By Brantley Ellzey
Forward: In January of this year, I began a daily blog on Facebook called Love List 2020. I hoped it would act as a happy counterpoint to the constant barrage of troubling news and turmoil that fill our modern lives. To achieve this, I highlight something I love each morning in hopes that it brings joy and inspiration to followers of the page.
My name is Brantley Ellzey and I was born and raised upriver from Memphis in Osceola, Arkansas. I studied architecture and theater at Tulane University and, after a brief stint in New York City, returned to Memphis. I practiced architecture for years with local firms before going out on my own and opening my own design and art practice. I was among the first to locate in the now burgeoning Crosstown Arts District eleven years ago and continue to maintain a studio space on Cleveland.
Love List 2020 covers an extremely wide variety of subjects, but architecture, design and preservation in Memphis and around the world are frequent topics. I was delighted when Mark Fleischer asked me to share these particular posts about Memphis with StoryBoard readers on a biweekly basis. My pieces are partly academic and partly about my own personal impressions of a topic. Researching and writing the Love List has given me a renewed appreciation for many different things I love, especially Memphis architecture. I hope you will find my Love List enjoyable, informational and uplifting.
Editor’s Note: When I first discovered Brantley Ellzey’s Love List earlier this year, it was a peek into the heart and soul of a person who, though I’ve met face to face on occasion or in passing at Cooper-Young Fest, I only really know through that thing we call FaceBook.
Now, to know Brantley in this manner is to know that he is outspoken. Among the first to comment on or offer unsolicited critiques of say, a proposed development and its architectural merits, Brantley does not mince words. His commentaries seem to come from the general outlook that Memphis deserves the highest of standards and should not tolerate anything half-baked. I agree. I admire him for his fearlessness, and for his drive to constantly challenge Memphis to be the best it can be.
So when he responded with enthusiasm to my request to republish some of his Love List posts, I was as thrilled as I was honored to learn that he was a fan of StoryBoard. I must echo Brantley’s comments here, because we too are delighted to share his work and his Love List stories, which are truly delightful and uplifting in their own right. Most of the posts we’ll be sharing are Memphis-centric and many are focused on architecture, but others, that are just too charming to resist, might have only a peripheral Memphis connection. During times when we could all use a smile and some healthy nostalgia, I hope you enjoy his stories as much as I have.
~Mark Fleischer, Publisher
Love List 2020 for Jan. 22: Rubber Stamps
By Brantley Ellzey
I loved to visit my dad’s office when I was a kid. It was full of intriguing things: typewriters, cups full of pens, paper clips, staplers. His secretary Mary Fisher (who called me “J. B.”) was good at finding ways to keep me amused. She had a little spinning caddy on her desk that held an array of rubber stamps with the usual mundane subjects, but to me they were required for passage into a mysterious foreign country. I stamped many a spy’s passport in that office in Osceola!
Rubber stamps have a lineage leading back to wax seals and wooden block printing. Their development paralleled the inventions of quick drying ink and vulcanized rubber. The first commercialized rubber stamps were produced in Baltimore by a company owned by J. F. W. Dorman. By the late nineteenth century, there were thousands of companies producing stamps and the International Stamp Trade Manufacturers organization was formed, an incarnation of which still exists today.
Early stamps focused primarily on numbering and dating for businesses. Prior to the invention of the mimeograph and the photocopy machine, rubber stamps were used extensively in education as well to create classroom materials. Schools didn’t have much money to spend on books and supplies, so teachers made their own teaching aids using various stamps.
I have an antique rubber stamp alphabet and a vintage interchangeable letter rubber stamp kit that have proven useful in several projects. I love the denuded, handmade look that they produce. We used rubber stamps at Ellfrow (our house name) this year in the production of our annual Christmas card to customize and add whimsy to the envelopes.
The world’s largest rubber stamp sits in Willard Park in Cleveland. It was created by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and says simply “FREE.” While they may not be free, rubber stamps are a great and fun way to create and are readily available at specialty and craft stores. (I’ve had fantastic custom stamps made at Best Rubber Stamps on Union.)
So, grab some paper, ink and a stamp and, well, stamp!