Sunday, 27 May 2012

Post from and for Grandpa Jeff: Sunday Stamps.

This week Viridian at Sunday Stamps has chosen my all-time-number-one-favourite theme to feature for the week: Maps on Stamps. Given that the theme was my suggestion, I simply had to participate. But I haven't been near a scanner, and have had other things on my mind - so please forgive me if the photos are not quite up to scratch.

I have explained why I love maps on stamps in a previous blog entry, and have also included some lovely Norfolk Island map stamps on Sunday Stamps once before. In thinking about which map stamps I would share this week, the choice was blatantly obvious: it had to be the above two wonderful First Day Covers from my Grandpa Jeff.

This blog of mine is all about my stamp collection. But sometimes, as with all collections, it is not just the stamp itself that it is the important thing, but the origin of the stamp: how it came to be in my collection.
I collect maps on stamps because I love the aesthetic of map design, but also the intellectual side of thinking about how a physical reality of landscape or space is being conveyed in an image.
That is one aspect of these First Day Covers. They are exquisite in design and historically interesting.

However, the most important aspect of these First Day Covers, for me, is that they are from my wonderful Grandpa. He gave them to me about four weeks ago.  The postmark on the 'First Day Northwest Territory' Cover is July 18 1937. Grandpa would have been nearly 9 years old, so I guess they were originally collected by his father, Pa Bert.

This FDC is in memory of Virginia Dare in 1587, issued in 1937. The stamp features the baby and her parents, but the FDC design features a lovely map showing Roanoke Island. (Click to Enlarge).
FDC  comemmorating First Day Northwest Territory 1787(Click image to enlarge)
Grandpa passed away during the week, and I already miss him terribly. Small little things mean a great deal sometimes, and now these First Day Covers mean even more to me. Thankyou Grandpa Jeff, not just for the Covers, but for everything. Absolutely everything.

This has been an entry for Sunday Stamps. To check out other wonderful map stamps, and what other bloggers have to share on the theme, you can click on the button below:

RIP Jeffrey Desmond Kiddell. I love you to bits.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Famous Australian Women 1975

This weekend I am heading off to sunny Adelaide for a little sojourn to enjoy some wineries, enjoy some music (Florence and the machine!) and to hang out with a posse of awesome chicks. And speaking of awesome chicks, I thought I would share this beautiful issue celebrating Australian women from 1975 before I head out of town. 

I found this stamp series on my last little weekend away when we skipped off to the Great Ocean Road. I am excited about the treasures that might await me in markets around Adelaide. No doubt I will be blogging about them soon enough....

Even though I sometimes call myself a historian, I was not familiar with a couple of the women featured on these stamps, I am ashamed to say. So I looked them all up on the Australian Dictionary of Biography and found that all six were remarkable and inspiring women and leaders in their fields. I have included a line about each of them and a link to their ADB page, for good measure.

 Catherine Spence (1825-1910) and Henry Handel Richardson (1870-1946)
Catherine Spence was a suffragette and author, who, incidentally, was from Adelaide. Henry Handel Richardson is the author of 'The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney' which I bought a lovely second-hand copy of earlier this year... but it is still sitting in my 'to read' pile.

Constance Stone (1856 -1902) and Edith Cowan (1861-1932)

Constance Stone was a Doctor, educated overseas at a time when Melbourne University still did not allow women to enroll in medical degrees.  Edith Cowan, whose portrait will be familiar to most as it features on the $50 note, was the first woman elected to an Australian parliament, when in 1921 she was elected to Western Australia's Legislative Assembly.

Louisa Lawson (1848-1920) and Truganini (1812-1876)

Louisa Lawson was one of the women who I was not familiar with - from her surname I was expecting her to be Henry Lawson's wife, but in fact she was his mother. But more than that she founded a printing press and was a writer and women's rights activist.

Truganini's life story is enough to make your heart break. She is widely known for being Tasmania's 'last Aborigine' and despite her expressed wishes her body was put on public display in the Tasmanian Museum from 1904- 1947. A final insult.

Many of these women were suffragettes, agitating for women's rights and social reform. They are all quite inspiring - so I am so glad these stamps encouraged me to explore their lives a little! 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Austrian adventures in post

A souvenir stamp from the Republik Osterreich 
When I travel I like to pick up stamps as nice little souvenirs. Stamps can reflect so much of the place that you have just visited, and as a bonus, they don't take up any space in your backpack. Perfecto. A perfecto memento, you could say!

Mozart in Salzburg in 2006!
So when I was in Austria in 2006 I hunted down a little cavernous stamp shop, down a little cobbled street, (at least that's how I remember it). I had to buy the above Mozart first day cover, because my sister Emily and I had not been able to escape the presence of the great maestro during our stay in Salzburg. He was everywhere. On chocolate wrappers. In museums. On banners in the street. On post.

I also bought the above beautiful set of stamps from 1977 which depict St Stephen's Cathedral. The cathedral, which is a striking landmark in Vienna was unfortunately being restored while we were there, which meant it was partially obscured by scaffolding. You can't tell from the scans, but the stamps are quite large - appropriately imposing for such a grand cathedral. And the stamps let me appreciate the icon which I didn't quite get to appreciate while I was there, due to all the pesky scaffolding.

Pariser Postkonferenz 1863-1963. Paris Post Conference - my type of event, I should think.
Admittedly, some stamps I just bought because they appealed purely and simply for their aesthetic value. The Pariser Postkonferenz 1863-1963 doesn't represent anything of my stay in Austria, but it is one damn cool stamp. Check out the hats, for starters! And the mustard background. What a great image. The same goes for the commemorative stamps celebrating 50 years of the Republic. I like the crests that feature in the design, but more than that, the stamps are textured due to the printing process, so they look and FEEL pretty.

I also bought two stamps that feature the art work of Gustav Klimt. These stamps represent something of my holiday, because we visited art galleries in Vienna and saw some of Klimt's work (which I love love love) - but being miniature works of art themselves, they also tick the aesthetic box.

'Hygieia' from Klimt's 'Medicine' ceiling painting for the University of Vienna 
Detail from 'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt
My favourite Austrian stamp, though, is not actually in my collection. I sourced it on ebay, but then gave it away as a gift (post makes brilliant gifts, I think). The stamp depicts the sculptor Anton Hanak, who was a contemporary of Klimt. I used the stamp as an illustration in a research project for my Masters, which was last year published into a lovely little book by the Duldig Studio.

Hanak was the teacher and mentor to two young sculptors in Vienna, Karl and Slawa Duldig, whose home in Melbourne is now a house museum. Hanak is not very well known in Australia, but this stamp shows that he was acclaimed enough to warrant a stamp from his homeland, and thus the stamp made it into the book.

So how about that... without even being totally conscious of it, I managed to wrangle some post into my first book!* That is how much I love stamps and post!

And if I ever get the chance to return to Austria, now that I have read so much about Hanak, I will certainly be seeking out his sculptures. And right after I do that, I will be seeking out a little stamp shop down a little cobbled street, just to see what other treasures I might find...

(*And if anyone is interested in the book... it's a super great read about art and history and Melbourne and Vienna and so much more, and it is available for $25 from the Duldig Studio, or email me at helenheartspost (at) and I will organise a copy for you!)

Monday, 14 May 2012

My first ever Turkish Post. Thanks Will!

Just thought I would do a mini-Monday night post to say thank-you to the lovely William, who obviously didn't send out as many postcards as he anticipated on his last trip to Turkey, as he had these absolutely beautiful stamps left over. So he emptied out his wallet the other day at work and gave me them to me!
Woo hoo!

I have never been to Turkey, but it is definitely on my bucket list. I love that the stamp looks like it could almost be an image from a medieval manuscript. As Jen at work commented, it almost looks like a map. It is my only Turkish stamp, and I love it.

The above is a picture of Tunceli I ripped off the internet. I think the stamp is a good representation!

When Will returned from his recent overseas trip he also had a British stamp left over, which is very timely as it depicts the logo for the London Olympics.

You wouldn't believe it of a stamp nerd, but I am a bit slow on the sports up-take.. so I hadn't even seen the logo before (I got told off on the weekend for calling a hockey ball a puck: "that's ice-hockey, Helen." Whoops. Sports are not my thing.)

I didn't realise that the logo was sort of supposed to be an abstract representation of the date, 2012, until I just googled it. I didn't see the date, but I did see the blow job when Will told me that is how the peeps on the street are interpreting it. Who said stamp collecting wasn't risque?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Queen, Clunes and a Coronation Collection

This weekend my friend Jaz and I took a road trip to a small town in the Central Victorian goldfields district to check out the Clunes Booktown bookfair, which proved to be a very fun day out for a nerd like me. There was a veritable bonanza of second-hand books on offer, in the setting of a beautiful old town that has a streetscape barely changed since the gold-rush era. Joy.

I am not sure whether it was because I wrote about Royal Kitsch last week, and it was therefore in the forefront of my mind, or whether it was because I knew I wanted to share some coronation first day covers with you, my lovely blog readers; but either way, somehow I came home from Clunes with not one, or even two, but three books on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Whoops.

The end papers of the books are my favourite thing! They are so decorative! And one of them is even a map! There is so much to get excited about when the books are "colourgravure publications". These books are a techni-colour dream!

I must admit that I purchased many more items other than these coronation books (the temptations were great), and although these books aren't strictly speaking 'post', I love them and couldn't resist sharing them.  I do love a bit of "show and tell". And it was such a fantastic day, that I wanted to share something of that experience too. Next year I think we might have to spend the whole weekend at Clunes Booktown - one day wasn't enough.

And now to the post connection. The weekend before last Grandpa Jeff and Grandma Isobel gave me some more of Pa Bert's first day covers. Some of the most stand-out are the Qantas FDCs celebrating the Queen's Coronation. I now have eight of them - all from different colonies.

The details on these FDCs are so exquisite, that this blog doesn't do them justice. I think the design has been letter-pressed and the texture and feel of the old paper and print is special. Not to mention, the regal gold and red is just lovely.

The FDC from New Zealand has a really fantastic postmark on the front,  while the issue from Ceylon has all the stamps on the reverse of the envelope.

The Malayan FDC is beautiful, and covered with stamps on the front and back:

All of the FDCs are sealed, but some of them feel like they have cardboard in them - and a couple of them might have a pamphlet in them. But I am too afraid to open them to find out!

So somehow, now I have a collection of coronation books as well as a collection of coronation first day covers, and a collection of coronation stamps. Is there a word for a collection of collections?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sunday Stamps: Mexico

This large sheet of stamps was a gift from my youngest sister Ferret, who spent the greater part of last year backpacking around the world. She spent six months in Mexico, where she was studying a semester, and she picked up this beautiful stamp sheet for me.

She likes to tell me how much she loves me, by reminding me of the stamp sheet she lugged halfway around the world for me. "Helen - it was RAINING, and I kept those stamps dry. I didn't squish them in my backpack... but I carried them all through Mexico and Europe JUST FOR YOU." (She sometimes adds slightly more colourful language into the mix though.)**

So, thankyou, Eleanor: the stamps are beautiful. These are the only Mexican stamps in my collection, and they are a bit of a mystery to me. I guess they are Cinderella stamps - not postage stamps, given that there is no value amount on them. But I don't know what they would have been used for. As souvenirs? As tourism promotion? That would be my best guess.

Some of the images appear more than once on the sheet, but they are not in order - as in the duplicated images do not appear next to the same image more than once. And I have no idea how old they are, either. I am guessing mid-twentieth century? But who knows? Maybe they are new, but made to look vintage? If anyone can shed any light on them, that would be most appreciated.

Oaxaca sounds incredibly exotic to me, and the images seem to portray a quite spectacular, rustic and interesting place. So if their purpose is to lure tourists... well, I think they are working on me.


**Actually - correction - Ferret (quote) "hauled ass through Mexico in wet season; none of this 'through the rain BS' "(end quote). (Actually to be perfectly honest, ferret would never say BS - she is much more explicit than that, but I feel I should try and keep this blog clean.)  :) 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Royal kitsch

Pieta, William and Clancy, Feb 2003
Eleanor Ferret (my youngest sister) gave me the above birthday card a couple of weeks ago and it is the inspiration for this post. She knows me very well, because this is about the best birthday card ever. So cheesy, so kitsch, so wrong - yet so right.

I have been a fan of Wills since I bought a calendar featuring ridiculous (read: very serious) portrait shots of him, circa 2002. It was total hipster irony before hipsters were even hipsters, let alone before they were ironic.

Ted, Wills and Sandy dining
al fresco under the hills hoist in
the backyard of 36B
That year Wills attended a party with me - it was a dress up party and you had to go as what you wanted to be in the future. I went as HRH Helen, with Wills (plucked from my calendar) as my beau.

He was then added to our dinner invite list - and these are a couple of photos of him enjoying a party in the good-old-days of "36B": our student share-house in Carnegie. The thoughtful person who hung William out to dry also put up a sign: "I shall NEVER marry a lady by the name of HELEN". At least my funny friends thought I was a lady. But how about that - they were right about him not marrying one.

In actual fact, my love of royal kitsch reaches beyond my student days - well beyond.

These Will stamps from my Mum and are from the same era as the calendar
I still remember that in my baby album there was a 50c commemorative coin from Charlie and Di's engagement. It always fascinated me when I was younger and flicking through the album. That little piece of royal kitsch was gifted to me as a baby just because the royal couple happened to marry in the year I was born - and it has had a lasting impact.

So, of course, within my stamp collection, which reflects so much about my life, there is a sub-section for royal kitsch.  But it is not just William who captures my imagination - the whole fairy tale turned nightmare of Charles and Diana mesmerises me - just like a train wreck might. What strange lives these royals must lead. And at this point I should probably disclose that I am a republican. So - see - this royal kitsch thing is 50% hipster irony, 50% actual delight.

The British stamp pack for Charlie and Di's Royal Wedding is brilliant. The photos are gorgeous. Diana is beautiful and oh, so young. This is the fairy tale stage. (And I love a fairy tale.)

The back of the stamp pack half opened out. And Diana in a sailor suit! Ah! The 80s!
The Australian stamp pack celebrating the wedding is a tad boring by comparison:

My collection is incomplete (aren't all collections); I still need to get the Wills and Kate stamp from their actual wedding. Although that still might be on my shopping list, very importantly I do have the William and Katherine paper dolls set, so I can cut out costumes and dress up the royal pair anytime I want. Ah - the simple pleasures in life!