a magazine for the next generation of stamp collectors

The Gallery – Margarete Miller (Full Interview)

Margarete Miller, Collage Artist

*Published Spring 2024

A collage artist from the San Francisco Bay Area, Margarete Miller started out making collage art and gluebooks as a hobby, using the artform as a creative outlet when her children were young. Today, her hobby has become her passion; through her website, collage classes, and the Vintage & Collage Club, Margarete teaches and inspires others to unleash their creativity via ephemera and glue – and more often than not, stamps!

On how she got started in correspondence art and her process

I discovered an artist in my area who created “correspondence art.” It was fascinating! I never could have imagined that there was an entire branch of art dedicated to 1) creating art that has a postal theme, and 2) creating art with the intention of using the postal system to connect with other artists, to exchange and share art.

There are so many things that inspire design, but often it comes down to the stamp itself. Here are some points, not in any particular order:

  • The age of the stamp: Is it visibly discolored or faded?
  • The theme: How does it complement the rest of my collage?
  • The color: Same – how does it work with the rest of the elements in my collage?
  • Multiples: Can I add more than one, or even many stamps?

I typically create a collage first and then turn to my collection of stamps to find the right one(s) that will enhance my collage; so the stamp usually comes at the very end.

I sometimes do this process backwards and start with the postage stamps if I want to highlight that stamp. This works particularly well if I am working on a small substrate such as a Rolodex card, for example. The size is perfect for showcasing a stamp or two.

On her favorite materials to use

I love vintage papers. I enjoy collaging with papers that have been used for something in the past. It’s nice to be reusing these things and bringing them to another audience instead of it sitting in a drawer somewhere

Used book sales are one of the best places to find vintage papers and old postcards. One of the best monthly library sales in my area takes place through the Friends of the Palo Alto Library every month. They have a tremendous amount of old books and ephemera that they sell.

For stamps, I am a member of my local APS chapter, which is the San Jose Stamp Club. SJSC President Brian Jones is familiar with my work and is very encouraging. He lets me know when materials (mainly low value stamps, covers that are not of interest to collectors, old duplicate catalogs, etc.) are available. I make a contribution to the organization, and the club lightens their inventory.

On the community space she created for collage artists

I started the Vintage & Collage Club, which is a membership where we work on a new collage-related project every month. If you enjoy collage and working with vintage style papers, including postage stamps, then come and check it out.

Though we work with all kinds of vintage papers, postage stamps are an important part that we incorporate into our projects. We also exchange small pieces of art every month, which is a part of correspondence art.

Putting art out into the world is an important part of growth as a creative person.

Her advice for newcomers to collage art

First, find some sources for inspiration. On social media you can find people who post mail art and correspondence art. There are many great artists on Instagram, for example, who share what they are working on, and who you can learn from.

Second, when you’re ready, find people you can exchange art with. Putting art out into the world is an important part of growth as a creative person. It also allows you to start collecting what people send you. They become treasures that remind you of the joy you get out of this kind of art.

Her philosophy on using stamps and ephemera for art

I think most traditional stamp collectors realize that the hobby is not what it once was when they started years ago. They understand that the number of hobbyists is declining significantly, which impacts participation in clubs and events among other things. It’s increasingly necessary – vital, even, to think of creative ways to attract interest in stamp collecting, and to be more open to non-traditional enthusiasts. In the end we all have the same goal, which is to promote interest in stamps.

Plus, there are so many “worthless” stamps out there! I love using old stamps that are not whole because a piece has broken off over time or was torn when someone tried to remove it from paper. These are considered worthless by collectors, but they can contain so much character and be perfect for what I would like to do with them.

On her art book

I created a small, inexpensive art book that’s sold on Amazon, and that features a set of photos of collage art that features and emphasizes postage stamps. It’s called “One Stamp at a Time”. It’s my love-letter to why and how postage stamps are so wonderful when combined with art. My goal is to encourage others to explore postage stamps outside of the traditional way of collecting and to incorporate them in other creative ways.