Process

Postage Stamps

Stamp 1

I read a piece in the New York Times the other day: An Inverted Jenny Surfaces. The Flawed Stamp Had Not Been Seen Since 1918 and it got me thinking about my own stamp collection (and yes, I was hoping I might have another copy of the inverted Jenny).

My late father inherited his father’s and his uncle’s stamp collection and I inherited my father’s collection and his younger brother’s. The stamps in these various collections are spectacular: both U.S. and lots of other countries. My father liked French, Belgian, and English colonies in Africa and I have many of those (see above and below), his father liked U.S. commemoratives and air mail stamps. The collections are far ranging and fascinating as many countries represented don’t exist anymore. So, collections like this one are a wormhole into a time that’s long gone, except for Wikipedia and the like.

I merged all the collections into fewer albums and kept it up until I went away to college in 1971. The collection was in my mother’s house until she died in 2016, then I had to bring it home.

There were two large boxes of albums, tools, smaller boxes of loose stamps, some of them needing to be soaked off of envelopes. You see, even though I wasn’t actively collecting since 1971, I was still corresponding with people all over the world and when I got envelopes back with interesting postage I tossed it in a box.

Last year I went down to New York and the Javits Center for a big philatelic (stamp) show. It was mind boggling and fun although one thing I learned for sure: stamp collecting is out of vogue and my collection is probably not worth much to anyone except me.

What to do with all of these great stamps?

Understand that not only are these stamps pieces of history, many of them are also marvels of printmaking and they’re beautiful as art objects.

Besides my now old and musty stamp collection (I have to take an antihistamine when I open one of the boxes) I also collect matchbooks and boxes, and many other pieces of interesting ephemera.

A while back I posted a video on Collectors and collections and another on Jane McDevitt’s Eastern European matchbox labels which sort of zero in on what I’ve decided to do with my stamps.

I was all set to set up my camera on a tripod and photograph stamps but then I realized that my flatbed scanner would do a better job and it would be a lot easier.

So, I experimented and came up with a process that I think works. Feel free to comment with ways to make this better.

1. Clean stamp (blow it off to get dust and hair off).

2. Clean scanner glass (scanner is an inexpensive Canon Lide 220).

3. Place stamps on scanner with enough space between them (white space) to rotate them to straiten once scanned.

4. I use MacOS and I don’t like Canon’s software so I use Apple’s Image Capture to run my scanner. Settings are Color, Millions of colors, 1000dpi, JPEG.

5. Run overview scan, then scan each stamp with enough border so as to straighten it later.

6. Drag all the scans into Apple Photos.

7. Crop and straighten, adjust white balance, enhance color if needed.

8. Export at full size JPEG.

9. Drag each stamp into Preview, choose “Show Markup Toolbar” then use the “Instant Alpha” tool (the magic wand on the left) to drag over the stamp’s background to make it transparent. One has to be careful with lighter colored stamps to not “leak” into the body of the stamp. This takes practice. Practice on copies. Alternatively use Photoshop or Pixelmator do do the same with dedicated tools.

10. Save the stamp as a JPEG and you’re done.

I reached into a box and pulled out a few hundred stamps of various kinds that weren’t mounted. These are just a random sample of French and Belgian colonies from the 1900’s. I have thousands of these from Africa, the Pacific islands, and other places that were colonized at the time. Not to mention all sorts of other stamps. This is my start…

Stamp 30

Stamp 21

Stamp 60

Stamp 50

Stamp 5

Stamp 2

Stamp 6

Stamp 3

Stamp 4

Jaymukh Gopinath and his village food factory

I recently read a great, short New Yorker piece by Priya Krishna: The Indian Filmmaker Who Made His Dad’s Village Cooking a YouTube Sensation.

Arumugam Gopinath decided to make videos of his father Jaymukh cooking huge meals in Tamil Nadu, rural southern India. For me this has much the same appeal as the Primitive Technology series: it’s about process but also documents a different culture.

I’ve only just begun to explore Arumugam’s YouTube channel: Village food factory. Here are a few videos I found fascinating and wonderful:

King of Chicken Legs

2500 eggs and 10 KG Chicken cooking in single pot

These videos and many others have been viewed millions of times on YouTube, mostly from people outside of India and have earned the family more than seven million rupees (close to $100,000) in advertising revenue.

Brilliant.

Tinker Hatfield on design and creativity

“Pole vaulter turned architect turned shoe designer, Tinker Hatfield first made a name for himself working alongside Michael Jordan on the legendary Air Jordan sneaker line. In an in depth conversation, Tinker reflects back on everything from designing the Nike Air MAG’s for Back to the Future II to how he uses motorcycling and music as part of his creative process.”

Tinker Hatfield is Nike’s VP of Design and quite an interesting person. I love that four door VW bus pickup, very rare and fully restored. Looks like he has an Airstream as well.

Note the iPad and his comment on using it as a design tool.

[via Uncrate]

Restoring a damaged painting

“Emma Gaggiotti Richards was an Italian painter who lived from 1825 to 1912. During her lifetime, she painted for royalty, for women’s rights activists, for patrons across Italy, and for herself. The painting featured in the short film above is a self-portrait, meticulously restored with skill and attention by Julian Baumgartner of Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration, the oldest conservation studio in Chicago.”

Brilliant.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Layers of hosta

Layers of hosta

Warren, Connecticut.

Decided to try an experiment with multiple exposures on a small hosta outside our house.

The Ricoh GR makes it easy: I kept going until it told me that was enough. This one was the fourth in the series which means that there are four exposures here. I got to five and it was nice too but somehow I liked this one best.

This is a fun process and the real fun will be coming up with subjects ripe for this kind of technique. Thanks Gary and others who led me into this.

The sound that connects Stravinsky to Bruno Mars

This is an incredible short documentary by VOX on one of the first sampled sounds (the orchestra hit) which happened to be a concert of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and how it’s been used ever since in rock, rap, and everything in between. This is an incredible story and history.

[via Uncrate]

Dollar Street

This is an incredible TED Talk on how families live in different parts of the world at various socio-economic levels. A brilliant study.

What does it look like when someone in Sweden brushes their teeth or when someone in Rwanda makes their bed? Anna Rosling Rönnlund wants all of us to find out, so she sent photographers to 264 homes in 50 countries (and counting!) to document the stoves, bed, toilets, toys and more in households from every income bracket around the world. See how families live in Latvia or Burkina Faso or Peru as Rosling Rönnlund explains the power of data visualization to help us better understand the world.

Here’s the actual site for you to mess around with: Dollar Street.

[via Kottke.org]