The Portland Stamp Company The Portland Stamp Company

Stamp No. 50Ethan Fender

Our friend Ethan Fender initiated a project designing a series of state bird stamps back in 2016 — in fact that’s how we initially met. He posted the first group on his Instagram page, it caught our eye and we started a conversation about making a physical sheet when he got all the state birds done. As he made progress on the project, we got closer to our fiftieth stamp sheet in the Artist Series. Earlier this year we invited Ethan to make his project into this special edition sheet and release it as Artist Series No. 50.


Have you designed a stamp before?

The only other stamps I have made are the Valentine’s Day ones that you guys helped me make, which was a perfect gift for my wife, Bree. The state stamps will be more relatable to the general public.


What was the most interesting or fun aspect of designing a poster stamp? What unique challenges did it present?

This series was more challenging due to the color restrictions I used. Multiple states have the same state bird, pushing my thinking on how to recreate the bird. I also find a lot of enjoyment in the minimalist illustration approach I took. There’s a lot of repetition by reusing shapes within the bird to make other elements. Birds are resourceful like that too.


Tell us about the art. Did you create something new for this stamp?

The art direction for these stamps evolved from many of my pieces over the last few years. Each design is new but derived from those early methods. The first versions of the stamps were started in 2016. Over time, there were specific approaches that I found to be more visually appealing. There were consistency and spacing issues. The borders changed, too. They were so clunky, haha. Part of that was me growing as a designer, so the latest style is what I’m most proud of sharing. I felt more decisive and focused. I gravitated towards strict form-based-natural subject matters with minor details, such as the feathers becoming environmental elements that drove the aesthetic. Assertive grid-based shapes combined with some optically driven shapes were a fun blend. I don’t always approach design that way. I often use only the grid or only manually drawn forms. People might say there’s more personality to the older ones with the color treatment, but using only a few colors and making it work is satisfying. Looking back is funny, too! I often find myself laughing at the old things I make.


We made a two-sided poster with alternate symbols for each state, how did that come about?

The alternate symbols started pretty early during the current neutral style. Since birds create a strict limit to each states’ look, I wanted alternate pieces to express the character of each state. Many clients ask to combine subject matter into one icon or logo. That’s often a way to push an aesthetic that sets people apart from the crowd. In this case, it’s a fun outlet to get viewers’ reactions. I have to explain work so often in professional settings that I want these to be free living.


Anything else? 

Thank you for working with me and supporting my work! You guys have been incredible partners for these stamps. Shoutout to the Portland Stamp Co. for keeping high-quality print alive!


Box Set  >

The Artist Series

An ongoing collaboration with invited designers, artists, and writers who create original work for an unusual form: the poster stamp. The stamps are printed on lickable, gummed paper and pinhole perforated by hand on our vintage machines. The sheets are signed and numbered by the artist, and released in editions of 100. Suitable for framing. View full series.

Upcoming releases include Bwana Spoons, Ka’ila Farrell Smith, and Art Chantry