Interview with Paul Ford, Stamps & Coins Coordinator, Isle of Man Post Office (UK) about the Islands & Bridges stamp set by Roger Dean
by Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
This past August, I reported on an art show that was taking place on the Isle of Man built around the works of artist Roger Dean. With a portfolio that includes not only album cover imagery but (both alone and working with his talented brother Martyn) stage designs, architecture, calendars and a wide variety of merchandise, Dean’s fantastic work continues to impress fans with its ability to transport you to places beyond the imagination. He has worked in many different media, creating designs and illustrations for commercial and fine art customers, including several architectural designs he’s done of dream-like living spaces and furnishings.
In addition to this show – titled Islands & Bridges – that ran through mid-November at the Manx Museum – a National Heritage organization on the U.K.’s Isle of Man – Dean’s works served as the basis for a collection of postage stamps produced by the Isle’s Postal Service, an organization that has gained a world-wide following of collectors who have been impressed with their previous series of collectibles, including specially-commissioned stamps featuring quintessential U.K. and Isle of Man subjects such as the works of the Aardman animation studio (Morph, Wallace & Gromit and Shaun The Sheep), artist Matt Sewell’s illustrations of birds and, of course, the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races.
While the past few years have shown us stamp collections based on specific and general rock music subjects such as Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie in the U.K. and several “Music Icons” in the U.S. (Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others), this series is unique as it is based on the album art designs of a single, influential graphic artist. As an art collector that is proud to include several Roger Dean prints in my own personal collection (as well as a Dean/Uriah Heep-inspired tattoo – how’s that for commitment!), I wanted to find out more about how and why this organization chose to honor Mr. Dean (and give us Boomer-aged collectors something new for their personal assemblages) with this project and reached out to Paul Ford, the Stamps & Coins Coordinator for the Isle of Man Post Office (Douglas, ISLE OF MAN, IM2 1AA) to learn more so I could then share it with you. Immediately following the interview, you’ll find more information about the stamps and the other collectibles available from the Post Office, in case you’re interested in bolstering your own collections. Now, on with the interview.
Interview done via a series of emails from November, 2016 through January 2017 –
Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com – Paul, thanks very much for your willingness to help me with producing a more-detailed accounting of how and why your service chose to create a series of collectible stamps built around Mr. Dean’s album art. Let’s first chat about the process that you went through when you decided that you wanted to create a series of stamps based on the artwork of an artist. Is it a commission, or a license or what exactly? Do you strategize together to determine whether you will produce and sell related collectibles? I’ve seen both the U.S. and U.K. Postal Services create album art-derived stamp sets, as well as limited-run items such as posters, plaques, etc. based on the same designs, so I’m wondering if this is something that you do or have done and what goes into the decision-making process.
Paul Ford, Isle of Man Post Office – The process starts with an idea appearing from some, sometimes unexpected, source. While we always have a wish-list of subjects and themes, and we are always mindful of anniversaries of historical events and the preferences of our customers and trading partners, we are able to be flexible and responsive if a good idea appears from somewhere out of the blue. Our obligation is to the Isle of Man as our ‘territory’ and we only receive HM Queen’s royal approval to use her cipher on our stamps if they fulfil certain criteria or relevance to our culture, so we do not have complete freedom. This means that we are always looking for interesting links to the Isle of Man for our stamp issues.
In the case of Roger Dean, we initially did not know he had any interest in the Isle of Man until he gave a lecture last year as part of the IOM Film Festival and it came to light that the Manx Museum were interested in staging an exhibition of his work. I was happy to have my old Yes albums signed at the lecture and returned to my manager with the information and this opened the possibility of producing stamps. Roger has been friends with (keyboardist) Rick Wakeman for many years and Rick lived on the Island for a number of years which is how Roger came to know of the Isle of Man originally. Roger also has associations with an animation company so he is no stranger to the place and people.
In the past, we used to commission artists directly and own the results of their work – this valuable collection of works on paper is archived in the Manx Museum in Douglas. We still commission designers and artists to create artwork and stamp designs but since the digital age we have merely licensed the artist’s work and the original remains their property.
There are many factors that go into whether we can enlarge the scope of our basic stamp issue products to produce additional special products. We do not wish to over-burden our loyal collectors with items they feel they must have to complete their core collections so we limit stamp products with this in mind. However, some subjects have more potential, a larger story to tell. In the case of Roger Dean, our stamp release coincided with the opening day of the Manx National Heritage exhibition and a trading partner produced a wonderful postcard set as a catalogue to the show, which we sell through our website.
Mike G – Do you have any interesting anecdotes concerning working with an artist like Mr. Dean and/or Mr. Wakeman as you went about creating this series?
Paul F – It was a real pleasure to work with Roger on the stamps, as a life-long stamp collector himself he really values the stamp as an important cultural marker and delights in great examples of the form. His early life in the Far East has evidentially influenced his work and he counts philatelic works as inspiring too, in particular antique postmarked envelopes from Japan. He said he was honored to be asked and really took the process seriously by producing an amazing new work for us called Meeting Place, which is a conceptual combination of two distinctive sites on the Island some miles apart. Most visitors to the exhibition typically feel that he has really captured something essential of the Island’s mystical Celtic light and spirit. We intend to use the images on the cover of a limited edition vinyl 12” EP of tracks by Rick Wakeman as a fitting collaboration between two artists and their reflections of the spirit of the Isle of Man.
MG – I’d like to get your personal take on the current state of album artwork-related design and photography these days? Besides Mr. Dean, are there any musical acts, labels, art directors, etc. that you think are keeping the field alive or important? Do you think album art matters anymore?
PF – The big issue is, of course, downloads and the small scale of the CD cover. In this country there is a return to vinyl and an appreciation of the scale of an album sleeve again and what an important role it plays in the listener being able to immerse themselves in the concept of the album as a whole. Personally I am old enough to have the original YES albums and the Tales From Topographic Oceans poster on the wall and the album artwork, inclusions and design was something that visually inspired and had impact just leaning against the stack of records, whether the music thrilled or not. Something like Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ is probably unsurpassed in illustrating a musical journey and encouraging this sense of immersion.
I think album design has changed a lot because of downloads and CD sales and reduced scale imagery has a different starting point to do with what can be communicated clearly at a small scale. So many CD sleeves nonetheless appear merely reduced and mean-looking. Aside from the odd well-designed box set I think the customer has a reduced experience than when buying the larger format (you also need to have very good eyesight to read the lyrics if included with a CD)! I think good album design is rare but if you start with an image that reflects the contents then hopefully the product does what it says on the tin. An example would be this joyous offering by Matt Sewell. http://testpressing.org/2016/09/anuradha-kavita-paudwal-matt-sewells-a-crushing-glow-presents-the-gayatari-mantra-caroline-true-records/
MG – Staying on the same basic train of thought, I’m wondering whether you think that album cover art helps us document modern human history? Personally, it is my belief that, in many ways, iconic album cover art has also had a noticeable effect on Pop Culture. What’s your take on this – is the imagery and music providing the direction, or is it reflecting the culture, or ??
PF – I think album art is bound to be a barometer of current taste at least and society’s aspirations and in youth culture in particular when the right signals to prompt a purchase are crucial. Similarly with older generations in a different way where perhaps more emphasis is placed on the sense of a collection, something comprehensive and more reassuringly longer lasting, the values of the consumer need to be reflected in the artwork, fonts even paper stock selected to be commercially successful. Though there are definitely very ‘of their time’ album sleeves I think it is really interesting to see a new band appropriate the look of an old band from their parents’ generation or even earlier and this contemporary retro might prove that it is more to do with tribal association than the fashion of now, but it all contributes to social history at the end of the day.
MG – With the electronic delivery of the mail – quite similarly to music products – now out-stripping the use of traditional delivery methods, are you noticing any more or less enthusiasm by the public when it comes to their purchasing and use of these specially-produced and collectible products? There’s been a resurgence of interest – particularly by young people – in owning vinyl records, box sets and related merchandise, which is helping the music business regain some of the revenues lost to electronic products, so I’m wondering if you’re seeing the same thing in your business.
PF – There is a vein of younger collector who appreciates the exclusive and something in limited edition and we delight in combining our stamps with DVDs, limited edition prints and cards whenever possible – just as in the past you would not know what accessory might come with your LP and the feeling of having the whole collection of an artist’s work would impart a feeling of satisfaction and completeness, a form of bespoke retail therapy perhaps!
MG – Thanks again for sharing this with me and my readers – very enlightening. Of course, please let me know when any of the new items in this series are released, particularly if there’s to be a special-edition recording of Wakeman music…
Product descriptions (as listed on the IOM Post Office web site):
Islands and Bridges – The Art of Roger Dean
A fascinating collection featuring the amazingly varied work of Roger Dean. Isle of Man Post Office is pleased to present ‘Islands and Bridges’, a set of six stamps showcasing the work of internationally-renowned artist and designer Roger Dean. The issue marks a most significant collaboration between the artist, Isle of Man Post Office and Manx National Heritage and coincides with a landmark exhibition, of the same name, at the Manx Museum in Douglas.
This enthralling collection features some of Roger Dean’s most recognizable artwork from album covers of artists including Yes and Uriah Heep. The image on the 45p stamp titled ‘Meeting Place’ was inspired by the Isle of Man and created especially for this collection and aforementioned exhibition.
Roger Dean is internationally renowned for his album cover designs, posters and books. More than sixty million copies of his images have been sold around the world as posters, cards, calendars books and album covers. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide including the Royal Academy of Arts, the V&A, the Royal College of Art and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London and the New York Culture Center, USA.
These stamps are a celebration of an artist who has inspired and continues to inspire generations of young men and women to become professional designers and artists. Whether a philatelic or a design enthusiast; there is something for everyone in this captivating collection.
Available in this collection are:
Presentation Pack • First Day Cover Set • Sheet Set
In addition to the above we are working on producing some fantastic exclusive limited edition collectables – including a collaboration with Rick Wakeman!
For more technical Information you can find more online at https://www.iompost.com/stamps-coins/collection/islands-and-bridges—the-art-of-roger-dean
Also available are new reprints of the three books that together make up a Roger Dean career retrospective – Views (first published in 1975 and focused on the artist’s output from 1968 – 1975), Magnetic Storm (published in 1984 and providing updates on Dean’s work since the publication of Views) and Dragon’s Dream, released in 2008 and covering the 20+ years of work since the release of the previous book.
Islands and Bridges Roger Dean Special Exhibition Card Collection –
The collection showcases all twenty six original paintings in the exhibition as a set of full-color cards contained in a top quality embossed wallet. It includes a biography and details of Roger’s career to date. Each card includes a description in Roger’s own words detailing the inspiration behind each work. At over 8 x 6 inches these cards are perfect for framing. Five of our stamp images form part of the collection and include album covers by Yes and Uriah Heep in addition to our exclusive Isle of Man image ‘Meeting Place,’ painted specifically for the stamp collection and exhibition. The landmark ‘Islands and Bridges’ exhibition was on display until November 2016 and this limited run of just 1000 of the Special Card Collection is selling very quickly. – See more at: https://www.iompost.com/stamps-coins/collection/islands-and-bridges—the-art-of-roger-dean/islands-and-bridges-roger-dean-special-exhibition-card-collection
Roger Dean Limited Edition Signed First Day Cover –
This true collectable has been signed by Roger Dean and comes in a full-color glossy collectors’ wrap – Each Islands and Bridges envelope is individually signed and numbered and includes an information card detailing Roger’s career with contributions from Rick Wakeman and Sir Richard Branson. The wrap also includes a color illustration of Meeting Place – the painting inspired by the Isle of Man and produced specifically for our stamp issue. Edition of 750 – See more at: https://www.iompost.com/stamps-coins/collection/islands-and-bridges—the-art-of-roger-dean/roger-dean-limited-edition-signed-first-day-cover
Islands and Bridges Sheet Set –
This set of six sheets of 20 vibrant stamps of each value features some of Roger Dean’s most recognizable artwork from album covers of artists including Yes and Uriah Heep. Exclusive to this collection is the image ‘Meeting Place’ which was inspired by the Isle of Man
Featured in this set are the following stamps, listed by denomination:
- 45p – Meeting Place – painting inspired by the Isle of Man.
- 77p – Blind Owl Late Landing – artwork for the Blind Owl album, to be released.
- 95p – Pathways – cover artwork for the Yes triple album Yessongs.
- £1.24 – Green Parrot Island – from the Yes – The Studio Albums 1969-1987 box set.
- £1.69 – Tales From Topographic Oceans – Yes album cover.
- £2.08 – Sea of Light – from the Uriah Heep album of the same name. This sheet set is available in mint condition or cancelled to order (CTO).
- See more at: https://www.iompost.com/stamps-coins/collection/islands-and-bridges—the-art-of-roger-dean/islands-and-bridges-sheet-set
This article Copyright 2017 Mike Goldstein & AlbumCoverHallofFame.com. All text and images used to illustrate this article are used by permission of the respective copyright holders and cannot be used without their consent.