Bursting with colour and personality, Jersey Post’s Flockdown stamp set was the fitting winner of the Philatelic Campaign of the Year award at this year’s World Post & Parcel Awards – the first live awards after two years of virtual events.
We spoke to the artist behind the stamps, Berni Martin, who found a unique way of documenting the lockdown experience in 2020, painting a bird a day for the first hundred days of lockdown. We also hear from David McGrath, Group Marketing Director at Jersey Post, on why the stamps resonated with so many people.
Around the world COVID-19 lockdowns forced shops, bars, restaurants and workplaces to close their doors and people instinctively began to spend more time outdoors and as a result developed a renewed sense of appreciation for nature.
Berni Martin lives in the parish of St Brelade, in the west of Jersey. She describes the lockdown scene in 2020 “It was so quiet in the first lockdown and the weather was lovely, we had an abundance of birdy visitors outside our windows”. Berni has a room in her first floor flat where she keeps all her art materials and her radio and it has a big window where she often sits and paints. “I was just sitting doodling with watercolours one evening, and a quirky bird appeared…I posted it on Facebook and people liked it, so I decided to paint one a day and post it online.”
Berni has set challenges for herself before – like a photo a day for a year or 50 mini collages “I enjoy the discipline of a having a project, and it is a good way to focus,” she says.
And the images also provided comfort for her friends and followers as well as providing a way for Berni to navigate the isolation of lockdown: “People looked forward to them, one of my friends even gave them names each day. They made me and my friends happy in the uncertain times of the first lockdown.”
And it wasn’t just the birds themselves that attracted her followers it was the emotions that Berni captured in her paintings – expressing the emotional roller-coaster that people around the whole world were experiencing. “I love birds; they all have their own personalities and mostly they reflected the mood on the day they were painted…happy, sad, colourful, crazy, fat, sleepy, flyaway!” she confesses.
Berni painted the majority of the birds in the late afternoon or evening after she had finished her day of working from home. “I looked forward to doing one every day when time was my own, after work. I missed them after I got to 100,” she confides.
In 2020 many Posts were issuing stamps with images of masks and medical paraphernalia reflecting the daily reality of COVID-19. David comments: “I think people were exhausted with seeing that type of imagery and it was time for something different.
“I ‘d seen some of Berni’s images on social media and thought, this could make a fascinating stamp issue as they were such hopeful, optimistic images – it was a completely different approach to COVID-19. Berni’s project was a beautiful example of somebody who found something unique during lockdown,” he adds.
The creative process
Creating a stamp collection during lockdown was not without its challenges for Jersey Post as David explains: “The creative process was really different as we weren’t in the office. Normally we would sit down together in the design studio and discuss concepts and drawings but now we were working remotely.”
The Jersey Post team also had the unenviable task of narrowing Berni’s 100 bird paintings down to just eight. David reveals: “Each member of the philatelic team took it in turns to lay them all out and select eight. It was a very personal thing as lockdown affected everyone in different ways. We then cross referenced our choices and reached a compromise, settling on a set of eight watercolours of different colours and emotions.”
Reflecting the new hygiene conscious environment, Jersey Post also decided to make the stamps self-adhesive so people didn’t need to lick them.
Bringing Berni’s story to life
The philatelic team at Jersey Post worked directly with Berni to ensure they were staying true to her vision and kept her numbering on the stamps, acknowledging the origination of the designs.
Doing justice to Berni’s story was really important to the team so they decided to create a short animation to share her story. “We wanted to use the medium of animation to communicate Berni’s lockdown journey and to create a sense of community through this shared experience,” explains David.
Jersey Post worked with a local agency, TPA to create a storyboard and narrative, which brought the birds and Berni’s story to life. The resulting animation is both uplifting and emotive, with details such as real birdsong creating a sense of calm and authenticity.
Almost a year since the start of Jersey’s first COVID-19 lockdown Jersey Post released the 8-stamp Flockdown set in March 2021. Berni commented: “The first view took my breath away. I never imagined that they would be stamps one day or be so popular when I was originally doing the paintings. I hope they make people smile and encourage people to send a postcard or letter to a loved one.”
David says that the stamp set seemed to really strike a chord with people “There was such an outpouring of love for Berni’s birds across all of our social media channels – we knew we were onto something.”
Berni agrees: “Everyone I know has loved them, and I know that lots of my friends have bought the presentation pack and first day covers. People that probably have never purchased postage stamps to keep before.”
Commercially they were also very successful for Jersey Post says David: “The commercial success of the stamps was never our angle but they ended up being a huge seller for us and had real global appeal,”
The Philatelic Award
Berni was delighted when the stamps won the Philatelic Award at the World Post & Parcel Awards held in Dubai. “The award was very well deserved by Jersey Post,” she said, “and it has been a buzz to know that the award was global. Great for Jersey, Jersey Post and of course me!!”
David says: “I was delighted when we won – it was testament to the hard work, dedication and passion of the team. We felt we’d created something unique and hoped the judges would see it in the same way. We were also delighted for Berni too. She spent those hundred days sketching and drawing these birds and never knowing that one day they might become a set of award-winning stamps.”
And as for the birds outside Berni’s window – are they still as abundant now life has returned to normal in 2022? “We’ve got more birds than ever visiting our window bird feeder,” she reveals. “It’s very well established now, and we have an abundance of gold finches, bull finches, starlings and cheeky sparrows coming all day, every day. We have to buy bird seed by the sackful these days!”
To watch the Flockdown animation see: https://www.tpagency.com/our-work/flockdown/