Dec 7, 2013
07:15 AM
Connecticut Today

Holiday Stamps With Gingerbread Houses Are a Connecticut 'Confection'

Holiday Stamps With Gingerbread Houses Are a Connecticut 'Confection'

Theresa Layman of Warren has made innumerable miniature houses in her career, both permanent structures meant for year-round display and the more perishable gingerbread houses that abound during the holiday season. This year her ephemeral gingerbread houses have achieved a certain immortality as they were chosen to appear as one of the U.S. Postal Service’s holiday stamp series.

She made four variations on her gingerbread houses, using different colors. All were photographed by Sally Anderson-Bruce of New Milford.

Ms. Anderson-Bruce said she selected Ms. Layton, a master of all things miniature, only after having reviewed her work and the work of several others in the area. “When I saw Teresa’s work, I knew she was the one,” said the photographer.

But even then, there was more work to be done to get exactly the right look needed for the stamp.

“After she made her first house, the U.S.P.S. art director’s reaction was, ‘We’re almost there, but not quite.’ I sat down with her and we sketched houses and discussed colors. She said, ‘That’s all wrong,’ and I said, ‘You have to trust me on this—I’m a photographer thinking in stamp scale.’ We even altered the color of the gingerbread dough, so it was not so dark and dense.”

“The whole process took two years,” Ms. Layman said, “and I could not tell a soul. They are sticklers about that—they don’t want it to be public knowledge what a series will look like.”

Ms. Layman ended up making a number of models before finally achieving just the right look. The houses are made of genuine gingerbread but, because they were produced during humid summer weather, she made a supporting structure for each one.

She has written two books on making gingerbread houses and loves the process, but confesses, “It is heartbreaking because the houses eventually fall apart.” The houses made for the USPS series have survived, sealed tightly away in plastic containers.

For the USPS project, “I started with the usual very detailed icing but when they were shrunk down to stamp size you couldn’t see it,” she said. “So we had to make the decorations much chunkier. The houses are all the same, except for different color roofs.”

She colored the roofs with tiles crafted from candy fruit slices cut in half. “I remember that as a very sticky job,” she said.

The houses all have shutters and garlands under the windows, as well as other decorative touches. Peppermint sticks act as support beams, and round, candy-coated chocolates are used for doorknobs and holly berries.

While Mrs. Layman received no pay from the government for making the four houses—and all the ones before them that were not used—she said she is delighted to have been selected. “I loved doing it and would do it again,” she said. “I just thought it would be a neat thing to do—the average person doesn’t get to have their idea printed on a postage stamp.”

The stamps, printed in booklets of 20, were released by the USPS on Nov. 6. The four different gingerbread houses are all set against a bright blue background and are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current frst-class mail one-ounce rate.

While Ms. Layman is a whiz at creating gingerbread houses, she more often creates permanent miniature structures and their accessories. Notable among the decor of her home is one of her own creations—an exquisitely crafted English cottage in the living room. Ms. Layman surrounded her thatched-roof stone cottage with a profusion of flowers and shrubs, but inside she became whimsical, turning it into a “mouse house,” peopled by a Beatrix Potter-style mother mouse, that lives amidst rustic furnishing typical of a country cottage.

See the full story at The Litchfield County Times online.

 

Holiday Stamps With Gingerbread Houses Are a Connecticut 'Confection'

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