Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Early Artistamp History

Like many people who get into making artistamps my first encounter with the wonderful world of stamps started as a kid reading the ads in the comics I would buy. I ordered some with my allowance and used to enjoy looking at them. I even traded with the other neighborhood kids at times. I didn’t know what to do with them though and no one in my family knew either so it seemed.

Later in the 60’s as an adult I married the son of Frederick William Doolittle, Jr. who did know about stamps. An ardent stamp collector, specializing in U.S. Parcel Post and Tobago collections, my past father in-law won numerous medals in international competitions. He published many articles and lectured on the subject. He served as president and librarian of the Baltimore Philatelic Society, one of the oldest in the United States and host to many annual conventions and meetings for United States and international organizations.

He thought I was humoring him when I showed an interest in his collection. The one thing I wondered about was who made the stamps and how. He thought it was a bit of a fantasy when I said I would one day make some of my own.

“What could you use them for?” he asked one day.

“I didn’t know, perhaps showing them as framed art.”

So these were the seeds that would sprout into a full blown obsession, at times it seems, to make my own artistamps. One day in the 70’s I encountered an ad in a catalog that offered, for a small fee, to turn a photograph into stamps. They had gummed backs and could be used to decorate gift wrapping, envelops, stationary, scrapbook pages or anything you could imagine. They came in sheets of multiples. So it went to the photobooth and sent in a photo from the strip. I used the resulting stamps in one-of-a-kind pieces and for my mail art.

Then in 79 I began to organize the Copy Art Exhibition. Artists from all over the world sent in art made with copy machines including sheets of artistamps, mostly using the color copier but some in black and white, with fictitious countries, made up names and elaborate stories to go with them. This is when I started using Gina Lotta Post with my artistamps.

At that time there were only two other women I knew of who were making artistamps.  However with the men there were many more participants. With some of the men there was a lot of jockeying for power based on unwritten rules of who did what, when, including elaborations on or even out rate inventions of dates. Stories ran rampant, and generally operated upon what I call the rule of firsts was commonplace. The rule of firsts was a game of who left the starting gate first or who had the most issues or who did something first, much like guys returning from a fishing trip. This determined the pecking order in a small circle for quite awhile.

Being a woman, unless I had made artistamps back when women still suckled children in the cave, there was very little respect nor mention of my work and accomplishments in the field. When I asked one artist why he never mentioned me in his writings about the history of artistamps, his answer was - I needed him more than he needed me. This was after we had traded several full sheets and he’d made three different portraits of me for his own editions.

People ask why I stopped for about 18 years from participating in the mail art and artistamp networks. By the end of the 80s I’d observed elaborate kill the competition behaviors amonst several of the participants. I didn’t want to be around this energy anymore. Only a handful of people were spoiling my fun in a very competitive environment but I retired from the scene as I needed the time for my spiritual pursuits. I continued to make artistamps and did a lot of photography during this time, traveling when possible, running a consulting firm and most importantly getting my spiritual life on track. This was all before the artistamp museums, Artistamp Mailing List and IUOMA existed. Now I sell my work to collectors and institutions while actively trade with other artistampers.

If you want to know more about artistamps check my blog Gina Lotta Post Artistamp Museum blog,  the Wikipedia page or Google the other resources mentioned here.

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