I've been hoarding stamps since I was eight. But these I found in DH's parent's basement: shoved into shoeboxe---tiny picture menageries belonging to one of their elderly friend's who had died and willed the contents of his house to them. Four boxes in all, many stamps are organized by type in small wax paper envelopes. Some are still attached to postcards or letters. I couldn't believe my luck.
One postcard of South African women standing wrapped in long white, red and yellow cloaks reads, "These are the people very near here. Most interesting country and my virst visit. Working hard but seeing a lot. Love Bill"
Another with a small cellophane package of sharp black lava crumbs from the Mauna Lao Volcano in Hawaii reads, "Now don't burn your fingers ha! ha! Having a grand time and a lovely place to stay here. Wish I had longer but must be off again. Hazel."
Since I first saw the brightly colored ornate stamp on an 'overseas' envelope addressed to my father when I was five, I was stricken with wanderlust and wonder. I could hardly fathom the places that spawned the exquisite tiny drawings of orchids or frogs, or the events that seemed noble enough to emblazon with the lithograph onto those tiny inch-by-one-inch squares.
History reveals itself on these small tokens of currency that send letters fluttering across the globe. Holiday greetings, inventions, political activism, endangered species. Everything, it seems, has been recorded for posterity on a stamp.
Growing up I pressed them under the glossy pages of a photo album, but now I keep them scattered. I use them in my art often when I'm seeking to capture a sense of the exotic or foreign. Or I use whole rows of the same stamp, repeating an image like Warhol in miniature. I know they might be worth something, but I have never been the type to preen over a collection. I keep my books dog-eared. I put flowers in antique vases, and I use these stamps.