Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Christmas letter

Dear Australia Post,

Re: Boring-slash-ugly Christmas 2012 Stamps

So, the thing is, I like stamps. 'Like' is a little bit of an understatement. I get pretty excited about beautiful stamps. I am sure I don't have to tell you why I find stamps so wonderful, but basically stamps encompass three delightful elements in miniature:
  • Design: check; 
  • History: Check; 
  • Functionality: Check.
You will notice that the first reason I like stamps is to do with the design. Stamps are aesthetically pleasing little items. And therein is the reason for this letter, and the crux of my beef with you:
                 What is with the ugly Christmas stamps?

To be fair, two of the five stamps are gorgeous. The other three are dreadful. These are the stamps I like:

They are beautiful. Images from a wool and silk tapestry at the Art Gallery of South Australia depicting the adoration of the Magi. Traditional, yes, but also elegant, rich and beautiful.

I understand that we live in a secular society and that there probably needs to be some "non-religious" offerings on the philatelic front.  I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is the fact that they are ugly stamps.


The naive style is supposed to reflect a child's excitement and wonder at Christmas time. So how come the stamps look like some cheap banner decorating a tacky shopping centre? Puke.

Naive style at Christmas can be done well. Unsuprisingly, those clever Scandinavian's have accomplished a sophisticated design, aesthetically appealing and containing a similar subject matter to our current stamps:

Aren't the Swedish parcels cute and interesting compared to the awful pressies depicted on our stamp? And check out the depiction of a parcel on this stamp from the Netherlands - simple but sweet:

Now I think these are Christmas stamps worth getting excited about. To be fair, my favourite of all are the tapestry stamps from our issue. But in terms of naive style, the Europeans have it. Perhaps something to aim for next year, Australia Post?

With sincere hopes that you enjoy constructive criticism,


PS. I am totally available should you wish to hire me. I am a historian, so could research your stamp issues. And as a bonus I could give you design advice: Helen's 'hot or not?' for stamps. You know, if you want.

*Images stolen from the Australia Post shop.  Should you wish to purchase the ugly stamps (although I would highly recommend the beautiful ones), check out this link.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Geology and gemstones: Sunday Stamps

The challenge this week on Viridian's Sunday Stamps was to share a stamp featuring something related to geology. I get pretty excited about rocks these days, so I thought this was quite a wonderful, broad topic. Australia has issued several stamps featuring Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), which is arguably the country's most famous geological marvel. A sandstone monolith, that turns red at dawn and dusk, Uluru is magnificent.

However, given the scope and possibilities for the theme 'geology' I was hoping that I could come up with something a little bit more exciting than the standard Uluru stamps. (That said, there is nothing 'standard' about Uluru itself. It is an awe-inspiring and magical place, and it deserves its iconic status.)

Anyhow, it turns out we don't celebrate rocks (or geology) enough in our stamps issues. I wanted to find a cool stamp with some sort of graphic representation of tectonic plates or volcanic eruptions, or something. But no. What I did find was opals and gemstones. Sort of cool, but not earth-moving, geological-time encapsulating, rock strata-depicting, mind-blowing cool. Just 'reasonably-pretty' kind of cool.

These stamps featuring the opals were issued in 1995 and were the first 'holographic' stamps issued by Australia Post. I was worried that opals wouldn't fit with the geological theme if they are minerals and not strictly speaking rocks, but it turns out they are actually classified as 'mineraloids.' And according to that most reliable source, Wikipedia, they can be found in the fissures of almost any rock.

My scientific education is sorely lacking, but from what I gather minerals are not rocks. Rocks are composed of minerals. So therefore it is fine to include opals in a post about geology, which in part is about rocks (but is not the study of rocks, because that is petrology).

Anyhow, moving right along. Opals are also Australia's national gemstone. The first time opals featured on a stamp was in 1973 when the 8c opal stamp was part of a definitive issue, which combined the bizarrely unrelated topics of 'gemstones and marine life'.

I haven't heard of chrysoprase before, but it looks a hell of a lot like Kryptonite, don't you think? Gemstones are basically pretty minerals. The earth is composed of rocks, which are composed of minerals; and whilst petrologists study rocks, and mineralogists study minerals, geologists study the earth. Minerals are cool, but volcanoes and tectonic plates are cooler. The end.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Lovely Letters

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I like purchasing things online, just so I get to look forward to a package in the mail. That's a little tragic, isn't it? Well, lately I haven't been such a postal lame-o.

Task #1, received. Cool Aloha stamps!
For the past few weeks I have been participating in a letter exchange organised by Kitty and Buck. The premise is simple: after signing up to the challenge you were matched with a partner and then every fortnight for eight weeks a letter-writing task would be set. Write four letters. Get four letters. Sounded pretty neat to me, so I signed up. I dutifully sent off my first three letters but hadn't received anything. And then this week they all turned up! Mail. What a simple and lovely pleasure.

Task #1, sent. Awesome letter-pressed aerogram by the Hungry Workshop.
Task # 1: Introduce yourself. Include a photo.
Well, my letter-writing partner is ladykayy and she sent me an awesome introductory letter.
It arrived on a rainy day though... so the letter got quite wet and a little warped.

Ladykayy sent me lots of photos of her home and neighbourhood, but also of Malta, a place clearly close to her heart. The photos she sent me turned really psychedelic after getting wet - don't they look wonderful? Like little mixed-media masterpieces!

I am not sure what I am going to do with these little piccies, but I feel like I should make some creative use of them, because they are so beautiful with their unintentional water-colour effect!

Task #2: Ask your partner 10 questions. Task #3: Send your partner a list of your 10 favourite things.
Task #2 and Task #3 both arrived together on Monday. Fun!

I love the Churchill stamp adorning Letter #2. I am surprised the postal staff didn't go postal when they saw a foreign stamp stuck on the envelope. The postal staff at my post office once went crazy when I was just trying to reuse a Swedish envelope.. they'd have a conniption if they saw a random foreign stamp on the envelope too!

The contents of ladykayy's letters were, true to the nature of challenge, quite lovely. One of the letters was written on sheet music! I liked that. The first letter had a packet of stamps in it! There was a postcard and stationary and stickers! (oh my!)

So thank-you Ladykayy for sending me some very lovely letters, and thank-you to Shell at Kitty and Buck for organising the exchange. It has been very fun. And I still have Task #4 to look forward to (so I don't have to resort to ebay just yet, to get my postal fix!).

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Year of the Blog

Hello friends and welcome to the 50th edition of I heart post!! Can you believe it? Thank you all so much for your continued support and readership - I have so much fun putting this little blog of mine together.

For this milestone edition of I heart post, I am showcasing some of my all-time, number-one, absolute-favourite stamps. Yes, I know strictly speaking I am not allowed to have multiple all-time, number-one absolute favourite stamps... but you know how it is - how could I possibly restrict myself to just one favourite?

This stunning set of stamps represent the twelve year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, with two stamps issued each year between 1992 and 2003. I purchased from a market stall in Beijing in 2004 and I love them. I have always wanted to somehow frame or display them, but I haven't worked out how yet. And I love looking at them as a whole collection so here they all are, together:

Aren't they beautiful? All reds and greens and blacks, with striking calligraphy and stylised creatures? I love how individually they are all very different, yet together they all work in harmony. Each year one stamp featured the Chinese character for the relevant zodiac sign, and the other stamp featured a graphic depiction of the relevant zodiac animal.  Unfortunately my scanner does not do them justice.

So, it may take me a decade to get these beautiful stamps into a frame and onto my wall... but at least I have now shared them all with you, so that they can be properly appreciated! And after all, that is what I set out to do with this blog in the first place - share my collection.

Thanks so much for tuning into another edition of I heart post. I didn't know how best to celebrate notching up 50 blog-entries, but I hope that these Chinese zodiac stamps have done the trick.

I would love to hear any feedback that casual readers and avid observers (Hi Mum and Dad!) may have about how I could make this blog better. I am planning a redesign soon, but would love to hear any suggestions relating to content that you, my lovely readers, may have (Too much archaeology? Not enough pretty pictures? Too many FDCs? Not enough history?).

I am also posting this blog entry as part of Viridian's Sunday Stamps, which I always enjoy participating in: thanks Viridian!  Happy Sunday everyone!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Happy Melbourne Cup Day!

Happy Melbourne Cup, everyone. I hope your horse won.

It was a public holiday here in Melbourne today, in honour of "the race that stops the nation". I don't have a tv (that is actually connected to an antenna) so I did not in fact watch the race - for perhaps the first time ever. I did have a lovely Tuesday (that felt like a Sunday) pottering about the house though. But just so the day doesn't entirely escape me... and to participate somewhat in the spirit of the Spring Racing Carnival, here are some horse stamps for your enjoyment (and mine):
The thing I especially like about this set of stamps issued in 2010 on the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup, is that the crowd shots in the background reflect the era of the respective champion horse. I think they are a very nice set of stamps.

Compare the above issue of 2010 to this 1978 release - which do you prefer?

I often prefer the retro-appeal of stamps from the 70s, but in this instance, I think  the more recent 2010 stamps win out for me. By a nose. (Boom boom).

And just to demonstrate that this country is completely nutso when it comes to horse racing (if you weren't already convinced) here is a third set of stamps dedicated to the "Champions of the Turf". It is my least favourite of the three issues and is from 2002. What do you think?

I have mixed feelings about horseracing, but boy do I love a public holiday! I also love horse names, and once lost $5 on "May the Horse be With You" because I thought it was possibly the best name EVER.

And with that (stamps - tick; topical subject matter relevant to the day- tick; borrowed Star Wars pun - tick) I am done. Night folks and thanks for stopping by!