a magazine for the next generation of stamp collectors

The Gallery – Tonia Jillings (Full Interview)

Tonia Jillings, Postage Stamp Artist

*Published Winter 2024

On her inspirations

I have always enjoyed being creative. I received a BA Hons in Design Craft, and worked within an art department supporting students.

My stamp interest started back in 2014 when my family saw me saving some beautiful Hong Kong bird stamps off of packaging that was going into the rubbish bin. They must have noted that; I then received several gifts, packs of hundreds of stamps, although at the time I didn’t intend to collect them! To make use of the gift stamps I started making greeting cards. To make them more interesting, I began painting a background around the stamps on the cards. This grew until I was making artwork for a local gallery.

When I had more time at home, I found combining stamps with art kept me very busy!

The stamps are beautiful little artworks already, so being able to enhance this is very satisfying. I hope people find my art is applied in a subtle and sympathetic way so as not to detract from the stamp at all.

On the digital philatelic world

I created a website during the pandemic and reached out on social media online to reach a wider audience. My favorite thing about working with stamps is the way it has led me to meet so many stamp enthusiasts and customers who have become friends. I have heard their reasons why their stamp collections mean so much to them – by putting their favorite stamps up on display in artwork, they can enjoy the stamps every day.

On her favorite projects

I sometimes like to combine a first day cover with my art to give the stamp more context. Although I have many favorite stamps, I am particularly fond of the Royal Mail 1978 Horses issue. The Welsh pony was the first stamp I painted a background around, as a gift for my sister who had a horse called Candy that looked just like this.

The highlight of my stamp journey will always be that I can create something unique and different that someone will treasure, simply by finding the right little stamp and spending a little time working with it. I get most nervous when a customer sends me their favorite stamp to paint. Once I had a customer’s grandad’s first stamp from his collection. My hands were shaking with that one!

Spending 2-3 hours looking so closely at a stamp painting makes me feel attached to each and every one! I’m really proud to send my artwork to the gallery or customer, and so glad each one is well received!

On her typical painting process

I create backgrounds using oil paint, on a formatted paper size 2.5 x 3.5 inches, which is a collectable ACEO size art, standing for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. 

I place the stamp at the center of the paper and then using watercolour and oil paints I extend the scene from within the stamp, matching colors and adding imagined details as best I can. I place the paintings in professionally made frames, 5×6 inches.

Sometimes I create a larger painting using a set of stamps, or complete a set of stamps as art to be displayed together.

On collecting stamps

I aim to have a stamp in my collection to duplicate every stamp which I have used in a painting, then I can remember all the paintings I have made for people. I love to think of them on display in homes all over the world! I am amazed at how far and wide my art has traveled: Japan, Australia, Canada, USA and Europe, each little stamp enjoying one last journey in the postal system again!

For my personal collection, I tend to favor the vintage Great Britain stamps, although I do collect some thematic stamps from all over the world to use in art, to make greetings cards, notebooks, bookmarks and keyrings. However I also collect spare stamps and philatelic items to pass on to a bone cancer charity (Friends of BCRT Postage Stamp Appeal and More on Facebook).

On her customer base

My customers are equally art enthusiasts and stamp collectors. The wide range of stamp subjects and countries enables me to create such a variety of art, as there are stamps depicting everything, from animals, sports, space and transport, to architecture and well-known figures from history and media.

Stamp collectors often enjoy choosing one particular stamp or set of stamps from their albums, or inherited collection, which they can see every day displayed as art in their homes.

Contact Tonia

Website https://www.toniajillings.co.uk

Instagram @tonia_jillings

Facebook @ToniaJillingsArt

Twitter (X) @JillingsTonia

Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/toniajillings/

Email for commission inquiries [email protected]