Embroidery and postage stamps

Stamp from Taiwan, depicting embroidered Qing dynasty screen Stamp from Taiwan, depicting embroidered Qing dynasty screen TRC collection.

Depictions of famous people, moments of historical significance, well-known buildings and land marks often appear on postage stamps from around the world. Considerably rarer are stamps that depict textiles, especially embroidery. Some of these stamps are part of a series about folk art in general, others are deliberately dedicated to the subject.

The linkage between embroidery and postage stamps comes in two different forms. There are stamps that depict embroidery or embroidery being made and those, more surprisingly, that are actually made from embroidery. Both of these can be legal forms of postage stamps and can be used to send a letter, as opposed to the numerous embroidered badges and patches that imitate postage stamps.

Embroidery on stamps comes in various forms, such as the close-up of a piece of embroidery or an object made from embroidery, such a series of stamps from the Ukraine, which depict embroidered blouses for women. Embroidery is often used to illustrate part of a nation’s artisan and cultural heritage. Numerous countries have produced such stamps, including, Algeria, Bangladesh (1973), Croatia (2008), Cyprus (1971 and 2011), Iceland (2008), Moldovia (2006), Portugal (1969 and 2011), Singapore (2008), and Ukraine (1992). Austria, for example, produced a stamp with a rose worked in a very fine petit point, a technique that is particularly associated with Viennese, urban society (2010). A more recent example is a series of stamps from Taiwan, which depicts a Qing period curtain now housed in the National Museum of History, Taipei (2013). The curtain is decorated with embroidery showing flowers and birds, against a background of rich red silk with more flowers, birds, grass, trees, clouds, rocks and other delicately embroidered motifs. It is regarded, according to the accompanying text, as one of the Qing Dynasty's greatest pieces of embroidered art.

Occasionally there are depictions of women making embroidery, such as in a Tunisian stamp (1955) that shows three women working at an embroidery frame. Similarly, there is French stamp that has a woman at work over her embroidery hoop. There is also a more oblique reference in another French stamp that is dedicated to the Chambre de Métiers et de l' artisanat 1931-1971 (1971) for the Promotion de l’Artisanat, which just shows the hands of someone embroidering.

Embroidery is also associated with Christmas stamps, for example, there is a British series of four stamps that depict images of medieval embroidery (1976). And in 1979 the Liechtenstein post office produced a series of three stamps depicting embroidery by the graphic and textile designer Ferdinand Nigg (1865-1949), who was born in Liechtenstein. These embroideries were worked in various forms of cross stitch and represent nativity scenes in different styles.

In November 2015 the TRC held a mini-exhibition about the machine embroidered postcards (the so-called silk postcards) made during the First World War (1914-1918) for troops to send home to their families and friends. On the 18 March 2015, the British Post Office brought out a special series of stamps relating to the Post Office Rifles, who were first sent to France to fight in the war exactly 100 years earlier, in March 1915. One of the images included in the series of stamps was part of a silk postcard with the name of the Post Office Rifles machine embroidered onto it.

A more unusual form of postage stamp are those that have actually been embroidered (rather than a photograph of an embroidery) and which have a self-adhesive coating on the back of the stamp to enable it to be stuck to an envelope. This type of stamp is made on large embroidery machines, the modern equivalent to the 'hand embroidery machine' used to make the silk postcards. This machine was developed in Switzerland in the first half of the 19th centary and in particular in the Swiss town of St. Gallen, a place which developed an international reputation for machine embroidery. It is fitting, therefore, that the first embroidered stamp celebrated the St. Gallen embroidery industry. It appeared on the 21st June 2000 and was issued by the Swiss postal service. The embroidery was made on the Saurer Pentamat 2040 embroidery machine. This stamp was followed by various stamps from Italy (2004) that featured lace, and Austria (2005) with machine embroidered alpine flowers including an edelweiss. In 2009 Singapore produced an embroidered stamp featuring a Pigeon Orchid (Dendrobium crumenatum), a small white flower that vaguely looks like a flying bird. More recently the Federated States of Micronesia issued an embroidered dragon stamp to commemorate the Chinese New Year (2011). There is even an embroidered stamp featuring a teddy bear from Sierra Leone (2003).


Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 17:34