Not mailing it in: Artist creates award-winning dress with 11,000 postage stamps

What does a dress made out of 11,000 postage stamps look like? The answer can be found at the Saskatchewan Craft Council's latest exhibition, Wearable Art 3.

Monique Martin's dress, Postmistress, wins best in show prize at Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala

Saskatoon artist Monique Martin created this dress, which she calls Postmistress, using 11,000 stamps from around the world. She created a lace effect by folding stamps. (Shannon Boklaschuk/CBC)

People may be sending fewer letters than in the past, but a Saskatoon artist has found a use for postage stamps — 11,000 of them, in fact.

Monique Martin has crafted a unique dress using thousands of cancelled postage stamps from Canada and other parts of the world. It's on display as part of the Saskatchewan Craft Council's latest exhibition, Wearable Art 3, currently running at the council's Broadway Avenue gallery.

Martin used thousands of cancelled postage stamps from around the world to create this wearable artwork. (Shannon Boklaschuk/CBC)

Martin said the dress, stitched together both by machine and by hand, was inspired "by our lack of handwriting in the world right now," and society's move toward sending text messages instead of letters. The dress is part of Martin's larger body of work, which is also focused on that theme.

"I think there's a really interesting history that we're losing by not having stamps. We've told the history of the world, over time, through stamps," Martin said.

"You can see significant moments in time that are depicted on the stamps and, as we move into a digital network, we're missing that. We're losing that. So I wanted to kind of capture that in the dress, and looking at the skirt there's so many interesting stamps."

Some of the stamps Martin used depict significant Canadian events, such as the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. Other stamps come from various other parts of the world, so the cancellation marks on them also vary according to time and place.

Chiffon, beads, sequins, Lycra, buttons, thread, cardboard, glue, ink, nylons, ribbon, boots and venetian-blind hardware were among the other materials Martin used to create the outfit, which was awarded the best in show prize at the 2017 Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala (SWAG), held in Saskatoon on Oct. 28.

Stamps from Canada and other parts of the world cover the back of Monique Martin's dress. (Shannon Boklaschuk/CBC)

Wearable Art 3 highlights designs that were included at the biennial event presented by the board of the Jack Millikin Centre, a future four-season event centre in Saskatchewan's boreal forest.

Artists from as far away as New Zealand submitted pieces for SWAG. The gala featured more than 40 pieces of wearable art from local, national and international artists who used diverse materials such as bird's nests, rocks, feathers, seashells, recycled stuffed animals, VHS tapes and more.

'Lace' created from folded stamps

Martin found it interesting to find, sort and sew the stamps on the dress — which she's fittingly named Postmistress — and to think about the many letters that had been mailed.

She said people are fascinated by the visual impact of the piece, which includes "lace" around the outside of the skirt that she created from folded stamps.

That presented "big challenges for me, as an artist, to think through how to make the different things with a piece of paper — small piece of paper," she said.

The postage stamp dress reaches down to the floor. (Shannon Boklaschuk/CBC)

In addition to the dress, Martin has another piece included in the Wearable Art 3 exhibition. The hat is called First Love and was created by Martin with help from her husband, Len Thomas. The piece incorporates goat's beard weed parachutes, paper, glue, paint, ribbon, broken jewelry, collage and papier-mâché.

Wearable Art 3 will be on display until Dec. 2 at the Saskatchewan Craft Council, located at 813 Broadway Ave. in Saskatoon.