A wreath is a form of expression. It can express individuality, holiday cheer, or welcome visitors into your home. Customizing wreaths is a great way to connect with your customers.
The U.S. Postal Service issued four new 2019 “Forever” series stamps, featuring festive wreaths.
“Wreaths deliver the message that the homeowner shares your same warm feelings toward the holiday season,” says Postmaster General Megan Brennan. “That’s the message millions of people will convey to friends and loved ones when they use the wreath stamps.”
For former White House chief floral designer Laura Dowling, a wreath now symbolizes the opportunity of a lifetime.
Laura was invited to design the set of four wreaths postage stamps for the USPS.
She shares with us the story of how her wreaths became stamps.
A wreath on the door
While working long hours at the White House, Laura didn’t have much time for decorating at home, but she always placed a wreath on her door.
A few years ago, a U.S. Post Office art director walked past Laura’s house. Her holiday wreath - a natural design of apples and berries, caught his eye.
“He called me up to inquire about my interest in creating a wreath stamp,” says Laura.
Restrictions regarding activity outside the White House required that she forego the opportunity.
“Much to my surprise, the opportunity arose again once I left the White House,” says Laura.
She started creating top secret versions of wreaths under wraps.
“The project was secret and under wraps for so many years that at certain points I almost wondered if it was a dream,” confides Laura Dowling.
Her designs were inspired by the holiday and decorating traditions of Early America. Using natural materials, including fruit, flowers and greenery.
“I wanted to use materials that are easily accessible,” she explains.
Laura created relatively simple wreaths. One or two-ingredient designs, with a few added embellishments, that people can re-create at home.
By focusing on natural materials, traditional colors and seasonality, Laura could create wreaths that celebrate the Christmas holiday and evoke the winter season.
A work in progress
The wreaths were created over several seasons and photographed on different backgrounds including doors in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and at River Farm, George Washington’s farm and headquarters of the American Horticultural Society.
A process was going on simultaneously with many art directors at USPS to get the final approval. Four wreaths of similar color themes and backdrops were selected.
“I used a few of my favorite wreath-making techniques: wiring (pinecones and ivy), bundling (hydrangea) and leaf-folding (aspidistra leaves) to create the designs,” Laura explained. Grapevine and straw wreath forms were used.
Floral foam wreath shapes can also be used as a water-source to create long-lasting wreaths.
A surprising consideration
“It’s perhaps no accident that the final collection of wreaths is “mail carrier friendly,” explains Laura.
She often used her own door to experiment with different options. Many of her early designs featured fruit (e.g., apples, oranges, lemons, limes, etc.) in the Colonial Williamsburg tradition.
“People noticed the wreaths, including our mail carrier, who of course saw the wreaths every day.”
The mail carrier told Laura when she liked the design. When the designs did not meet with her approval she said so in no uncertain terms. Usually her disapproval involved fruits that were overly ripe or oversized wreaths that blocked the mail slot.
“Occasionally, she let us know she would be holding our mail until the offending wreath was removed,” confides Laura.
She realized it was important to create long-lasting designs that will not interfere with U.S. Postal Service delivery!
A lengthy process
The design process was about five years in the making. It started with wreath sketches, proceeded to creating prototypes and then photographing different options on various doors.
There were many considerations beyond the actual design of the wreaths: how they would look in reduced size, how the colors would appear in stamp form, how they would work as a collection, etc.
Antonio Alcala, the USPS Art Director, helped navigate the artistic review, selection process, final layout, legal review and scheduling for release. Kevin Allen, the photographer, is a long-time collaborator who did outstanding work on this project.
“All in all, it was a fascinating process that taught me a lot about how to create a mass-produced product from start to finish,” shares Laura.
This past summer she finally heard the wreath stamps would be released.
The stamps dedication
The “first day of issue” dedication ceremony took place on October 25, 2019 at the L.L. Bean Flagship store in Freeport, Maine.
“I especially enjoyed meeting Postmaster General Megan Brennan, the first woman to hold the position in the history of the U.S. Postal Service,” says Laura.
According to Ms. Brennan, the very first holiday postage stamp featured a wreath. Nine different holiday wreath stamps have been issued in the past 57 years.
She estimates the postal service will deliver more than 13 billion cards and letters and 800 million packages this year.
“So, put a holiday wreath on the door and better yet put the wreath stamp on your cards and letters this holiday season,” Ms. Brennan suggests. “We hope that you use them to share the holiday spirit with family and friends.”
Ms. Brennan began her career as a letter carrier. “When you are a letter carrier, you notice how people decorate their houses. Especially their doors.”
“I happen to be a big fan of wreaths,” she explains. “I always have a wreath on my door celebrating the season.”
In love with wreaths
“I love to make wreaths,” says Laura. “They are a symbol of welcome - a circle with no beginning, no end. A symbol of unity that brings people together.”
Laura’s mom lives in a small town in Washington state where the post office is where people gather. You can find Laura’s photo is on the wall, right next to the “Most Wanted” list.
Want to see more wreaths designed by Laura? Visit these previous blogs -
What do you think of wreath stamps for the holiday season? Have you purchased yours?