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The Postal Store®

What is love? It’s an age-old question that poets, artists, philosophers, and musicians have been trying to answer for centuries. 

It has been 50 years since the first Love stamp was issued by the U.S Postal Service. From flowers to swans to hearts too many to count, each stamp in the popular Love series brings whimsy and warm feelings to those who receive them. 

For three years, art director Ethel Kessler and illustrator Chris Buzelli have collaborated on two stamp designs to add to the popular series.

“Every stamp is a puzzle to solve,” Ethel Kessler says. “Even though they are small, stamps can contain incredible detail, each piece helping to tell a story and convey a feeling. But too much detail can get in the way. The designs need to be simple — and simple is sometimes the hardest thing to pull off.”

When approaching the Love stamp for 2023, the challenge was clear: Find a different answer to the question of what people love.

Kessler turned to Chris Buzelli, whose work she had seen over time and admired. “We had never worked together, but his style is very classic. I wanted to see what he could do.”

Buzelli was thrilled by the assignment. “When Ethel asked me to send my ideas, I sent in almost 100 sketches. We whittled it down to 20, going in many different directions.”

One of his first illustrations was based on his dog at the time, pictured with a giant heart. That idea resonated with the pair. In time, they added a second stamp design with a kitten, based on Buzelli’s cat from childhood.

“A majority of my work is animal-based,” he says. “With humans, people focus on the portrait. But with animals, something special happens. It’s easier to get your ideas across.”

Buzelli painted his images with oils on a wood panel, then scanned and edited them digitally to create the final stamp art. The texture in the background of each image is the wood grain with light layers of oil paint. The backgrounds combine a few different oil paints that create each custom color.

“I love nostalgia,” he says. “I grew up in the 1980s. Valentine’s Day was an important day in school. You had to think carefully about which card you would give everyone and what image you would choose.”

And pictures of small animals? That works for everyone.

“People love their pets,” Kessler says. “When people see these stamps, I want them to respond emotionally and say ‘Awww.’ It doesn’t have to be your puppy or kitten on the stamp. The animals are soft and fluffy, and we want you to feel warm inside when you see them.”

Buzelli is proud of his first stamps. “A stamp is an extra signature you put on your letters and cards to family and friends. A touch that tells the receiver that you are thinking of them. I hope people feel loved when they receive mail with these stamps.”

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