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Essay

Stamp People

By Deborah Davidson

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Do you remember the days when there was a counter in every Japanese department store where stamp collectors could buy and sell postage stamps? What fun those days were! As a child, I often stopped at those counters on my way home from school. I would admire the stamps and imagine that I was taking a trip around the world.

I started collecting postage stamps when I was quite young. My father encouraged it as both a hobby and a smart investment. He received letters from all over the world. So our house was always full of interesting stamps. I believed that my stamp collection would be worth a fortune when I grew up.

For most of my life, I was only interested in colorful stamps of art or nature. I paid no attention to the "head stamps" — those little monochrome stamps with heads of national leaders or people from history. Head stamps bored me.

But that changed a few years ago, when I gave up my unrealistic dream of making a fortune from stamps. I decided to pick out the unused stamps from my collection and stick them on letters and packages that I mailed to friends and family.

As I did this, I began to pay more attention to head stamps. I searched online for the backgrounds of the stamps. And I learned that many of the people pictured in them had fascinating stories.

There was good reason these people were celebrated on postage stamps. Many of them shaped world history. Many of them left famous quotes that encouraged generations of people. Many of them enriched the arts, music, literature, science and diplomacy.

I was inspired to celebrate these heads in my own way. I repurposed used head stamps by making "Stamp People" postcard collages. I added exaggerated, slightly surreal bodies to the heads with colorful paper from old magazines. In the plain background of each card, I wrote words that suited the person in the stamp.

Making Stamp People is a great way to learn history. It is much more fun than memorizing names and dates from textbooks. This discovery is one of the best things that has happened to me this year.

At first I used the heads of famous people like Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Johann Sebastian Bach. When I ran out of familiar heads, I researched the heads that I did not recognize. This is how I learned about Hisoka Maejima, the Meiji Era founder of Japan Post; Mary Lyon, the American pioneer of women's education; and Marianne, France's symbol of freedom.

If you are curious, you can see my Stamp People on Instagram by searching for dosankodebbie.

スタンプ・ピープル

趣味で切手を集めていた筆者。肖像画の切手は地味だが、その人物の背景を調べると面白いという。最近は、そうした切手を使った「Stamp People」というコラージュ作品を作っている。

The Japan Times ST: November 10, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年12月1日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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