Shirley Baskin Familian is a 93-year-old artist who has always been frugal. About 40 years ago, she developed an interest in stamps that traveled  the world to make their way to her mailbox. She started collecting them, and sorting them — eventually transforming them into artist creations. As a result, she has been doing her own creative work with these stamps for the past 25 years.

“Stamps are wonderful! The designs contain rich, vibrant colors that don’t fade,” she said about the work. “As an artist, I figured another artist designed this. It had to be approved by someone and it had to be printed. The engraving on them is beautiful, and I just got in the habit of looking at every stamp that came in my mailbox.”

Coco assembled
This mannequin is one of the artists’ favorite pieces. Named in honor of Coco Channel, she exudes style and a unique tattoo-like postage stamp design.

More than 25,000 stamps have made the journey through her mailbox. Nowadays, Familian strategically sorts and organizes them by color as she receives them. She creates geometric patterns, using her imagination to cut the stamps and glue them together. The result is unique pieces of art that encourage others to look at stamps in a completely different way.

Once you have seen Familian’s creations, it’s hard to believe she just shy of 94 years young. Those who have witnessed her nimble fingers cut around the artwork or watched as her sharp eyes assess the details of her work without glasses can vouch for the fact that age is just a number.

Musicians Adorn Musical Instrument
Musicians Adorn Musical Instrument

Familian says the work relaxes her and puts her into a somewhat meditative state.

“I’m lucky that I’m still in good physical shape, workout, keep myself moving,” said Familian. “The repetitive motion is very relaxing for me – in fact, I lose track of time. I turn the music on, go to the kitchen and go to work. I think it’s one thing that has kept me on the move. I just love doing it and miss it when I’m not doing it. When I finish one piece, my mind immediately goes to what am I going to do now?”

Familian’s late husband was co-creator of “Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors” ice cream chain. She graduated from the University of Washington with an Art & Advertising Major BA Degree in 1942.

You can view 18 of her whimsical and colorful creations yourself at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis September 27 – December 14, 2014.

[All images courtesy Shirley Baskin Familian/ The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis]

  • Jade

    What a wonderful woman. This is proof positive that youth is a state of mind. It’s all a matter of staying active and keeping the mind working and engaged. Her art pieces are absolutely beautiful; it’s hard to believe they’ve been created with postage stamps. From a distance, they look like they were painted on instead of decoupaged. The skateboard is very cool.

    • Maheni

      Yes it is and I love that it is not just the random things you think of when you consider grandma is out there being crafty. It is out of the box and bringing attention to where it needs to be, in the art, not just some random old doily.

  • Maheni

    I really hope to be that crafty one day and I really hope I am just as spunky as her when I am that age. I just read a story about a guy who is older (a bit younger than her) and does nothing but paint on his computer as a hobby. I love it. I mean what else are going to do when you are retired and bored?

  • LittleButterfly

    I hope that I am as active, creative and happy in my 90s as Shirley is. I would have never thought about using postage stamps to create art, but she is right. Postage stamps are tiny works of art in their own right. I love that her nails are impeccably polished. There’s a lady after my own heart.

  • SelenaJ25

    What an innovative idea. It just goes to show you that art can be started from anything. Art is something that is all around us in different shapes, mediums, and styles. One just has to be willing to look for it and give it life so that others can see it clearly. What Shirley does is something a truly artistic and creative person would do. Her pieces remind me of Mosaic tiles scattered about.