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Isle of Man Post Office

Lesley Anne Ivory Isle of Man stamps commissionEach stamp, commissioned by The Isle of Man Post Office, includes a Celtic chain frame design and a patchwork background incorporating flora, fauna and emblems which evoke the spirit of the Isle of Man.

On the 10th October 2017, The Isle of Man Post Office issued a special set of stamps, Ivory Manx Cats, showcasing Lesley Anne Ivory's distinctive style. The commission celebrates the much-loved tailless Manx Cat, one of the Island's most famous national symbols.

Once news of the first day cover broke, Lesley commented: Working on this set has been such a wonderful puzzle to unravel, I wanted to make all four stamps fit-in, to work as a set, it was quite tricky to achieve.

The Manx Cat

The respected Hertfordshire miniaturist observes: One notices quite a difference in the structure of the Manx cat, where you have longer back legs and a sort of shorter chassis, thicker necks - the differences are very real but subtle. Of course, a real Manx cat doesn't have a stumpy tail, it has an absolutely smooth spine ending curving well-in with no stump, that should be a real pedigree.

The Connection

This commission from the Isle of Man Post Office gave me the excuse to bring-forward all my passions like the cats, flora and fauna, celtic traces, patchworks and so much so it was such a delight to do. Seeing cats back on patchwork again has taken me right back to when I was sixteen, which is a funny thing, because that's the very age when I first visited the island. It was rather a terrible crossing and I was jolly glad to be home but it was such a lovely island and, for that one day, I was completely captivated and bought a dear little Manx cat broach which I still have today.

Manx Cat with Harebells and Rabbits on Harebell QuiltLesley's fond memories of the Island drove her quest to discover flowers which were symbolic to the Island but what she didn't expect to get was the thrill of discovering Manx Quilting, Lesley continues: …of course, that really got me going and gave me the excuse. At the age of sixteen, I was introduced by my Auntie Lena to patchwork and I've never stopped since! I thought, I can design little patchworks for each cat to sit on; representing in its motifs everything salient to the island itself and bring-out what is special to the island.

The Design Process

Having been commissioned many times in the past to imagine and produce a set for ceramics and giftware, Lesley is no stranger to the particular requirements and went on to explain more about the process and this most recent commission.

I have to let my cats help me, by lending their personalities and drawing a Manx cat around the personality feeling that they gave me.
Because every cat has got it's own personality (which you can't make up on paper and paint) it has to be the real thing for me, so that I can get a reality through and make it a convincing cat person.

Manx Cat with Kittens on Ragwort and Daisy QuiltHaving lived with cats all this time you get to know that each one is individual. So I have used individual auras to help put a life inside the coats that you see; representing Isle of Man real Manx cats which are a stunning breed and so unique to this beautiful island.

I designed the stamps as one, with colour swatches on pieces of paper so that I knew colour blends and what would fit in as if it were melting a rainbow of separate little rectangles, that looked comfortable, no matter which was next to which, and that the cats would all be comfortable as a quartet.

I assumed they were going to be printed as a four for some purposes. The colours were paramount in the first conceptions of this four. The details couldn't be too fussy - we haven't got anything that's going to be printed small and look to tiny and fiddling - it's got to have its own little eye-full and impact; got to show-up, every detail I put on there I mean to be seen.

The brief was left entirely to me. I thought, as they've chosen me from my website, with the work already accomplished on it, they obviously liked the impression that my work gave me en-masse and the impression that I would have thought comes through mostly are cats with colour backgrounds, quite bright, hopefully attractive, pleasant to the eye without being garish - nothing new that I might think-up, a prototype idea which I hadn't thought through thoroughly but something I was really comfortable with and that the cats would look good against and would represent the island.

So I looked up all the assets that the island had, found delightful little traces of celtic, so I imagined that celtic border straight away that was my outline, I'd got my border fixed for all four - there was a set on the way!

Manx Cats Ginger and Black and White on Fuscia QuiltSo I then chose the poses of cats - I had lots on the short list, some [cats] were disappointed, of course - they sent me a book about Manx cats so there were quite a few photographs for me to just get the gist of what their shape is like.

I then looked-up the flowers, the flora and fauna most significant to the island. The flowers and everything I'd chosen as motifs for the stamps had a sort of significance with the colour as well so that it all looked natural, without anything sticking-out. And I hope I've done that.

I knew the format, I had my celtic border. I knew I wanted an edge of the same colour, that would surround them to surround the design. And the space that would be left in the middle, that you see covered in patchwork, was the space that I had to make it all fit-in and do. Each one is tailor made for the space.

A Celebration of Manx Cats and of the Isle of Man

The 47p stamp displays a Manx Tabby with Mugwort on a Mugwort quilt. In this stamp you'll find little pieces of heather and mugwort and you've got the laxiwheel forming the corners; even the little yellow flower behind her ear is a flower that I found in my research.

Manx Tabby Cat with Mugwort on Mugwort QuiltThe £1.30 stamp two Manx Cats, ginger and black and white, on a Fuchsia quilt. The slightly mauve stamp, this comes from the fuchsia which abound in the isle of Man. So, with that, I put a lucky four-leaved clover; just to make a balance with the green that I'd got coming through on the other stamps, whilst holding-back so that it wasn't over-dominant as there was a dominant tone that was individual to each stamp.

The £1.57 stamps a Manx Cat with kittens on a Ragwort and Daisy quilt. A stamp featuring three cats? Well, that was obviously going to be the stamp that bore the three-legged emblem of the Island!

£3.68 stamp features a Manx Cat with Harebells and rabbits on a Harebell quilt. I just fancied this little grey cat with harebells, it just seemed to fit her and the little rabbits too - just the little pink touch to echo in some of the others whilst not dominating.

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