Wednesday, September 9, 2015

First Day of Sale Ceremony and Hometown Celebration

The First Day of Sale Ceremony, June 26th

On Thursday, June 25th, my husband and I boarded a flight to Memphis, TN. I was both excited and nervous, for we were on our way to the First Day of Sale Ceremony for the 2015-16 Federal Duck Stamp. I was excited to see my painting on the stamp for the first time, but also quite nervous both about giving a speech in front of so many people that I admired, as well as how the public would receive the quirky Ruddy Ducks I painted.

Well there it is
After landing in Memphis, we stepped outside into the baking TN heat, and I was quickly reminded of why I migrated back up north, after living both in Houston TX and the greater Atlanta, GA areas.
Ah, yes, this was the "handle your seat belt with the edge of your shirt lest you burn yourself on it" type summer weather that I remembered being none too fond of! Still, I was a woman on a mission.

As we neared our destination, our GPS became a bit ambiguous and we were very briefly nervous of missing our turns. Well, we both lost that fear immediately after turning a bend on the highway and seeing the towering, shining Memphis Pyramid! A giant gleaming beacon, it was now the very recently opened Bass Pro at the Pyramid. The closer we got, and the larger it loomed, the more amused we felt. A mecca of sorts for the outdoors-person, one can only admire how amazing and absurd it is in its way. You almost can't help but laugh. I mean this only in the most loving, teasing way, because every person we met at Bass Pro were extremely kind and generous.

A Ruddy Duck! They knew I was coming.
Once at the Pyramid, we were blown away by the interior. It was like Disney World for hunters, fishers, hikers, boaters, campers, and more. Much to my delight, they had a small group of live captive ducks in their many ponds. Lo and behold: Ruddy Ducks! I was tickled, and at various times over our visit I sat next to the boats and sketched the birds.

We met some of the kind folks we'd be working with the next day to make the Ceremony happen, and helped set up the Jr. Duck Stamp displays (it's amazing how one gets recruited when you're 6 feet tall!). I also met with Andrew Kneeland, the Jr. Duck Stamp Winner. He traveled all the way from Wyoming with his family to be present, and we had a great chat at dinner.

The next morning, June 26th, was the big day; we all rose early to get ready for the Ceremony. The
First Day of Sale Ceremony is a ceremonial unveiling of the duck stamp design, a ceremonial sale of the first duck stamp of the year (to the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Department, Dan Ashe), speakers of various stations, and signing events. The public is invited to attend at no cost and can then have various items signed, including but not limited to duck stamps of course.

Dan Ashe introducing nervous me.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Dan Ashe (Director of the US FWS), Dale Hall (CEO of Ducks Unlimited), Martin MacDonald (Director of Conservation, Bass Pro), Postmaster Toni Franklin, the wonderful crew at Amplex, and others both before and after the event. The National Anthem was sung, and soon the event began! We were given several rousing speeches by the previously mentioned folks, including Jerome Ford, and before I knew it, Dan Ashe was introducing me and handing off the microphone.

When giving speeches and talks about the Duck Stamp in the last year, I have generally focused on the good the program does for conservation (which is crazy amounts of good), the importance of wetlands and grasslands habitats both for people, flora and fauna, and so forth. However, the good gentlemen that had spoke before me had already covered those bases; rightly so. I kept my speech short and sweet, then, and then introduced Andrew (the Jr. Stamp winner). Andrew gave a really wonderful and elegant speech.

Giving a short speech.

Unveiling the 2015-16 Federal Duck Stamp!
Shortly thereafter, the stamp design itself was released, and the very first duck stamp of the year (and the first to ever be $25) was sold to Dan Ashe. The second and third stamps were sold to Martin MacDonald and Dale Hall. After the ceremony, all those that were part of the event signed several large uncut sheets of both issues of the stamp, to go to the Smithsonian (!!).

Dan Ashe, Director of the USFWS, buying the very first stamp from postmaster Tori Franlkin.

Dale Hall, buying the third stamp.

Dan Ashe signing full, uncut sheets of stamps for the Smithsonian. 

I quickly was ushered to a table, where I sat next to Andrew and we both had a steady flow of people wanting us to sign our respective stamps, event programs, and various memorabilia. I can't guess how many things I signed, but it was easily several hundred.

Signing lots and lots of stamps!

Andrew and I were very serious about the program, but perhaps less serious about ourselves.
Here we are in our native formats, right before signing started...
(it could be that I am just a giant nerd)

Okay, we behaved ourselves when the public came in.

Signing more stamps for collectors.

There are two issues of the stamp; the water activated glue type which is what we think of as an old fashioned lick-it-and-stick-it style of stamp. Then there is the pressure sensitive adhesive stamp, which is a more modern peel-and-stick type stamp, stuck on a dollar-bill sized card (like a sticker sheet if you will). Collectors collect both styles of stamp, and the stamp itself is exactly the same in size and design (the only difference is the type of glue on the back!). I am biased toward the peel-and-stick sheet because the artwork on the 'background' of that one is also a painting I did. It also has more written information about the importance of the stamp program, and this year even has a companion species on the back (as drawn by past Federal Duck Stamp artist Richard Clifton).

Pressure Sensitive Adhesive issue of stamp with companion art!

Water Activated Glue issue. Old style!

In addition to the two stamp issues, there are various stamp items that collectors and appreciators are interested in. One is a silk cachet. This is an envelope with a printed silk area sporting the duck stamp design, and a canceled duck stamp on the other end. This is a collector's item.

First Day Issue Silk Cachet, a collector's item.

Then there is the Commemorative issue. I am particularly fond of these, myself. It is an embossed certificate, with a reproduction of sketches done by the incoming and outgoing Federal Duck Stamp artists. The incoming artist would be the person whose work is currently being released as a stamp (in this case, that is myself), and the outgoing is the artist whose stamp artwork is ceasing sale. See, a duck stamp is only a valid license for one year, but the stamps themselves can be purchased officially for up to three years (by collectors usually). It also has a stamp by each artist, and they are canceled by a postal cancellation to make it official. So, the commemorative issue is very special to me because it has my Ruddy Ducks next to Joe Hautman's Wood Duck from three years ago. Joe's wood duck is one of my favorite Federal Duck Stamps of all time, so it's a huge honor for me!

A colorful commemorative! This is a collector's item.

The cancellation stamp (the black ink drawing of a swimming Ruddy) is also my drawing, which is pretty neat.

The signing went right up until the event was done, and almost too late, I ran over to the sales table to buy duck stamps for myself! Whew!! I caught them right as they packed up to leave. I hardly had time to catch my breath....

Whew! Got my stamps... just a few....

Visiting Ducks Unlimited headquarters! 
We ate a quick late lunch and sadly had to say our goodbyes to everyone, as most everyone had to catch a flight back home that afternoon. Because of the flight times back into Buffalo, we opted to stay one more night, and took the chance to drive out to Ducks Unlimited headquarters, nearby in Memphis. My husband and I were given a great tour, and it opened my eyes even more to the hard work that this non-profit organization does. I wanted very much to hover and examine all of the paintings, sculptures, bronzes, and various other artwork that had been donated to DU over the years, but I couldn't in good conscience keep our kind tour guide away from her work for too long. Dale Hall himself came out to chat with us for a while, and I felt very welcome.

We returned to the Bass Pro Pyramid after, to have dinner and sketch ducks for a while before eventually heading to our hotel for the night.

A huge tank with a huge catfish amongst recycled metal art sculpture, at the top of the Pyramid.
It was really neat!

Our flight the next day was scheduled for mid afternoon, and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, it turns out our preparations were not needed as our flight was delayed for over 6 hours! After a layover, and a long drive home from the airport, we arrived home again at 4am. No rest for the weary, as I had to get up early to start filling orders and prepare for my three back-to-back shows coming up!

Bye for now, Memphis!

Hometown Celebration, July 18th

After the stamp is released, the winning artist is encouraged to have a Hometown Celebration for the duck stamp. Think of it as sort of a ceremony and party for having the winning sports team in your hometown! When we started planning this event (last January... really!) we were faced with some financial and logistics problems, as there is no outside source of funding for one's Hometown event. This is fine with me... that Duck Stamp money goes where it belongs, which shouldn't be to fund my party! Still, on top of self publishing the prints and a few other things, it was a pinch. I could not have done it without the help and generosity of many local individuals. I must give special thanks to our Westons Mills postmaster, Paula Clark. I live on the outskirts of Olean, and the Westons Mills post office services us and we've made friends with our hard working and community-driven postmaster!

The week of the 18th, several unfortunate things happened. I got home from an exhausting show and managed to get quite ill, and one of my best friends that had flown out to visit us and attend my celebration tragically and suddenly lost a family member, and had to be rushed to the airport. So when Saturday the 18th rolled around, we were all feeling a bit low!

We're gonna eat that!
Early on the morning of the 18th, my husband, my friend Hillary, and myself were bustling about. Running to the farmers market for a few last-minute goodies, then to the local grocery store (Tops) where they very generously donated a large sheet cake printed with my stamp (served free to the public), we rushed to the Community Center where we were holding the event. A few more family and friends arrived, and we went to task in completely re-arranging the center for the event. I set up a grid of art display panels so that the community could see my originals in person, and the Post Office set up their tables to sell stamps and collector's items. We had several local groups come in, including the local stamp collector's club and nature center. Our message was conservation and local pride! I had collected generous donations from local businesses, Bass Pro, and contributed several items to basket raffles, all to benefit our local not-for-profit, Pfeiffer Nature Center. Pfeiffer's message is where Art, Science and Nature Come Together, and it resonated with my own personal passions well.

Postmaster Paula and the first stamp sold at the celebration.

Senator Cathy Young presenting the stamp with me.
I was delighted when many people showed up for our celebration, and though I was still panting from setting up, I quickly got to to the heart of the matter, giving a speech, introductions, and talking time to the many wonderful individuals present that helped bring it all together. Senator Kathy Young attended and honored me with a moving speech. Much like the First Day Ceremony in Memphis, as soon as the talking was done, I was quickly seated at a table and the signing began! Though I signed less items than I did in TN, everyone was very kind and liked to talk with me about the stamp and my experiences, and before I knew it three hours passed, all of them with me behind my signing table! It was very intense and very, very touching. We were able to raise over $600 for the Nature Center, and some very enthusiastic young gentlemen won the raffle basket they had been wanting, which included a high end goose call and a plush goose that honks when you squeeze it (I'm sure their parents were just thrilled)!

Preparing a cachet for a collector!
We had a coloring contest with some line art of a wood duck that I drew up to help keep the young ones from becoming too bored at the event. A winner was chosen and presented with a gift certificate to the local art supply shop: The Ink Well.

In all, I could not guess an attendance because I was quite busy, but some others suggested we had perhaps 150-200 people attend.

Exhausted, I was extremely thankful to for the help of my family and friends, as they helped reset the community center back to the way it was. We hurried back home, tossed everything out of the car, changed, and immediately began cooking a celebratory dinner for my family! Fortunately I also had some help with that, and we were all able to start relaxing a little bit for the first time in weeks. The enjoyable evening wound down with family, friends, perhaps a little wine, and some video games. Perfect!

At the Hometown Celebration, there were special silk cachets offered for collecting. These have a different silk image than the First Day cachets, as you can see. The photo of the Ruddy Duck is not my own, but the ink image on the stamp cancel is my drawing.

Hometown Celebration silk cachet, a collector's item.

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