Stamp Artist Profiles Reprinted from Anna Banana's Artist Stamp News, 1992
Higgins grew up in a small town outside Chicago. Trips to the Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry and the Chicago Art Institute Museum were probably formative in his later creativity. As a boy, he made models, bombs, zip-guns, tree houses, mini bikes and collected stamps.
At 15, when his family moved to Ann Arbor, he took poetry and art classes in high school. As a senior, he did well with his welded sculpture at the local Art Fair. Higgins attended Western Michigan University, majoring in Art, quitting two weeks before graduating.
Two years later, he finished up; his B.A. at the University of Colorado then went on to graduate school, receiving his M.F.A. in 1976. While there he majored in painting and printmaking. With no teaching prospects, he moved to N.Y.C. in 1976 and is still there. As a boy, I collected stamps and carved rubber erasers into rubber stamps. At the University of Colorado, I was into painting and printmaking; specifically, in ’74 or ’75 working extensively from 2-D objects; play money, stock certificates, stamps, mining claims, postcards, posters, letter-heads, labels, maps, blue-prints…all sorts of “non-Art”, commercially produced 2-D visuals.
Around in there somewhere, I worked at a silk-screen shop, and as a surveyors rodman, and setting type by hand for a rubber stamp shop. All these things I incorporated into my art.
In 1975 I did 3 sheets of stamps, offset, with the help of a friend, Jim Green, who worked at the local paper at night.
DOO DA, to the best of my recollection, comes from the song Camp Town Ladies, or Zippety Doo Da. I had realized ya gotta have a name of a country on it if it’s gonna be a stamp, and Doo Da sounded like a good one to me. The usual, “3P” that I put on them is for the same reason, “gotta have a value,” so 3P for 3 pennies. (At this time I liked the work of Hieronymus Bosch, VanGogh, Gaugin, Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Oldenberg.)
Somewhere in there, I started using the “Wingnut” as a logo for Doo Da Post. This comes from the Midwest slang of a “wingnut” being somewhat off the wall; not manically crazy, but maybe seeming goofy, but faster, like a pun. Also it seemed to me to fit “art historically” with Hermes and later with Gauloise cigarette labels. These stamps were printed in unlimited editions, in various colors on various colored gummed paper.
I was also experimenting with RTV mold-making compound with commercially etched plates from my designs, to make rubber stamps. At some time I became a notary and embossed my art with this seal. Edwin Golik Golikoff, a visiting artist at Colorado University turned me on to mail art, suggesting I write Ray Johnson, Buster Cleveland, Anna Banana and several others. Ken Friedman, another visiting artist, talked of artist stamps; Robert Watts, Joel Smith and Donald Evans.
I moved to N.Y.C. in 1976 and printed my first color Xerox stamps. Many of my early stamps incorporated reproductions of my paintings, and were in small editions. Most were printed on gummed paper and perforated. ALL THIS CREATIVITY WAS EXPLODING EXPONENTIALLY AT THE SAME TIME; Mail Art, Stamp Art, Painting, People, their Art, NYC, Doo Da, Wow! Cavellini, Wow! California, Wow! Anyway, I met this stamp maker in Seattle, name of C.T.Chew, that blew my mind with his creativity! I had come out there for a “Foot-Print” show at the Davidson Gallery (all prints had to be smaller than one foot in any direction) and they had a display case of his works that looked like an old type-font outfit, and in every drawer there were more of these beautiful stamps by Chew.
I remember going to see him at Triangle Studio in Seattle, and the door was opened by Nori Sato, a girl I used to double-date in high school some 10 years earlier. Carl turned out to be a stamp genius. He showed me his method of carving erasers; several different colored inks (block printing oil, I think) to produce beautiful original works.
For several years we corresponded intensely, each sending the other his weekly stamp sheet or sheets; the other bouncing off the ideas and coming back with his. Carl says he’s retired from stamp making and is instead, the “Rug Maker to the Planets.” I hope he doesn’t quit making stamps altogether. As I said to him, “It’s a whole lot easier to stack a 300 piece show of stamps, than of rugs.”
At this time, many of the Doo Da Postage stamps started out as 16” x 18” paintings, with the “Doo Da” painted right on them. Every couple of years, I auction off the paintings, to get money to keep printing the stamps.
In Colorado, I rented a perforator, that a print shop used as a plant holder in their reception area. In N.Y.C. I called several printshops and the third one had a manual perforator they wanted to sell - $75. It took four BIG guys to get it up the one flight of stairs to my place.
Through the mail, I’ve met so many artists that make art stamps, and come to understand their country of origin, their methods, their dedication. I’ve had the good fortune to paint portraits of some of them, and commemorate them on stamps.
Some of the stamps I make are done the same size you see them, using photos, colored pencils and press type. To me, artists’ stamps is an art form. The mailart network opened the doors; across country, across borders creative beings could communicate with one another, circumventing the traditional gallery, art business, money-fame game.
To date, I’ve done some 250 or so different editions of Doo Da stamps, usually in signed, numbered editions of 100. Many of these I’ve traded with other stamp artists or sent to mail art/ stamp-art shows. Of other artists stamp works, I specially love and appreciate the work many have done to facilitate shows and catalogues. Pat Beilman of Milwaukee, J.W. Felter, Ed Varney and Anna Banana of Canada, G.E. Marx Vigo of South America, Joel Smith in Illinois, Harley in San Francisco, the Galantais in Hungary and many others have produced beautiful informative catalogues and shows. The variety and creative methods in these catalogues are truly spectacular!
In the last 3 years or so, my stamp production has decreased for a number of reasons. One of the foremost being my interest and development of “Fire Cracker Label Paintings”. These 14” x 18” acrylic on canvas board pieces continue many of my creative concerns developed in the stamp making. I like the strong color, graphic lettering look similar to both these images. The firecracker paintings are then mounted on cardboard tubes over which red fabric has been stretched, giving them a look of a big pack of firecrackers. The Sam Davidson Galleries in Seattle handles both my stamps and the firecracker paintings.
Tho I haven’t been as active in the mailart network as I once was, periodically I’ll receive a catalogue from a show I had forgotten I was in, or hear from an old friend or new stamp maker, and … here I go again! It’s wonderful to see all you stamp artists work in ASN, and I hope to see ya in the mails.
-E.F. Higgins III, Feb. 1992
Addendum: To date, 2009, Higgins has created over 780 editions of the Doo Da Postage Stamps. This article was originally published by Anna Banana in her Artist Stamp News, Vol. 2, #1, p.4-5.