Crafty stamp designs 
signal impending holiday

Canada Post has turned to Christmas crafts for the 2014 secular issue of holiday stamps.
The three stamps, in 65-cent domestic, $1.10 United States (U.S.), and $1.85 international rates, employ embroidered works created by cross-stitching. The technique, which dates back to Egypt about 1,500 years ago, spread through Europe, reaching England in the 16th century, via Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. It employs the use of x-shaped stitches of different colours, arranged to form a picture. According to Alain Leduc, Canada Post’s stamp design manager, the stamps combine a fresh approach with traditional images.

“It is always a challenge to come up with fresh ideas for Christmas, because there is a certain set of images that say ‘Christmas’ to Canadians – and that’s it,” he said. “But the interesting work happens when we take those traditional images and depict them in a way that is fresh and new – using different media or a different approach.” Designer Helene L’Hereux based her works on actual pieces of embroidery. Claire Belzil was selected to do the actual needlework, executing L’Hereux’s simple designs. The designs were selected to use minimal imagery and just the right colours of thread. The images chosen are traditional for the season. The domestic stamp has a horn with a red ribbon, the U.S.-rate stamp shows a reindeer flying over evergreens, and the international rate depicts a Christmas tree.

Lowe-Martin printed the stamps using seven-colour lithography on Tullis Russell paper with general four-side tagging. A total of 20.4 million domestic, 3.78 million U.S.-rate, and 3.66 million international-rate stamps were produced. The domestic stamps are sold in booklets of 12, the U.S.-rate in booklets of six, and the international in booklets of three. In all cases, the cover of the booklet uses a detail taken from the stamp inside. All booklet stamps are self-adhesive with simulated perforations. Lowe-Martin also produced 160,000 souvenir sheets containing one of each stamp. The selvedge has the imprint Christmas • Noel against a green cloth pattern. The sheets have water-activated PVA adhesive and 13-plus perfs.

The official first-day cover for the stamps has the souvenir sheet, embroidery tools, and a Winnipeg, Manitoba cancel date Oct. 22.
As in other years, Canada Post is also offering a religious-theme Christmas stamp. This year’s version is unusual in that it offers a glimpse of the family life of Jesus Christ. Rather than the traditional view of the infant in the care of his mother Mary, the stamp depicts Jesus in the care of his maternal grandmother, St. Anne. The image used is from a painting by 17th-century artist Georges de La Tour. Anonymously donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1991, the oil-on-canvas painting is part of the gallery’s European collection. It was painted around 1645-1650. It appears on a single, 63-cent domestic-rate stamp.

The artist, de La Tour, was born in 1593 and died in 1652. The painting uses his distinctive technique, with the candle held by St. Anne creating a sharp contrast between light and dark. For stamp designer Louise Methe, the assignment involved viewing collections in a number of Canadian museums. De La Tour’s work struck the right chord with her. “I remembered de La Tour from art school,” she explained. “But more than that, I knew him from my mother, who opened my eyes to art. She introduced me to his art when I was young, and showed me how he used the light and dark contrast to give meaning.”

Lloyd DeWitt, curator of European art for the gallery, said the painting celebrates family, as well as conveying a religious message.
In addition to celebrating a family bond, he explained, the large candle marks the advent of light. Lowe-Martin produced 9.6 million stamps using six-colour lithography on Tullis Russell paper, with general four-side tagging. All of the stamps are self-adhesive, with simulated perforations, and are sold in booklets of 12 with the cover repeating the image of the stamp inside. The official first-day cover has a muted ornamental motif and an Oct. 22 cancel from Baie-Sainte-Marie, N.B.

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