Stamp of approval for Paula's art

PAULA Pryke has stamped her creative floristry talent – on a set of Christmas stamps.Now a leading florists who grew up in Suffolk, Paula's designs appear on the prestigious Royal Mail's festive stamps which have been launched this week.

PAULA Pryke has stamped her creative floristry talent – on a set of Christmas stamps.

Now a leading florists who grew up in Suffolk, Paula's designs appear on the prestigious Royal Mail's festive stamps which have been launched this week.

Paula, who stems from Clare, started her career as a history teacher, but she soon discovered a real flair and love of floristry.

"The Suffolk countryside was a real inspiration to me. I have my rural upbringing to thank for my career," said Paula, who has two shops in London and two concessions – one with Liberty's, Regent Street and the Conran Shop, Fulham Road.


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The stamps feature traditional symbols of the festive season, all five stamps in the issue will be self-adhesive.

Holly leaves topped with bright red berries will be the image seen on billions of first class stamps as Royal Mail gears up to deliver a bumper Christmas mailbag of around 2.1 billion cards, letters and parcels.

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A delicate 'snowflake' image was created from a Blue Spruce tree for the second class stamp, with Ivy taking its place on the European class stamp. Mistletoe graces the 47p stamp and a bird's eye view of a pine cone known as 'deal apples' or 'dealies' in Suffolk.

Photographer Carol Sharp's precise, close up images soften out towards the edges, producing an exciting combination of shape and colour for what is, traditionally, the most popular stamp issue of the year.

Factfile

Holly – 1st class stamp: Red berries and evergreen foliage are almost universally thought to bring good luck. A holly – or holy tree planted by a house protects it against lightning or witchcraft. A holly whip handle protected coachmen, and it is still believed cutting down a holly tree brings bad luck.

Folk medicine advised holly for fever and chilblains, with sufferers being beaten with holly twigs. Fresh milk from a cup of holly or ivy wood was said to cure whooping cough. It was also said to bring fertility, especially to men.

Holly, displaying fresh green leaves and bright red berries in the deepest winter, was used by the Romans in their Saturnalia celebrations, a custom that later spread to England.

Holly berries are said to represent the blood of Christ, and holly leaves the crown of thorns he wore on the road to Calvary. Before Christmas tree became popular a huge ball of holly decorated with figures and ribbons was often hung in houses throughout the country.

But the most curious and painful tradition of all took place on Hogmanay in the highlands of Scotland, where boys whipped each other with branches of the prickly stuff for good luck.

Spruce 'Star' – 2nd class stamp: Most Christmas trees sold in Britain are derived from the Norwegian spruce variety. Christmas trees were recorded in Britain in the late 1700s but Prince Albert made them a must for every household in 1841.

The spruce 'star' shown is from a blue spruce. The snowflake/star pattern was created by wiring together sprigs to make the desired shape. The buds seen on the ends of the sprigs eventually develop into cones.

Ivy – E Class Stamp: Ivy is a symbol of fidelity, given to newlyweds in ancient Greece. It was renowned as a hangover cure, and in Britain ivy would be hung in bunches or depicted over inn doors as a sign that good quality wine was served.

The early Christian church repudiated ivy, holly and mistletoe but later icy specifically became an essential part of church decorations. Domestically it fell out of favour, but recent years have seen a repopulation of ivy in gardens and in Christmas wreaths.

Mistletoe – 47p stamp: Growing high in other trees, mistletoe is a mysterious plant and accorded sacred properties. Celtic druids regarded mistletoe as a magical aphrodisiac plant and were said to have harvested it with full ceremony and a golden sickle on the sixth day of the moon.

When mistletoe was found on an oak tree, its berries represented the semen of 'oak tree spirit' – as well as being a symbol of fertility, hence kissing under the mistletoe. Women wearing it were thought to be more likely to conceive.

Hung on doorways to fend off evil, thunder and lightning, mistletoe was carried to the high altar of York Minster on Christmas Eve in the early 1700s.

Pine Cone – 68p stamp: Pine cones have long been a favourite natural Christmas ornament.

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