MTSU Alumna Creates USPS’ New Bluegrass Forever Stamp

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Photo courtesy of Daxton Patrick

A Middle Tennessee State University alumna is the artist behind the new High Lonesome Sound Bluegrass forever stamp released by the United States Postal Service last month.

The new stamp, designed by 2009 MTSU fine arts graduate Heather Moulder, features a five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass in navy and white on a multicolored background.

Moulder, who works at the beloved Hatch Show Print, said the first step in the design was sketching thumbnails by hand to generate ideas.

“Because the final size of the artwork is so small, it was a challenge to figure out imagery that would translate well at that size, so the sketches were a good way to test concepts,” Moulder explained. “I worked with my art director Antonio Alcalá to hone in on an idea that the USPS liked, and we refined that into a digital mockup.”

Once her design was approved, she carved it out of wood and linoleum, ran each layer through a printing press one color at a time, and scanned the final letterpress print to create the final artwork for the stamp.

“The same USPS art director had worked on a stamp design project at Hatch Show print long ago. At the time, I was pretty new and just admired the process from afar. I never imagined I would be a part of the process one day,” she said.

Moulder has worked at Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest letterpress shops in the United States, in downtown Nashville since 2011. She’s taught letterpress and design through the shop’s internship program, at the Hamilton Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and through community and university workshops.

“Hatch’s motto is ‘preservation through production,’ and I think that embodies their mission as essentially a living museum,” she said. “By keeping ink on the wood type and carvings in the shop, it literally and figuratively revitalizes all these important pieces of printing history.
“The variety of clients there is huge, always exciting, and often challenging as you balance the roles of designer and printer.”
Moulder serves as the White Oak program coordinator at the Arts Center of Cannon County, where she organizes exhibits and events for Tennessee artists.

“I was working on my graphic design degree when I got to assist visiting artist Brad Vetter on a project — he’s the one that let me know that you could intern at Hatch Show Print and that it wasn’t strictly a museum as I had imagined. This changed the course of my life,” Moulder said.

“After my Hatch internship, I returned to MTSU to take every printmaking course I could, even after completing my graphic design requirements. The design and printmaking facilities at MTSU and the instructors then and now are top-notch, and I loved the time I spent in the program,” she added.

The Bluegrass stamp is Moulder’s first project for the postal service.

The U.S. Postal Service is an independent federal establishment mandated to be self-financing and to serve every American community through the affordable, reliable and secure delivery of mail and packages to 167 million addresses.

The postal service generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on selling postage, products and services to fund its operations.

MTSU’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program within the Department of Art and Design is designed for students who want to work professionally as graphic designers or pursue a graduate degree.

In addition to the graphic design curriculum, class options range from interactive design to book arts. Students have access to four graphic design computer labs equipped with state-of-the-art Apple computers and software.

The department is one of the numerous programs within the College of Liberal Arts. Visit www.mtsu.edu/program/art-graphic-design-concentration-b-f-a/ to learn more.

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