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From the moment illustrator and designer Heather Moulder began working on the Bluegrass stamp, she dreamed of holding a celebration at her hometown Post Office in Readyville, Tennessee. Located about 50 miles southeast of Nashville, this community with a population of just over 2,100 delights with its history and small-town charm.

In 2023, it also became famous for nearly being wiped off the map.

“The same day I mailed off the final printed artwork for the stamp,” Moulder recalls, “an EF2 tornado came through Readyville during the night and destroyed or damaged many historic buildings in our downtown area, as well as many residential homes. I was extremely lucky, but the Post Office — as well as many friends and family — did not fare so well.”

Fortunately, there were no fatalities, but the arduous process of cleanup and reconstruction took months.

“After a year of rebuilding and a substantial makeover for our Post Office,” says Moulder, “everyone needed a reason to celebrate.”

In the months following the tornado, the Readyville Post Office underwent extensive reconstruction, including the installation of a new roof. Photograph by Liz Roll/FEMA The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

After a year of rebuilding and a substantial makeover for our Post Office, everyone needed a reason to celebrate.

Illustrator and Designer Heather Moulder

Connecting Through Music

For Moulder — who divides her time between Hatch Show Print in Nashville, The Arts Center of Cannon County, and her own Readyville-based print shop — bluegrass has always been about community.

“My first experiences with live bluegrass were at local celebrations and events like Uncle Dave Macon Days and the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree,” she recalls. “I wasn’t on a level where I could compete in the contests typically held for stringed instruments. But the community is so welcoming that I was often able to strum and sing along in the picking circles that are ever present at these gatherings.”

This camaraderie has been characteristic of bluegrass since the music’s earliest days

“I think bluegrass is best enjoyed in person,” says Moulder. “There is a live element of folks working together, listening to each other, and knowing when to improvise that really makes it a joy to watch. I tried to capture a little bit of that communal feeling in the stamp design, with all the instruments leaning in together toward the center, like musicians crowding around a microphone.”

Moulder created the stamp design as a letterpress print, with each layer carved by hand. Photograph by Daxton Patrick

I tried to capture a little bit of that communal feeling in the stamp design, with all the instruments leaning in together toward the center, like musicians crowding around a microphone.

Illustrator and Designer Heather Moulder

An Idea Takes Shape

The dedication of the Bluegrass stamp at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, on March 15, 2024, was a dream come true for Moulder. 

“After keeping the project secret for so long, working alone and only communicating online during the whole process, the dedication ceremony was the first time I really got to acknowledge and talk about the stamp in person,” she recalls. “It finally felt real!”

The event included performances by the Footstompin’ Express Cloggers and multiple Grammy Award–winning artist and bluegrass ambassador Ricky Skaggs.

“It was a huge honor for us to have Ricky to be part of the ceremony,” she says. “He and much of the audience and staff at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum really put the pressure on, as they were truly the target audience that I had hoped to make proud with the design.”

The event also gave Moulder the opportunity to connect with all the right people to make a celebration in Readyville a reality.

Rallying Around the Bluegrass Stamp

Early on Saturday morning, April 6, people began gathering at the newly renovated Readyville Post Office. 

“The Post Office is small,” says Moulder. “While typically it is rare for there to be more than a single customer visiting at one time, this day the parking lot was filled with a crowd, music, and conversation.”

Moulder brought a guitar with her to the celebration, as well as a portable letterpress machine so that anyone who wanted could print their own postcard.

“Officially the event was a stamp release ceremony,” she explains, “but I worked with local postmaster Brent Walling to honor and celebrate the resilience of the community as well.”

The Bluegrass stamp is dedicated at the Post Office in Readyville, Tennessee. Postmaster Brent Walling (Left). Stamp illustrator and designer Heather Moulder (Right). Photograph by Daxton Patrick

County Executive Greg Mitchell and local historian Boyd Barker shared facts and stories about Readyville, while John Fabke, an archivist at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, spoke about bluegrass. 

After the stamp’s dedication, Moulder had a special treat planned.

“I was very fortunate to have a group of Nashville-based, nationally-touring musicians come down for the occasion,” she says. Ian Craft, Frank Rische, Ben Plasse, AJ Fox, and Milly Raccoon — who performed as Birds on the Wire — entertained the crowd with traditional bluegrass music. “They were kind enough to let me sing a couple songs with them during the set.”

Bluegrass stamp illustrator and designer Heather Moulder performs with Birds on the Wire. Photograph by Daxton Patrick

Moulder couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome, both for the event and for the town.

“Neighbors met each other, and old friends said hello,” she recalls. “Folks who drove in from the city learned about Readyville’s history and got a taste of what makes the community so special — even if that meant tractors periodically driving by to interrupt the opening remarks! Everything went even better than I had hoped, and that was all because of the help and enthusiasm of the folks in attendance.”

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