PostNL of the Netherlands does not issue traditional Christmas stamps. Instead, they release what are termed “December stamps”, holiday-themed emissions that can be used to send Christmas and New Year cards at a reduced rate. The special December rate of € 0,91. per stamp applies from 14 November 2022 up to and including 6 January 2022. This year, a sheet of twenty December stamps costs € 18,20. The 2022 issue was designed by illustrator Miriam Bos. According to the PostNL Shop,
“Her nostalgic design introduces us to playful drawings full of cheerful scenes in bright colors. Each stamp tells a personal story about Christmas and the month of December.
“Her design is nostalgia at its best. For Miriam, Christmas is really a time of being together and thinking about each other. Nothing is necessary, but everything is allowed in this pleasant month. It is precisely the small moments that are so special: the festively decorated dining table, a beautiful picture of the decorated Christmas tree, unpacking a box of vintage Christmas balls. For example, every December seal tells a personal story about Christmas and the month of December. Each seal stands on its own, but together they form 1 whole and 1 story.“
Last month, the designer told the story of each stamp design on her blog. Below is an English translation of those stories, originally published in Dutch:
The Hand with Christmas Mail
This is really my favorite design of the December stamps I made for PostNL: A hand in a knitted mitten with a super cheerful motif at the moment it puts the Christmas mail in the mailbox.
As every year, PostNL also wanted to see an element of ‘mail’ in the December stamps.
In previous years, you saw this question in the form of a carrier pigeon (2018), a polar bear that sends a card (2019), a Christmas tree ornament in the form of an envelope (2020), and an cute fox with a letter in his coat pocket (2021).
After some brainstorming, I came up with this idea and added a personal sentiment, although I wanted to do it in such a way that the hand in the glove can belong to everyone.
In the background we see a nostalgic red mailbox from the past. Nowadays they are of course orange, but I have something with those big red canisters and the black flapping opening where I already put self-drawn Christmas cards as a teenager.
So I really enjoyed making this design, but what gives it that little bit extra is the Droste effect that I secretly incorporated into it. Had you seen it yet?
In the festive months, you can hardly think away from giving gifts to friends and loved ones. It is a theme that PostNl wanted to see reflected in one of the designs. So I went to work. This scene shows the packing moment. I wanted to give it a cheerful atmosphere; The temporary disorder and mess you make when you package things nicely.
Fun fact. This is, after the trial assignment, one of the first stamps I started working on, and I repainted the scene 3 times. At first I painted it quite large, but once I scanned it and reduced it size on the computer, the image fell ‘dead’. It lacked the beautiful brushstrokes and paint textures that can make an illustration so vivid. Strangely enough, I had painted earlier stamps smaller, so I decided to start over. On the third attempt it succeeded and the now coarser brushstrokes finally came into their own.
Oh, Dennenboom (Oh, Pine Tree)
This is the second stamp of the sheet where the focus is entirely on the hand-literate text. Knowing that many people love Christmas carols at this time of year, I decided that there had to be an element of music in the seal sheet as well. But what exactly?
Due to the small size, I was forced to keep the hand-lettered text short, and PostNL preferred it in Dutch. So I started brainstorming and finally came up with the old familiar ‘Oh Pine Tree’. I didn’t want to break the last word in two and that’s why it all just fit.
Then it turned out that it had to be in the new spelling (Oh crap! Suddenly there had to be another ‘n’! 😅 ) it was still puzzling with the thickness of the letters and the readability in small format.
I drew the text a bit wavy so that it suggested music or singing. After that I hesitated, and I even did the text all over again and straightened it out. What turned out? That was no longer so playful and cheerful, and PostNL also agreed that the crooked version was more fun. ‘Often your first impression is just the best.’ (Quote from my dad)
The cheerful box with glass ornaments
Today I share the last of the 10 December stamps.
In this box I painted with great pleasure a mix of hip and nostalgic glass ornaments. (And yes, I have a thing with birds with hats, haha.)
You may have noticed that there are very few animals in this year’s December stamps.
Because animals had already played a prominent role on the December stamps several times in previous years, PostNL decided that they did not want that this year. As you may know, I’m a huge lover of painting animals, and I particularly like to illustrate birds, but of course I understood the choice, and I think in hindsight it was good for me that I had to come up with something else.
But in this seal I could still put some birds.
If you look closely, you can also see the small post office ornament of Vondels Amsterdam at the bottom. It’s the premium you got this year when buying 2 seal sheets while supplies lasted.
The Snow Globe
The snow globe I made for postNL’s December stamps felt like the perfect subject to add to the collection. If there’s anything that reminds you of the holidays, it’s one of those snow globes. And the nice thing about it was that it gave me the opportunity to add a typical Dutch scene to it. I chose the characteristic house facades that you still see a lot in old Dutch cities. From left to right you can see a stepped gable, a neck gable, a gable, and a clock gable. They could be canal houses, but I deliberately did not base them on a specific street. This is also one of the illustrations that were animated email@example.com the media campaign of PostNL. They make it snow.
The House of Cake
Just like the stamp of the decorated hot cup of chocolate, the house of cake is one of the first illustrations I made for the test assignment of PostNL.
After the conversation with the art director, I knew very quickly that this very sweet house had to become part of the final seal sheet.
I had illustrated these kinds of houses before.
They symbolize family and the feeling of ‘home’. It reminds us that being together as a family or as a family is something to be grateful for. This deeper message was of course the perfect concept for the stamp.
Of course I was immediately enthusiastic with the idea, and this is what it turned out to be.
By the way, I had a lot of fun painting all those sweets, star anise and pretzels. It is typically such a house that is actually too beautiful to eat. Fortunately, this is a stamp and nothing is eaten, haha.
A Festive Dinner
This stamp focuses on the festively set table. With this design I wanted to emphasize the cozy togetherness with friends and family at the kitchen table. Many people love to eat something special and / or to cook around the holidays. In addition, the table is often decorated very beautifully and festively.
Personally, I have never been such a hero in cooking or even putting together an extravagant menu. With me, dishes are usually a bit simple, but if I can dress something nice, I am always in my element.
I had fun painting the extra Christmas details in the cutlery and designing the Delft blue decorated plate. I even had to hold back a bit on the latter because I had to keep an eye on the final size of the stamp. That is why I kept it to a somewhat simpler edge motif so that the firecracker would not blend into the background.
I personally find this stamp a little bit more special than the other stamps of the sheet. 😊
This year is the first time that not all stamps are aimed at an illustrated scene as is usually the case.
In addition to the traditional Christmas feeling, PostNL wanted something innovative and hip for young and old. And that’s why they asked me if I could also design some hand-literate texts.
Whether this would all continue was even a bit exciting, because we (the art director and I) were not yet sure whether the management of PostNL would agree with the proposal. It was something new. But as you have known for a long time, they liked it and these stamps with hand-lettered text were actually released. This makes this the first December seal sheet with a cheerful hand-literate greeting.
There are also two other stamps that also contain text of which I have already shared one. Have you seen which one?
In this design you see two gloved hands taking a picture of a very special bird.
PostNL wanted a seal that would appeal to both traditional stamp buyers and the younger target group. That got me thinking. What do young people do a lot, and what do I do a lot myself? I’m often on my phone for anything and everything. For example, I regularly take photos that I use in my work. And certainly around the holidays I continuously take pictures of the beautiful decorations. I do this for inspiration because I make a lot of Christmas designs, but also because I like to share these photos with friends and family under the guise of: ‘Wow, have you seen how it is decorated here?’ Or ‘Wow, I saw something so cool! You HAVE to see this.’
It was with that in mind that this design came from.
I still wonder if this might be the first Dutch stamp with a mobile phone on it. 🤔
The Cup of Hot Chocolate
When PostNL approached me, I first received a test assignment to make a number of festive stamp designs.
The mug with hot chocolate is one of these first designs and the design eventually ended up on the end sheet.
It is therefore (I think) ☺️ the happiest of the series because of the warm yellow background that I combined with bright shades of red and pink.
The design contains a number of personal elements such as the hot chocolate that I particularly love to drink on cold winter evenings, and the colored mug with the beautiful decoration. Every now and then I add a special teacup or mug to my mug collection, and this could easily be added. 😀
I round off this short social media stamp trip with the design of the back of the December stamp sheet. Because a lot of practical information had to be provided, the space was somewhat limited. I decided to literally frame the text in a festive way with some elements of the December stamps themselves. This made it a kind of summary of cheerful decorations. Of course, the beautiful post office ornament (the premium gift from PostNL) had to be on it. But also the crazy white bird with hat, the swan ornament, and the cup of hot chocolate with the cheerful gingerbreadman were of course not to be missed.
I played with a few different background colors, but in the end we chose the ice blue version that best suited the series.
Stamp size: 26.5 x 29 mm
Sheet size: 144 x 151 mm
Paper: normal with red phosphor print
Printing technique: offset
Printing colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black
Print run: ?? sheets
Appearance: sheet of 20 stamps with 10 different designs
Design: Miriam Bos
Graphic design: Miriam Bos
Printing company: Koninklijke Joh. Enschedé B.V., Haarlem