My Uncle Ray Gaiser was an avid stamp collector, among other things. In 1997 or so, I flew up to Iron River, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to pay him a visit. He lived in the same house that he and my father grew up in. During that visit, he shared with me his extensive stamp collection…and that is when I began my “phillatelly”…my love of postage stamps.
It was then that I caught up with what Fluxus artist, Anna Banana, was doing up in Canada. She was producing small runs of artist made stamps. She would do several runs per year and invite artists to create their own non tendered stamps that she would print, perforate and deliver. The first stamps I made were inspired by my Uncle Ray, who was an avid stamp collector. Before he died, he gave me some of his stamps, which I found to be exquisitely beautiful. I was less interested in the value of the stamps as I was in the visual beauty of them. I made these 2 memorial stamp the year he died. They were inspired by the ‘postal note’ stamps in his collection.
He was meticulous about his collection and spend many hours organizing and cataloging his stamps from the Canal Zone, the Netherlands, Germany, Chile, etc… He also would send smaller sets, various folders of loose stamps…and envelopes of less valuable stamps to youth clubs to inspire young philatelists to start their collections. I used some of these stamps as inspirations for the stamps I would create and print via Anna Banana’s Artistamp runs each year.
After Uncle Ray passed away, I made it a point to produce at least one commemorative stamp per year. Most of them featured my family members. This one of Olivia, aka “Peach”, was one of my first family stamps. Each year, I’d try to save the best image…and work it into a stamp to use on letters for the next year. The deadline for Anna’s stamp production was always the same…Halloween…with a guarantee of getting your 500 gummed, perforated stamps in time for your Christmas cards. This was the beginning of a quarter century family tradition. Memorials, weddings, anniversaries all honored with a commemorative stamp. Some of my family portrait stamps over the years were memorial stamps, engagement and wedding stamps…
So, for our very last stamp edition, I created a “meta” stamp. It was a part of a larger stamp/ancestry project I did when my grand niece Charlotte was born. She was the first child born to the next generation…and she was born on the day my brother and his first son were born. Amazing! I created our extended family tree using Ancestry.com. It allowed me to discover relatives on both sides of our family by connecting to other people’s family trees. A crowdsourced family tree-building, if you will. Fantastico! Once I mapped out our family tree, I used it as a wireframe to create a large collaged painting using many of the portrait stamps from Uncle Ray’s collection. I selected the stamps very carefully, so they actually resembled the person they were representing in the family tree. Then, just as I was finally finishing this thing…(took me over a year!)…Sean had another baby boy, Britton…so I had to do some changing around…so that he would be inclulded.
Below is The Gaiser Family Ancestree, a painting/collage that I created with antique postal stamps from my Uncle Ray’s collection. It maps out what I could find on both sides of the Dexter/Gaiser-Gaiser/Rinehart-Gaiser/Beckler families.
Thank you Anna Banana, for a quarter century of making postal art with you!