Whimsical Stamp Art Created by 93-Year-Old Artist Captures Imaginations at The World's Largest Children's Museum

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This 93-year-young firecracker got in the habit of looking at every stamp that came into her mailbox some 40 years ago and now she’s combined thousands of them to create intriguing pieces of contemporary art.

Shirley Baskin Familian

From a distance they look like a mandala and you don't notice they're postage stamps until you examine closely. They look like an intricate design and then you realize they're postage stamps!

Imagine a whimsical mannequin with style and sass, a chair featuring a moon surrounded by astronauts, or a ukulele covered with musicians. These are just a few of the imaginative and highly detailed mosaic pieces created by artist Shirley Baskin Familian that you can soon see at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Always frugal with objects that come into and leave her home, she also has an intense appreciation for art. Some 40 years ago, Familian developed a passion for the artwork specifically designed for postage stamps and her desire to collect them was born. 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. “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.”

More than 25,000 stamps have made the voyage through her mailbox. Familian strategically sorts and organizes them by color as she receives them. With a wonderful eye for geometric patterns, she uses her imagination to cut the stamps and glue them together creating unique pieces of art while encouraging others to look at stamps in a completely different way. You can view 18 of her whimsical and colorful creations yourself at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis September 27 – December 14, 2014.

Once you have seen Familian’s creations, you won’t believe her age. 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, you’d never know she's just shy of 94 years young.

“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?” It is as though the art has become part of her DNA.

Familian describes it like raising a child. She started with a blank canvas, watched it grow and guided it with love and passion. Watching each piece develop has become a tremendous source of pride. In fact, she confessed that when they took the pieces to ship to Indianapolis for the exhibit, she felt like her children had left.

Familian’s late husband was co-creator of "Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors" ice cream chain. Shirley graduated from the University of Washington, Art & Advertising Major, BA Degree, 1942. She also volunteered for 50 years at KCET Public TV and is a founding member of MOCA, LA. Her daughter is a professional photographer - Edie Baskin Bronson (worked for Saturday Night Live for over 25 years). Her son is Richard Baskin, he is a professional musician and composer. Her granddaughter Bella Bronson recently graduated from Cal Arts and now works for SNL– the creative and entrepreneurial gene definitely runs in the family!

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary family learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit http://www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube.

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Kimberly Harms
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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