Decoupage with Postage Stamps

As a kid who loved geography, I was fascinated by postage stamps from around the world. Foreign and domestic stamps in all shapes, sizes, and denominations represented the sophistication of travel and the colorful diversity of the globe. As a fledgling philatelist, I collected and sorted cancelled postage stamps but never “did” anything with them for years. Then, once I learned the art of decoupage, I found a way to use postage stamps for craft. The following are brief instructions on how to decoupage with postage stamps. Whether you want to add some flair to piece of furniture or create an attractive gift with a travel theme, decoupage may do the trick.

For those unfamiliar with decoupage as a craft technique, it’s really quite simple. You take bits of paper, glue them onto an item, and varnish over it until the paper becomes so “set” into the surface that it looks inlaid. Often, wood and paperboard are the easiest surfaces for decoupage, but the technique can also be effective on some plastics and metals.

In order to decoupage with postage stamps, you will need to:

1. Identify the item to decoupage.
2. Gather postage stamps.
3. Acquire the glue and varnish supplies.
4. Do the hands-on work.

Step 1: Identify the item to decoupage.

One advantage to decoupage is that it’s a way to cover up ugly or damaged surfaces, so you can begin by looking around for something that needs a face lift. Of course, you can also hit a thrift store of a craft shop if you want a particular item you don’t already own. If you use international postage stamps, they will lend a travel theme to the decoupage project, so an old chest or trunk would work splendidly, as would a suitcase. Other suggestions include a headboard, coffee table, dresser, or desktop. If you prefer smaller items, simple wooden, metal, or paperboard boxes available at craft stores are lightweight, cheap, and functional – great for gifts (and first attempts at postage stamp decoupage).

Step 2: Gather postage stamps.

This may seem like a chore, but it’s actually easy, especially if you want domestic stamps. You can purchase postage stamps in bulk, cut from envelopes and still attached to squares and triangles of paper. Try the following resources: eBay, hobby stores, craft stores, and stamp collector websites. Because you’re not trying to preserve stamps for their value, the easiest way to remove stamps from the snippets of paper is to soak them in water (in one flat, floating layer), peel them away if they don’t already fall off, and then dry them inside a book or under a hard, flat surface. Some people have success freezing the stamps and then attempting to peel them off. Other people just trim the surrounding paper up to the edge of the stamp, but this doesn’t always looks as neat (unless you’re planning to cover the entire item, leaving no blank space).

Step 3. Acquire the glue and varnish supplies.

Crafts stores are a sure thing, although discount retailers sometimes carry what you’ll need. Look for:
– wallpaper glue, clear brushable glue, or special decoupage paste;
– a clear varnish or glaze;
– sealing wax, if desired.
Because different surfaces respond to different supplies, you may want to consult someone at the store. I find that inexpensive, clear, brushable glue suffices for most wood and paperboard decoupage projects. In addition to these supplies, you’ll want some clean rags, newspaper, and two brushes, one for the glue and one for the varnish or glaze.

Step 4. Do the hands-on work.

After you gather all the supplies and open a window for good ventilation, you’re ready to begin the actual stamp decoupage. Brush the glue onto each surface of the item so that it is well-covered but not slathered. Also apply a small amount of the glue to the back of each stamp and begin affixing them to the “wet” surface(s) of your item until you have placed all the postage stamps. Then, brush on another light coat of the glue and let it dry (overnight may be best, depending on the exact glue you used). Once the stamps are well-set, then paint on your varnish or glaze, allowing it to dry in turn. If you wish to seal the item’s surface(s) with a wax to tweak the final finish, then go ahead!

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