigarettes were removed from previous stamps featuring jazz musician Robert Johnson and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The discussion became quite involved and resulted in an extensive press coverage and as they say at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, every stamp has a story, and I can verify that, because in many ways before it's created, during conception, and even when it's issued, at every stage a story.
I'll get there.
Okay, now to the US lighthouse series stamps, probably my most popular series.
My fascination with lighthouses began back in 1968 when the National Park Service asked me to visit and create a painting of the Cape Hatteras light in North Carolina.
The resulting two by four foot painting is now in their historical collection, quite a different look from the stamp art to come, but very pleasing to me.
The US Lighthouse stamps started in 1990 where the five stamp set of coastal lighthouses honoring the bicentennial of the US Lighthouse Service and the US Coast Guard.
The CSAC selected the coastal lights of Admiralty Head, Washington; Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; West Quoddy Head, Maine; American Shoal, Florida with the Coast Guard Cutter; and Sandy Hook, New Jersey to represent the major areas where these seafaring sentinels are located.
This series was followed with the Great Lakes Lighthouses in 1995, the Southeastern Lighthouses in 2002, Pacific Lighthouses in 2007, and in 2009 the five Gulf Coast Lighthouses that were battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And if all goes according to schedule, we should see the next series to be issued in 2013.
A lot of lighthouses.
The issuing of the lighthouse stamps generated other significant assignments, such as a montage poster combining 11 lighthouses for the Lighthouse Preservation Society, a set of ten collectors plates featuring prominent US lighthouses, and a great many first day cover cachets.
That brings us to the other facet of the philatelic field that I've been involved in for over 20 years now, the designing of hundreds of cachet envelopes that included a two and one half year project honoring more than 100 military us heroes.
Shall I finish, please? I feel that I have been privileged in a small way to be part of the process and illustrating 60 stamps to date and documenting our American history.
That's quite a legacy, Howard. Thank you so much.
We are fortunate to live in a country of diversity.
And I think that makes us stronger and I think that makes us better.
And so thankfully several years ago, it's more than a decade ago now, the US Postal Service decided to start issuing stamps for Lunar New Year.
We have the designer of the current series of Lunar New Year stamps here to talk to you, Kam Mak.
What an honor to be here today. Thank you.
First of all I want to share with everyone how I got started designing stamps.
One day I got a call from the art director at the US Postal Service and her name was Ethel Kessler.
And she said, Cam we are planning to design a stamp to celebrate the fish koi.
And so and in a puzzle or working on this on the designing the stamp there was a little stumbling block on it because and then she suddenly said, oh Cam, I think that the US Postal Service decided that it might not be a stamp, there's a lot of controversy behind the fish koi because at some state is considered a pest.
And so we temporarily put that project aside.
And in the meantime few weeks later I got a call from her, oh by the way, just want to mention to you that they are planning to renew the Lunar New Year stamp series and I want you to think about it.
And as I was actually very excited you know.
And, well through the process the US Postal Service decided the koi stamp will become a postcard stamp and so that's what you see right there.
And after this job was completed I was in the process of think coming of ideas for the Lunar New Year stamps and it's a subject matter that is very easy for me.
It's my culture and it's the most important holiday in my life, in my culture.
And so I get a lot of questions about my concept of the Lunar New Year stamp.
If you look at the stamp coming out from Hong Kong, China, or Canada, they always use the animal or the Zodiac as the central image of the stamp.
And of course, that was the first approach. I looked at all their stamps and...
Year of the Rat.
So of course I drew. I took the animal and trying to come up with some ideas.
And I did other drawings of other animals too, of the Zodiac.
Then there was something missing.
I don't know. Well you know, it's not, that's not the story.
My story of the Lunar New year is more rich than just celebrating using the animal.
And I approached Ethel Kessler about it with her encouragement.
I told her that there are all these Lunar New Year elements that I grew up with that holds a lot of meaning to me.
And can I come with elements of the Lunar New Year and put that as part of the design and have that as the central image and have the animal as the decorative element.
And of course, Ethel, as a great designer she is and so she encouraged me and we worked out list of elements.
So the red lantern is one of them.
There's one thing that my mother would do, right before the New Years, she'd decorate.
She had little plastic lantern that she put along the window sills.
Lanterns are everywhere.
So that was one of the elements. And from here, I show you my son holding the props, shooting the reference.
And there is more to the painting.
On the Lunar New Year stamp for the first one, issued in the year the rat.
And, it is my first commemorative stamp.
And I didn't have enough skill to really know how to design something so small.
And with the guidance of Ethel, I did the best I could.
It came back for a lot of changes.
And everyone felt that when it's reduced it looks like cherry tomato.
So of course as the wonderful designer she is, she said Cam, I have an idea you don't have to redo with the painting.
This is actually the whole painting.
She cropped into the painting, which I think worked out very well.
And before I go on to, and that's how the series starts.
But before even going and talk a little about two other stamps that I have that I want to thank OCA which stands for Organization of Chinese American.
They're the one who lobbied the US Postal Service to have the Lunar New Year series.
And if some of you might know the history it was one other member of the organization who one day was looking at some archival photo of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
and what she saw was there was not one Chinese American in any of the photographs.
She was very concerned about that she said that we need to find something to pay what to give recognition to what Chinese American had contributed to this country to help build this country.
So they thought of the stamp and so they lobbied.
At that time I don't think Lunar New Year stamp was the first idea.
But eventually it became the main idea and it's a way to celebrate not just the lunar year but also is symbolized all the sacrifice and the contribution the Chinese-American make for this country.
So this stamp holds a lot of symbolism.
And I'm just very proud that I got a chance to to illustrate it.
Year of the Rabbit.
Every painting that I did in the Lunar New Year stamp series has little stories and this one is one that I hold dearly to me.
And the kumquat was adorned to celebrate the Year the Rabbit.
And I want to read a poem that I wrote.
And this is because of my concept again with the Lunar New Year stamp it's really based on my personal experience.
And the little story behind each of the stamp.
In Hong Kong my grandmother is in the kitchen making pickled kumquats.
In Chinatown there are kumquats pilled high on every street cart, wooden crates packed full of Suns.
Mama takes forever hunting for the ones with leaves attached.
Leaves are good luck.
But she doesn't know how to pickle them.
When my grandmother would tell her, I told you never come to see me again.
She said and winked slipping one last kumquat into my bowl.
And every Lunar New Year my grandma would buy a pot of live kumquat bushes or tree.
And we would decorate the house with it.
And still today my mother will buy kumquats and tangerine that have leaves attached, with the stem.
And for me to bring them to my house with my family because with the stem and the leaf attached to the kumquat is signified that relationships are intact.
And it's very important.
And my mother make sure that I followed that custom and teach my kid about that custom.
Year of the Dragon.
That's to celebrate this year.
And again dragons appear a lot in my work.
When I was 17 years old right before, the summer before I went to high school I got to paint a huge dragon in Chinatown in New York.
And this is what you see.
It was a mural to celebrate the contribution and also to show the history of the Chinese American immigrant experience.
And so the dragon is very important part of my life.
I also had a chance to illustrate a book called The Dragon Prince.
So the dragon again, a subject matter appears a lot in my work.
So I was very fortunate that I got a chance to invite one of the very talented kid who performed dragon dance in Chinatown.
And they did a performance for me.
And I photographed them.
And I used the photo reference that I had with the dance to create this painting.
And again I hope one day you guys get a chance to see the original painting.
Some of them is cropped by design and there actually is, on some of the stamp paintings, there's more to it than what is depicted on the stamp.
So I think that's my that's my story.
So, and again I wanted thank everyone for coming and allowing me to share my story about the Lunar New Year stamp.
Not every US Postal Service stamp is based on artwork that's been done with paintbrushes and ink and pens and things like that.
Sometimes we rely on a great photographer to produce some great photography for us.
We are fortunate enough today to have a very great photographer here.
If you've purchased any of the shelter pet stamps last year you might be really a big fan of this lady right here.
So it's my pleasure to introduce Sally Anderson Bruce. Sally.
Thank you. I'd like to thank the Sundman family very much for sponsoring the lecture and also the National Smithsonian Postal Museum.
Thank you very much.
And thirdly I'd like to thank all the veterans in the room.
This one's dear to my heart.
I just think you're great so thanks a million to the veterans also.
I'd like to tell you three stories.
I like to seize the opportunity.
I was out on location at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico photographing a couple of books on toys and dolls.
When I finished the project I sent one of the posters to my longtime friend Dary Noice.
And by fate, Dary happened to be working on classic American dolls stamps.
And my poster dropped on her desk and she called me up and said, say, how would you like to take a stab at photographing a US postage stamp? My jaw dropped.
I was just awestruck. I said, you bet. Now what? And she said, well you're not the first one I asked.
She said I have some work by another photographer and I'm going to show it to you, beautiful photos of dolls but reduced down to stamp scale an entire doll looked more like a stick figure.
So she said, I don't think this is the approach we should take.
Let's try to do portraits, head and shoulder portraits.
And I said great, let's try that.
And she told me where the denomination would go, and the text would go.
And I said, now what? She said, well, find the dolls.
And I was like, oh boy.
I'm not I'm not a doll expert or a doll collector.
So I was on a journey and I would have seized the journey but where do I go? I thought, the library, I'll go to the public library. That's a great start.
And I picked out the books on dolls. I found what I thought were great dolls.
I thought, now what? And I called my friends and of course the project's confidential, I can't tell them I'm working on a US postage stamp.
And so I went to a few doll clubs and they just didn't measure up.
They were not the caliber for a US postage stamp.
I went to some more doll clubs. They referred me to doll experts.
Doll experts referred me to doll collectors.
And eight years later I'm still sitting at the library, going to doll clubs, going to the experts, driving and up and down the East Coast from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.
And Dary said, Sally I know you're trying hard but I think we've got to call in someone else.
I pleaded with her, one last chance, one last chance.
I think I've got the perfect list.
I think I've got a great expert.
And she pulled together a stellar collection of dolls.
And that was my first series of classic American dolls, and my last series of classic American dolls.
Then I got another call from Derry.
I was shocked because this one had taken a decade and generally it takes one and a half years.
Oh, I forgot to mention that took eight years, the next two years were spent with the poor, poor souls at Photo Assist trying to research 15 dolls from 15 different owners, 15 different collections, the background, the manufacturers, the copyrights, the history.
It was a research nightmare that I'd created.
But eventually we did have some nice stamps.
So I learned from this journey.
When Derry called me and asked me to photograph antique American toys, I thought, I'm skipping the collectors, I'm skipping the experts, I'm going right to our finest institutions and museums and I called the Smithsonian.
Again I'm working on a confidential project. I can't tell you what it is.
Do you have the finest collection of antique American toys? And the Smithsonian said, we would love to tell you, yes, here in Washington we've got it, but actually it's up at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York.
I said, well thank you very much.
I called the Strong Museum and they said, yes, we do have the finest antique toy collection.
I bought every catalog they had of toys and I cut apart the catalogs, put this put the pictures together and tried to develop blocks of four.
Now something like a train wouldn't work.
That's a long skinny thing and two thirds of the stamp would be blank.
Something like a rocket ship wouldn't work because it's tall and skinny in the middle with a lot of negative space on either side.
So I had to try to visualize what would fill the entire space.
So I went up with my 35-millimeter camera and I photographed the toys that I had thought would work the best from the books that I'd cut apart.
I took the photos. I sent them back to Derry and Derry said, well I like this, this, this.
And Derry put together this beautiful, beautiful commemorative pane.
Then Derry called me. I went back with my 4 by 5 view camera because I wanted even better quality.
Took all my studio lighting up. I recreated the studio up in Rochester and I shot everything on location.
And Derry said, CSAC's approved it. It's a go.
And then I got another call from Derry and she said, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news.
And I went, give me the bad news first.
She goes, well the bad news is you don't have a commemorative stamp, which as these former speakers explained, is a beautiful stamp that commemorates an event, and a person, the Lunar New Year.
You now have a definitive stamp which is a smaller stamp, kind of the everyday stamp, like the Liberty Bell or the American flag.
And I went, well that's not all bad.
She goes, well the good thing is your press run just went from the millions to the billions.
I went, whoa.
So this these were some of the examples of the blocks of four that Derry was working with.
So anyway, and the good thing, on the bright side, I knew that the museums had done all the research.
So Photo Assist kind of got short changed on this one because the Smithsonian and other wonderful museums, they've done their background.
They know the stuff that's out there is our stuff. They're the great American artifacts.
So anyway, that took care of American toys and the next thing I'd like to tell you about, let's see, is actually social awareness stamps.
This is me in my studio photographing one of the shelter pets.
My first social awareness stamp was neuter, spay.
A social awareness stamp would be one like Amber Alert or Alzheimer disease.
It calls attention to a cause, raises awareness for the general public.
I was very fortunate to get shelter pets after I had neuter, spay.
And I sent Derry many photos I'd taken in the eight years after neuter, spay was released of pets and shelters.
She said, they're great but they're on black.
They look too much like neuter, spay. Photograph the pets again on white.
So this is Nuzzle the pet, the sneaker is the representative from the shelter.
Behind me is the chief animal control officer.
I didn't want any pet under stress or duress.
I mean we have millions of shelter pets so there's no need to harm one or get one stressed out.
And behind the chief animal control officer and me is Bindy-Sue and she is one of the stamp dogs.
She's peeking over my shoulder waiting for her turn in the spotlight.
So we're trying two ways raise awareness here.
This is after the stamps came out.
Let's see the forward-thinking museum did a YouTube video about the making of the stamps and we re-enacted all this and it is on YouTube.
And then after that was put on YouTube, the Animal Planet called and said, we like that little gray cat.
I go, Willow the British Shorthair. They said, we'd like to feature her on Animal Planet.
I go, it's perfect. It's an awareness. The stamp's working.
And they sent their whole crew out.
There's the audio people, the video people, the producer, again the animal control officer, all for this one little grey shelter cat, Willow.
And Willow was like, okay, I've been through this twice before, I'll do it again.
And so that's Willow and me in the studio with the whole gang.
Now the third story I'd like to tell you actually is about creating an icon.
I think that these work well is icons.
These of course as you know are all the shelter pets and there were many rejected ones.
The postage stamp is a minimal design space, it has to read at a glance, it has to get the message across.
Oh, and I also forgot here we are at the first day issue of the Pioneers of American Industrial Design.
I think these are great icons.
I think they come across clearly.
That's Derry Noice on the right. She's the art director.
Margaret Bauer who was the designer of the stamps and me.
I only photographed four of them.
I feel these are also great icons, the telephone which I shot, the snowman, the weather vanes.
And in closing, I would like to read to you, a letter to the editor, my cousin sent to me.
And he says, this is from the Bellevue News-Democrat in Bellevue, Illinois, and he says, I can't say I care much for those new stamps that have a rooster with a stick through it, or a man horse with a bow on a stick.
What in the world do they depict? Thank you very much.
Thank you. Isn't it fun to learn all of the back stories about the stamps? Thank you.
Okay just anybody have any questions? No questions? Yes, sir? [Unintelligible] Okay, first of all, ask Kam.
Kam, do you have any background about the cut paper from the previous issue of the...
Yep. Kam, please come up here.
As Ethel Kessler shared with me, it was a conscious designed decision to reuse, utilize the previous series as the decorative element because we want to make sure that the animals do appear on the stamp.
So, that was a design decision from her.
I'd be happy to. I'm not exactly sure the question.
I know there is a lot of controversy.
I see the comments on the blogs.
People who don't care for them, or do.
Is there a specific aspect you'd like me to comment on? Right. Well part of the decisions came from the production limitations that we were, some of the production limitations that we were given.
And that, we, it's a competitive bid process.
The stamps go to whoever wins the bid in the postal service.
So there were certain things that we were limited to doing.
And at the time, the folks at the USPS liked this particular direction and encouraged us to move forward to turning it into a full series.
I can't tell you exactly why they decided that but they were pretty happy with the direction.
Does that help you at all? Maybe the next time we get an engraved stamp we can do a full image or something.
Just speaking towards that particular stamp and as a member of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, when we saw the images for the first time, it was it was everybody went, wow! So I think it's one of those things that it's going to appeal to some people and not appeal to others.
Yes, yes, sir?
The only comment that I can make is...
Oh sure. I'm sorry, the question was, has the living people on stamps been discontinued? [Unintelligible] Okay, that was actually reported in Linn's.
The process of why we started talking about living people on stamps and why it ended.
And it was reported in Linn's that the Board of Governors, the US Postal Service Board of Governors asked that that not be done.
And so, for the time being anyway, it's on hold.
It came from the Board of Governors not the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee.
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee does not say these stamps will be issued it advises the Postmaster General of what to be issued and the Board of Governors said no, that we're not going to do that right now.
I know which side my bread is buttered on.
Yes, sir, and thank you for holding up the signs for us. Thank you.
They're saying he asked if Cheryl could hear him in the back first of all, and then he continued by saying, if I had looked at the full history of Dutch currency when considering the stamps that the stamp designs.
Now that was something that I had done.
One of the prior CSAC members Jessica Halfin who's no longer a member of CSAC had a large volume in her collection that chronicled lots of different forms of currency over the years including those earlier Dutch notes that you speak of.
Now oh, Dutch stamps. No I am familiar with those but I didn't reference them at all to the designer.
Ok, the question is, if you are going to submit a design if you are going to submit a request for a new stamp to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, are there guidelines for doing that? All of the information that you need is on the APS, sorry, the US Postal Service website.
And you'll get the information there's stuff that you need to know when you're submitting it.
So yeah, that's there.
Oh, the lighthouse stamps.
Yeah, Howard's lighthouse stamps have been very, very popular.
So thanks for buying them.
Well of course, we hope all of the stamps are popular.
The question was, when the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee is proposing new stamps do we take into consideration how popular the stamps will be? We hope that all stamps are popular.
But there are some subjects that generally are not popular.
The report that you heard about the The Simpsons stamps it was a little bit of a miss-connect there because those stamps actually sold very well they're just were too many of them left over at the end.
And and so they were popular stamps there were just too many printed.
And the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee has we don't make those determinations the Postal Service does that.
Do we take it into consideration? We try to make subjects that will appeal to a broad, broad audience.
And some of the things that we like to do our historical and that doesn't appeal so much.
The Civil War stamps, for example, are not as popular is the Disney stamps.
And that's just that's just the way popular culture is today.
But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't put historical images on stamps.
So does that answer your question? Okay. Thank you.
Are we, winding up this? Okay, we got one or two. Yes, Roger? [Unintelligible] Antonio, did you want to take that question? Am I correct in that the question is the time lag or what, the process.
Well, when I, for instance, when I mentioned the many stamps that I have worked on that doesn't mean that they've been killed.
That just means that there's a whole process from the beginning of when CSAC has recommended a subject to USPS, then it goes into what's called a bank of subjects that have been approved by CSAC.
Then the Postal Service takes a look at their program every year and tries to determine and allocate different numbers of stamps in different areas.
So we want to make sure we're representative, we have X subject represented or Y subject represented.
So then they get assigned to us.
If they are tied to a particular date that's coming up then we have a very defined schedule in which we have to make, we have to have final art eight months before that first day of issue in order for them to print them, distribute them, have them in every post office, arrange the first day ceremonies, things like that.
But for other subjects it varies and sometimes we'll design a stamp.
It'll be all done, it'll be approved, everybody loves it, but it gets pulled out of one year and left to fill in another gap in another year.
And that's, there's no rule.
There's no rhyme or even reason as to why that gets done.
It just gets done sometimes.
So I've have stamps that are designed now that are slated for 2018, I think to be released.
But, so, it varies.
Thank you. I think we're gonna have to draw it to the close.
Cheryl did you want to say something? Oh, okay.
First of all I'd like to thank you all for attending today.
I'd also like to thank the National Postal Museum staff for all the hard work that they do every day to make this such a great museum.
They deserve a round of applause.
There are several announcements that I have here.
First, immediately after this lecture the speakers will be having an autograph session right in front of the entrance to the exhibit Binding the Nation.
It is located behind you and to the left.
Please note that we ask you to limit the autographs to five per visit.
That means that you can get five and then go to the end of the line and get five more if you want.
You have to read between the lines sometimes.
Second, there is an activity table on the other end of the Atrium near the Customers and Communities exhibit which is straight back from here.
You can find out what the mail means to our Armed Forces and write cards to those currently serving.
That's something you might want to do.
Also there will be a reception in the Franklin Foyer behind the escalators.
As the lecture concludes please enjoy the refreshments as you mingle with the fellow lecture participants but do not bring food and drinks into the galleries here.
We also have National Postal Museum staff and members of the Council of Philatelists.
Hold up your hands so everybody can see who you are.
Wow, that's a lot.
Okay, so please feel free to strike up a conversation with them.
They love, they actually love to talk about stamps.
The museum Stamp Store, operated by the US Postal Service, is located adjacent to the museum gift shop which is right around the corner over here.
Here you can purchase stamps and get them autographed by today's speakers.
In addition to being able to purchase the stamps you can mail something from the Stamp Store.
It will be canceled with a special National Postal Museum cancellation that you can only get right here.
So in conclusion, let's all thank the organizing committee and the volunteers for setting up this lecture.
And we'd also like to thank a very special and heartfelt thanks to Don and Dave Sundman and their families for making this possible.
Thank you again.
Keep coming back to the museum.