New Year Starts with Familiar Faces
The new year of 2022 began with a lot of familiarity among new stamps from the U.S. Postal Service, though one of the new postage stamps could send some collectors scurrying to find all of its varieties.
There are predecessors for all the stamps issued in January. New stamps were issued in the low-value definitive Fruits series; a new stamp featuring the U.S. flag; two new Love stamps; the 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series; and the third installment in the latest Lunar New Year series. A stamp showing blueberries carries a 4¢ denomination while all of the others are first-class domestic mail stamps, which carry the current rate of 58 cents. All are pressure sensitive (self-stick).
Figure 1. For purchasing information and technical details on the Blueberries stamp, click here.
Blueberries – a culinary workhorse found in pies, cobblers, muffins and pancakes, smoothies, salads and on breakfast cereal – appear on a new 4¢ stamp in the Fruits definitive series.
The stamp (Figure 1) was formally issued January 9 in Blue Hill, Maine. The wild blueberry is Maine’s official state berry and wild blueberry pie the state dessert.
The stamps come in two formats – panes of 20 and coils of 3,000 and 10,000. Those long coils are often used by bulk mailers to provide additional postage as needed. The plate number on the coil stamps will appear below the stamp image every 27th stamp.
The stamp features John Burgoyne’s pen, ink and watercolor illustration of a cluster of blueberries and leaves. The denomination is at the top left and “USA” is at the bottom right. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.
Burgoyne’s artwork has appeared on several U.S stamps, most recently the 2021 Otters in the Snow block of four. The Fruits series – all featuring Burgoyne’s artwork – was launched in 2016 with the 10¢ Red Pears stamp and also includes the 5¢ Pinot Noir Grapes, 3¢ Strawberries and the 1¢ Albemarle Pippin Apples.
U.S. Flags 2022
Figure 2. New U.S. Flags booklets created by two different printers are identified by different plate letters in the margins. The “B” is from Banknote Corp. of America; the “P” is from Ashton Potter Ltd. Also, part of a coil strip with a B plate number, showing it was printed by Banknote Corp. of America. For purchasing information and technical details on the U.S. Flags 2022 stamp, click here.
The U.S. Flags 2022 stamp shows a trio of flags – well, sort of – and has multiple varieties, which I will explain below.
First, let’s look at the design (Figure 2). It’s a wonderfully realistic artwork presenting our nation’s colors. The image comes from a painting of three flags flying in a circular formation, reminiscent of the 50 flags encircling the Washington Monument.
However, the flags shown on the painting are actually the same flag. The artist used three photographs of the same flag taken seconds apart, the Postal Service explained in a news release. The artist – Laura Stutzman, of West Virginia – used the snapshots as a reference and stitched together the images into a single composition. Ethel Kessler was the art director.
Stutzman used photos that she took to create variations of the same ideas, and when the three-flag concept was chosen by the USPS, she used an enlarger to draw the composition on the board and then painted it, referring to the photos for details, the newspaper explained. The flags were painted traditionally, with gouache on a gessoed cold-press illustration board. The actual painting is 4.625 inches by 6.5 inches, roughly four-and-a-half times the printed size, the newspaper said.
The stamp was formally issued January 9 in Findlay, Ohio, officially known as Flag City.
Now come the somewhat complex details for those who enjoy varieties.
The stamp comes in three basic formats (see Figure 2): a pane of 20, a double-sided pane of 20 (booklet) and as a coil in rolls of 100, 3,000 and 10,000. The stamp was printed by two printers – Ashton Potter and Banknote Corporation of America. Each printer created a double-sided pane and a coil of 100. BCA printed the pane and the long coils.
The plate numbers on the new coil stamps will appear on every 31st stamp in coils of 100 and every 27th stamp in coils of 3,000 and 10,000. Also, stamps printed by Ashton Potter carry a prefix of “P” as part of the plate number, while stamps from Banknote Corporation of America have a “B” as a prefix.
The U.S. Postal Service said it will assign different order numbers to each printer for a year: 683602, BCA booklet; 683604, AP booklet; 740402, BCA coil of 100; and 740404, AP coil of 100. After that, the stock will be combined. You cannot order these specific items online; you must order through the mail (order form in quarterly USA Philatelic catalog) or by phone (800-782-6724).
I found there was no problem requesting the separate booklets. Receiving a plate number from a coil strip is a different matter. You can receive a partial coil of 25, but there’s no guarantee that you will receive a stamp with a plate number in that group. My coil of 25 from Banknote Corp. arrived and I found the plate number linked to the very last stamp on the right side; not ideal if you want that plate number in the center of three or five stamps, but at least I got one. To assure yourself a coil plate number and in a spot in which you want to collect it, the best bet is to buy a full coil, which would be $58 for a coil of 100.
Figure 3. Two new Love stamps are printed side-by-side on panes of 20. For purchasing information and technical details on the 2022 Love stamps, click here.
Two new stamps issued a month before Valentine’s Day celebrate the joy of love through flowers. The pressure sensitive (self-stick) stamps, created in panes of 20, were issued January 14 at Masonic Lodge 41 in Romeo, Michigan (Figure 3).
Inspired by old European folk art, the stamps feature digital illustrations with similar designs: three round, stylized blooms ranging symmetrically along the top, with smaller round blossoms in each of the lower corners. The background color of one stamp is powder blue, and the other is coral. Twisting vines, which hold small multi-petaled flowers, form abstract heart shapes.
The letters of the word “LOVE” are interspersed among the decorative vines. Artist Bailey Sullivan designed the stamps and created the original art. Greg Breeding was the art director. This is the same team that brought us the 2021 Love stamp. The run of 150 million stamps was printed by Banknote Corporation of America using an Alprinta 74 press.
This year’s Love stamp is the 55th face-different stamp in the series and it is the 19th straight year the Postal Service has issued a Love stamp. The Love stamp is often issued as a single design, though 2022 marks the 12th time the release has included two or more stamps.
Following is an email interview with Bailey Sullivan:
Was the idea to have two Love stamps in successive years?
That was a (really surprising) evolution. I was hired to just create one (stamp), but in the process of pitching different concepts for the 2021 Love stamp, the selection committee liked this year’s floral design, as well, and asked if they could buy that one in case they ever wanted to use it in the future. I thought it probably wouldn’t ever get used, especially since my other design came out last year, so I was absolutely thrilled when I found out it was actually going to be released.
The USPS news release indicates the designs are based on European folk art. Were you inspired by any particular country of origin?
I’m inspired by old art from many countries but one of my earliest inspirations is Hungarian folk art. My husband’s family moved to Hungary for work for a few years when he was young. One Christmas, I had been doing some research to find him a gift from the region. I totally fell in love with all of the imagery of florals on buildings and embroidery and whatnot, and it’s kind of stuck around in the back of my mind for many years now. But I get inspiration from lots of places, one of my favorites being the Met in New York. I love looking at the handiwork in old, embroidered rugs from all over the world and bringing some of that into my work.
Can you tell us a little something about how you chose these colors? Which came first, the design or the colors?
The design came first. My process to pick a color palette is a bit chaotic. I’ll create an Illustrator file and have 10 to 20 duplicates of the same design and then go wild changing out different color combinations on each one until I feel like I’ve found one that fits the spirit of the design. It can be hard for me to narrow down so thankfully Greg was able to use his editing eye to choose what he felt made most sense for the project.
I find that these designs stand on their own, but together they tell quite a broader story. Can you share any part of your thought process for this pair?
I actually didn’t conceive these as a pair. Sometimes when I’m pitching rough work I’ll show several iterations of the same design, so I really considered the two to be just different versions of one design, even though they’re a bit different. It was Greg that had the idea to mix them together on the same sheet, which is why I absolutely loved working with him. He’s got such a knack for taking the work to the next level and I’m so grateful to have worked with someone with such a great vision.
Year of the Tiger
Figure 4. The new Lunar New Year stamp honors The Year of the Tiger. For purchasing information and technical details on the 2022 Lunar New Year Tiger stamp, click here.
OK, everyone, put on your latest roar – it’s the year of the tiger. The U.S. Postal Service has marked this year with the third stamp in its latest Lunar New Year series.
The Year of the Tiger stamp (Figure 4) was issued January 20 in New York City and is again available in panes of 20. A free, public first day ceremony was planned for the Peter Norton Symphony Space on Broadway.
This is the third stamp in the series, which tells the story of the Zodiac and the Lunar Year, celebrated by many of Asian heritage, including Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese. Like the previous two stamps in the series (Ox in 2021; Rat in 2020), the stamp features original artwork by Camille Chew, of Providence, Rhode Island. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.
Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon or lion dances often performed in Lunar New Year parades, the three-dimensional mask depicting a tiger is a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this auspicious time of year, according to the Postal Service. Alcalá used photographs of the mask to create the stamp.
The tiger mask design incorporates colors and patterns symbolic to the holiday. The stamp is printed in six colors, plus gold and purple foil, which add a celebratory, shimmering look. The stamps are printed by Banknote Corporation of America using offset, foil stamping, flexographic and microprinting technology.
The first U.S. Lunar New Year series began with a 29¢ Year of the Rooster stamp issued December 30, 1992. That stamp as well as all the others in the series were designed by Clarence Lee. The series ended with a 37¢ Year of the Monkey stamp issued January 13, 2004. The Postal Service released a pane featuring all 12 of Lee’s designs in both 2005 (37¢ stamps) and 2006 (39¢ stamps). After skipping a year, the Postal Service started a new Lunar New Year series in January 2008 with a Year of the Rat stamp designed by Ethel Kessler, with artwork by Kam Mak. Eleven more Mak-and-Kessler designs followed.
Edmonia Lewis – Black Heritage
Figure 5. Sculptor Edmonia Lewis is the 2022 subject in the Black Heritage series. For purchasing information and technical details on the 2022 Black Heritage Edmonia Lewis stamp, click here.
Artist Edmonia Lewis – a sculptor known as the first African American and Native American in her field to achieve international critical and popular success – appears on the 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series (Figure 5).
The stamp, printed in panes of 20, was officially released January 26 in a first day ceremony at the Smithsonian National Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Edmonia Lewis on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans, a biographical dictionary. It’s no surprise that the list includes several other individuals honored in the Postal Service’s Black Heritage series.
The stamp art is a casein paint-on-wood portrait based on a photograph of Lewis by Augustus Marshall made in Boston between 1864 and 1871 (Figure 6). Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp with original art by Alex Bostic.
Lewis (c. 1844-1907) was born in what was then called Greenbush, New York, and later divided into East Greenbush and Rensselaer, which are on the east side of the Hudson River opposite Albany. Her mother, identified by biographers as Catherine Mike Lewis, was half Ojibwe. Edmonia was given the Native name of Wildfire.
After somewhat tumultuous schooling in New York and Ohio, Lewis moved to Boston, where she had abolitionist supporters. There, three male sculptors refused to train her before she was taken in by Edward Augustus Brackett (1818-1908), who specialized in busts. By 1864, she had sold her first sculpture – a woman’s hand – for $8 and moved into her own studio.
Figure 6. Edmonia Lewis poses for a photo taken by Augustus Marshall in Boston, c. 1864-1871. (Image courtesy of Library of Congress.)
Lewis was inspired by abolitionists and Civil War heroes, such as Col. Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded an all-Black regiment from Massachusetts. She created a bust in Shaw’s likeness, which the family purchased, and plaster-cast reproductions. The money earned from such projects funded her move to Rome in 1866.
In Rome, her studio became a must-see attraction for American tourists, the Postal Service said. Lewis’ work incorporated African American themes, including the celebration of newly won freedoms, and sensitively depicted her Native American heritage as peaceful and dignified.
A convert to Roman Catholicism, Lewis also received several religious commissions. The work she produced during her prolific career evokes the complexity of her social identity and reflects the passion and independence of her artistic vision.
Among her work was “Cleopatra,” a marble piece about 5 feet wide and 4 feet high (Figure 7). It was first publicly shown in 1876 at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where “critics raved that it was the most impressive American sculpture in the show,” according to the Smithsonian. This, despite the work’s realism for which it also was reviled, the museum said.
“Lewis showed the queen’s death ... realistically, after the asp’s venom had taken hold — an attribute viewed as ‘ghastly’ and ‘absolutely repellant’ in its day,” said the Smithsonian, quoting Great American Sculpture by William J. Clark.
The story of the artist is complex and fascinating and I urge readers to track down more information for a clearer story about her life and work.
Figure 7. “The Death of Cleopatra” is considered Edmonia Lewis’ masterpiece. The Smithsonian American Art Museum owns the largest collection of works by Lewis in the world. (Images courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)
Bostic (www.alexbostic.com), the stamp’s artist, is a nationally award-winning realist painter and an associate professor of fine arts at Mississippi State University. He answered some questions for us via email.
I think this is your first U.S. stamp. Have you done stamps for anyone else?
This is my first stamp for the U.S., but I’ve done other stamps for Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation in New York. I did around four or five stamps for them.
I know a lot of times that the artist must make the image no larger than a certain size. Was that the case here?
It was small for a painting but all but one of my casein paintings are small so it was fun.
Was there a particular mood you were trying to bring to the image?
I was trying to have a period mood to the art and I think that’s why I used Casein. I thought it was the right medium for the time period.
Before that, you were more of an illustrator, is that right? I assume you had commercial clients – any artwork out there we would recognize?
I’m still doing some illustrations like the stamp. I just finished a children’s book to come out in May called Free at Last, a poem about Juneteenth by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle.