Technical Details

        Release Date:             11 October 2001
        Denominations:           20c, 50c, $1.50, $3.00
                                          With a central tab in se-tenant strip.
        Designer:                    Glenn Douran, Queensland, Australia
        Printer:                       BDT Int Security Printers, Dublin.
        Process:                     Offset Lithography
        Paper:                        110gsm PVA gum stamp paper
        Stamp Size:                25.73 x 50.22mm vertical
        Perforation Gauge:     13 per 2 cm
        Sheet                         Panes of 25 stamps (5 x 5 strips)
        First Day Cover:        $6.20

The Art of Pitcairn - Part I - Woodcarving

       11 Oct.  2001              20c, 50c, $1.50, $3.00                                             Mint and CTO           $5.20

                                                                                                                                    FDC            $6.20

The Woodcarving issue in the first in a series of the Art of Pitcairn stamp issues.  The issue is the first Pitcairn issue to be illustrated by Australian artist Glenn Douran.

For perhaps more than 100 years, the Pitcairners have been able to earn a living from carving or weaving curio and selling these as souvenirs to people aboard ships passing the island.

It is said that Edward Laeffler, an Austrian wood-carver and cabinet maker who lived on Pitcairn in his later life, influenced the style of carving more so than anyone else.  Laeffler died on Pitcairn on 10 October 1925 aged 75 years.

Miro (Thespesia populnea) has always been the preferred wood for carving, on Pitcairn.  Its heart is a deep red/brown with black streaks, while the sapwood is light and almost white.  Miro is common throughout Polynesia and Micronesia.  It is fine grained, water-resistant and durable.  The flower of the Miro is featured on the 20c stamp.

Toa, Tau or Toe (Cordia subcordata) is the next most popular carving wood.  It has a fine, dark wavy grain and is found throughout Polynesia, Micronesia and tropical Asia.  The 50c stamp shows the flower of the Toa.

The light, white wood of the Pulau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is used to create the sails of the ‘Bounty’ models, one of which is featured on the centre panel of the setenant strip.  The flower of the Pulau is featured on the $1.50 stamp.

Although Miro and Toa both grow on Pitcairn, demand initially for housing and later for carvings, has meant that planned re-plantings have been necessary.  Miro grows quickly in Pitcairn’s rich volcanic soil, whereas in the sandy soil by the beaches at Henderson Island, its is slower growing and this appears to result in a larger proportion of heart-wood with its rich attractive grain.

Expeditions to Henderson are mounted every two or three years when the Pitcairners take two longboats across 105 miles of ocean to harvest Miro and Toa from the beaches.  Because Henderson has no sheltered harbour and its reef is close to the shoreline, it is necessary to anchor the longboats outside and to ‘jump’ the reef using an inflatable or an aluminium dinghy.

Constantly aware of the need to watch the weather, the Pitcairners work quickly to gather lengths of wood.  Chainsaw engines shatter the normal sound of surf and birds.  Each islander marks his wood with his own ‘brand’ for identification later.  As dusk gathers, a meal is prepared and eaten and the group falls asleep on the coconut fronds they have cut for beds, beneath a tarpaulin slung between to coconut palms.  Each evening, a skeleton crew keeps watch aboard the two longboats outside the reef.  At day-break, work begins again.

The wood is roped together in bundles on the beach and towed across the reef by one of the longboats for the second to retrieve and load aboard.  Laden with all they can stow, the Pitcairners head for home without delay, always aware of the threat to safety of taking the heavily-laden longboats through a rough sea, should the weather turn foul.

The setenant strip tells the “woodcarving story” from the gathering of wood at Henderson Island, through the manufacturing of curio, using both traditional and modern tools, to the finished product being taken out to sell aboard a visiting cruise ship.

Carved sharks usually feature genuine sharks’ teeth, taken from those caught around Pitcairn.  The ‘Bounty’ model and Pitcairn wheelbarrow featured on the centre panel are both popular among tourists as are the longboat models and walking canes to the right.

The shafts of the walking canes are often made from coconut wood while the white band around the cane and the eyes of carved fish and birds, are normally made from the wood of the citrus orange tree.  The carvings are well detailed and of very high quality ensuring their constant demand world-wide, both by tourists who visit and by mail-order.

The cruise ship shown on the $3.00 stamp is the new “World Discoverer”, due to visit Pitcairn for the first time in April 2002, then again in November.