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In conversation with Graphic Philatelist, Blair Thomson

We caught up with Blair Thomson, co-author of Graphic Stamps [Unit 24], and the man behind Graphilately.

Since publishing Graphic Stamps, what has been the response to your growing collection?

Blair Thomson: I’ve had nothing but positive vibes since the release of Graphic Stamps [Unit 24], and seen it reach many diverse audiences through some amazing features and reviews in national and international publications, both online and in print. My motivation with Graphilately has always been to expose design of this nature outside the comforts of my own graphic design bubble. Which it certainly has, beyond all expectations.

Recently a selection of ‘politically charged’ stamps were sent to Seattle to feature in the ‘Design of Dissent’ exhibition (originally curated by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic) which the recent US elections prompted studio Civilization to resurrect. The event has done so well that it’s now extending its journey across to LA and the Netherlands. So it was really nice to share my collection in physical form rather than just on a screen or printed page.

Belgium, 1970. Designer unknown
Iran, 1988. Designer unknown

Can you share any new interesting discoveries?

My collection continues to grow and the challenge to discover beautiful and unrecognised specimens from hidden corners of the globe still excites me. You think you’ve seen it all, but sometimes a whole slew of amazing work opens up the trap door to a back catalogue you never knew existed. Countries like Turkey, Thailand, Singapore, Syria, Iran and Iraq have all continued to deliver creatively with many amazing stamps, as well as many much smaller countries. There’s some beautiful work from the Middle East we’re rarely exposed to. Check out Neshan Magazine for example.

At the moment my biggest focus has been in building a comprehensive Canadian archive of work from the 60s, 70s and early 80s. This goes well beyond just stamps and will form the basis of serious project that I’m hoping will both educate and inspire. But I’m a while off, so more on that to come.

Stamp collecting seems to suffer from a slightly unfortunate image problem – has the publishing of the book influenced a shift?

I think to a small degree it has. Definitely among those interested in design and creativity, which is still quite a narrow segment of society. The book, together with our Instagram projects (@graphilately + @mintneverhinged) has exposed them to things they never knew (or had perhaps forgotten) about. I receive frequent messages and emails on the subject; from students doing final projects on stamp design; or people buying gifts for design conscious friends; or from people who are just genuinely inspired and thankful to have discovered something more inspiring than the next meme or viral sensation. We’ve made a start…but I think the baton needs to travel a little further before we can say we’ve broken the stigma.

Images from Graphilately 

Is there anything else exciting in the world of graphic philately that we should know about?

I see some great ‘modern’ works coming out of certain countries that are pushing boundaries and being brave, but these are still few and far between. I live in hope that some day I will get to design at least one stamp. I’ve made a few enquires, but as yet nothing to report.

Graphic Stamps [Unit 24] is our Book of the Month – 10% off until the end of April!