I have something of a conundrum to consider. Having (very) recently acquired both of my parents’ childhood stamp albums (see previous post), what do I do with them? Well, I do officially have my mum’s permission to do with them what I will. She arrived at the house 2 days ago, albums in hand, and fully familiar with my current stamp-collaging proclivities. And in general, I have no qualms whatsoever about removing stamps from old album pages – but these are usually bought cheaply on ebay, from people I have no connection with whatsoever (except an interest in stamps shared with the original owner of the collection), and thus slightly different.
Neither of my parents was ever what could be termed a ‘serious’ collector, but at the same time, these 3 albums currently in my possession are full of hours which my own parents spent, collecting, sorting, sticking (etc) stamps, back in the days before they even knew each other. Can I really just detach all those memories to use in my own work?
On the other hand, ownership of these albums offers me a unique opportunity to make a genuine connection between my own artwork, and the two people who are responsible for my existence. The unknowable stories of the vintage stamps I collage become in this case – at least partially – something I can and do know, or at least can come closer to imagining.
Well actually, the two arguments are not necessarily incompatible. I know that I won’t be tearing the albums limb from limb; and I know I will not simply remove the stamps from the albums and mix them in with my other stamps ready to collage – in which they would instantly drown and disappear. I think instead that I will use the stamps from these albums, but sparingly, and with awareness. By including just one stamp in each collage, I will know that I have not only put my usual time and imagining into the piece, but also I have shared a tiny piece of my personal history.
The albums themselves will never lose their own history, and will never be devoid of content. My mum failed to follow the advice offered in the album’s own “How to look after your stamps” section, and fully glued at least half of the stamps into place on the pages rather than using the far gentler – and easily removable – stamp hinges which she clearly switched to at some point later in her stamp-collecting career (there is a half-full packet of Stanley Gibbons stamp hinges tucked inside the front cover of the album). So the glued-in stamps will be her legacy to the album, and the hinged stamps will be her legacy to me. Well, no: I still get to appreciate both. 🙂
And the albums themselves are such purely dated products, full of countries which no longer exist and true geographic and social history, I know I’ll be using them for years to come to reference whatever random stamps I stumble upon. And every time I do, I will remember that my parents once similarly spent time with the same albums – a little bridge across time in our personal histories.
In short, these stamp albums are a gift I can appreciate in so many ways, I don’t think it will be possible to do them an injustice. Even shorter: thanks, mum. 🙂
My most recent notebook collages (click here to view more):