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Artist's Big Effort Yields Tiny Masterpiece

Friday, September 16, 2005 Filed: 6:50 PM EDT (22:50 GMT)
John Cropper, VSC Staff Reporter

OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN -- Artist and illustrator Tania Lee was introduced to a whole new art world on Friday morning. Her sponsor promised to reproduce her work hundreds of millions of times and circulate it the world over. One small problem: the artwork would be less than one square inch in size!

Tania Lee, artist for the 3 Coffeepot, released Friday.
Already recognized for her watercolor illustrations, Lee (left) was tapped to design the sixth subject in the American Designs series of definitive stamps for the USPS. This series first debuted in 2002 with the 5 American Toleware coil.

She began work in 2003 with an idea that late eighteenth-century silver would make an excellent addition to this series and set out to research candidate pieces that would fit the model for a vertical definitive stamp, which measures about an inch tall and seven-eights on an inch wide!

She first focused on the works of well-known colonial silversmith and patriot Paul Revere. After several

months and many pieces, she was forced to abandon Revere, mainly due to the fact that many of his designs were simply too wide to fit on a definitive stamp.

She then turned to Revere's contemporaries. Her search finally led her to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she browsed a display of dozens of sterling candidates before settling on a 1786 pear-shaped piece that fell within the size restrictions imposed by the medium.

Lee then went to work reproducing the design, which involved several hours in front of the actual piece, sketching its details. She then experimented with another sterling piece, studying what effects lighting played in surface reflectivity and color. Working with nothing more than a handful of colors, Lee produced a very detailed mock-up, measuring approximately four by six inches (right).

After a brief review, the design was deemed too detailed for use on a stamp, as most of the detail would be muddled or lost entirely when the design was reduced. Undeterred, Lee re-worked the design, which was ultimately accepted (below).

Take one: The initial stamp design submitted for review.  

Final Product: Lee with the second design, which was adopted and re-worked into the stamp.      Cropper CCMHG/VSC
USPS Art Director Derry Noyes received the design, cropped it to fit the stamp and added the inscriptions. The resulting product bore a three-cents denomination and was issued Friday morning in rolls of ten-thousand. Copies were made available on Saturday morning, and Tania Lee's first stamp design added a new chapter to her portfolio.

Lee has expressed an interest in designing more stamps, but simply smiled when asked what other designs she was working on for the USPS, adding only that she had submitted, "a few design ideas". If her first offering is any indication, we're certain to see more from this talented artist in upcoming years.

Additional information about this and other U.S. stamps can be found on the USPS web site, located at www.usps.com. For more information, or to find a local stamp club near you, visit the American Philatelic Society's web site at www.stamps.org. Free stamp collecting information is available from The Virtual Stamp Club online at www.virtualstampclub.com

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