Louise Fili’s 2013 Love Stamp: Sealing wax sends its own message

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[Alyson Kuhn] The first-day ceremonies for Louise Fili’s 2013 Love stamp were held in Loveland, Colo., on January 30. So à propos! I haven’t received one on an envelope yet, but this may well be the week. It’s the first time sealing wax has appeared on a U.S. Love stamp and, as far as we can tell, the first time sealing wax has appeared on any U.S. stamp. We love that—a double first.

World Shopper: Fili designed this tote for Blue Q, using mid-20th-century Dutch labels she bought in France. Several of the red labels have oozy sealing wax edges. Photo courtesy of Louise Fili, Ltd.

When I spoke with Fili about her new stamp, she commented that a seal motif is a quick read. She added, “I felt it was important to show just enough of the back of the envelope to establish what you are looking at. To not even say the four-letter word ‘Love’ this time.” Fili’s 2012 Love stamp was all about love, written in sumptuous satin ribbon by Jessica Hische, who also illustrated the seal and envelope for this year’s stamp.

Love Ribbons: My correspondent’s beautiful job of sliding the 2012 stamps off their backing sheet…was unceremoniously cancelled out by a bold black marker.

I myself do not use sealing wax, much as I love how it looks and what it evokes. On my recent trip to Paris, I acquired a lovely pair of sealing waxy postcards (below), the handiwork of photo stylist/stationery designer/shopper extraordinaire Camille Soulayrol and photographer Louis Gaillard.

The crossed string is an authentic period detail, confirmation that the seal has not been tampered with. Photo courtesy of Louis Gaillard and Nouvelles Images.

Trompe l’oeil: The edges of the tray form the borders of the card. I cannot bear to mail it. Photo courtesy of Louis Gaillard and Nouvelles Images.

I would love to have a paper seal to glue on the flap of my outgoing mail. I bought the pair below from an ephemera dealer a decade or so ago. Every time I look at them, I wonder how they were printed and die cut. The one on the left is from an establishment in Barcelona that repaired tires. The tiny embossed pattern could be a reference to tire treads, or it could be my imagination spinning ’round. The seal on the right is from a stationer in Bologna; all of the type and rule lines are embossed.

I bought the label below at a paper show in Paris in the late ’90s. As you can see from the two tiny “puncture wounds” at the far left, it had been stapled into an album or sample book. The gold detail is bronzing (gold dust adhered to wet oil), and every element is raised. I like to imagine that this label originally adorned the lid or wrapper on an elegant box of sealing wax.

You can read more about Fili’s Sealed with Love stamp at the Postal Service’s BeyondthePerf.com, to which I’m honored to have contributed. The piece includes a great photo of Fili’s stamp’s forebear, an envelope from the collection of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM), with its flaps and seal in the same configuration as on the new stamp. I also found the folded letter below in the NPM’s extraordinary philatelic database, simply by searching for “wax.”

A 300-year-old real seal deal, from the collection of the National Postal Museum

The letter travelled by ship from New York to England in May 1711, ultimately arriving in London on June 14. It would be fun to know who SN was and what he was telling whom.

Top image © 2012 USPS, used with permission. Photos, except as noted, © 2013 StudioAlex.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by notely on 02.11.13 at 1:58 pm

    Lovely post. Gorgeous photos. Cannot say I blame you for not wanting to use the Trompe l’oeil card, I LOVE IT.

  2. Posted by Jane on 02.11.13 at 2:19 pm

    Check out the website of Atelier Gargoyle for information about the history of seals. They also sell seals and wax.

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