By Sharon F. Cramer
Postage stamps. Like silverware, windows or door knobs, you may consider stamps to be purely functional, even annoying, though required to get letters from here to there. But stamps are so much more. For me, they are accessories – superb ways to individualize and amplify the message I want to send.
Stamps – jewelry for envelopes. Stamps are unexpected bursts of color and design. In 2010, the “Pioneers of American Industrial Design” stamps honored individuals who cleverly married design to improvement of our daily lives (clocks, lamps, kitchen appliances). When I sent my sister a letter on our father’s birthday that year, I used the stamp featuring Dave Chapman’s sleek sewing machines – Dad’s upholstery shop had the very same machines.
The 2011 “Modern Art in America” series prompted me to select the right work of art for birthday cards. Although “Celebrate!” stamps – with color and confetti – are uplifting, my art stamps gave my friends a learning opportunity (with details about the art and the artist included on the backing, which I cut out and taped to the back of the letter).
In 2012, friends could almost hear the music – stamps showed Miles Davis and Edith Piaf. Everyone loved the workers on the “Building a Nation” stamps, featuring photographs by Lewis Hine, who captured inspiring, dangerous work on tracks and bridges.
Stamps invite people to imagine. In 2014, the stamps based on vintage circus posters help us glimpse how generations ago, people were enticed to the big top. Acrobats, tigers, elephants and clowns promised an escape from boredom. Now that Barnum and Bailey’s circus is no more, we must use our imaginations to enter the circus world, and what better way than through stamps? The 2014 “Celebrity Chefs” series teased us with flavors, aromas. Julia Child and James Beard smiled at us from their stamps, teasing us to imagine listening to their secrets.
That year, I visited a restaurant at Middleton Place, a former plantation outside Charleston, S.C. The menu was based on the recipes of Edna Lewis, one of the chefs featured in the series. No one at the restaurant knew she had been so honored – so when I sent a thank you letter to them, her stamp was attached.
Stamps are playful. Pets, Batman, Star Trek, Wonder Woman and Harry Potter stamps brighten the mailboxes of my friends. The “Soda Fountain” series gives them ice cream specials – banana splits, “brown cows,” cones with two scoops and hot fudge sundaes – with no calories. Get in a truck and visit national parks – you can do it through stamps.
In sending letters on sad occasions, I choose my words on the card carefully, summoning up specific memories of the person who has died, which I hope will be comforting. The right stamp is needed, so I am sure to keep on hand ones for messages of sorrow – the “Views of our Planets” series, departed heroes, presidents, birds and flowers all match the message on my cards.
You never know where a stamp will take you or how it may give you pause for reflection. At USPS.com, you can find many more stamps than you see at the local post offices, and search out your favorites by themes, like history, love/wedding, nature or patriotic.
When I found the 2015 “Repeal of the Stamp Act, 1766” stamp, commemorating the overturning of the British Parliament’s 1765 famous Stamp Act, I smiled. Seeing “Stamp” on a stamp reminded me of the immense pleasures offered by bedazzling envelopes with stamps, for both senders and receivers.