In celebration of ‘Thinking of You Week’ we are featuring Ellen Surrey. Her fun, colorful style and creativity brought us this year’s USPS ‘Thinking Of You Week’ stamps. We were incredibly excited to be introduced to her story and postage stamps, a perfect match for our maker feature and Paper Bar envelopes. Read more about her work with USPS and thoughts behind ‘TOY’ week on the blog. 

Where are you from? Where do you currently live? What do you enjoy in your daily life?

I grew up and currently live in Los Angeles, CA. I really enjoy taking time for myself. When I get busy I often get overwhelmed and stressed out. So taking even an hour to do something for me can be a big help. Some of my favorite things to do are taking a walk around my neighborhood, going somewhere to be inspired like a museum or even catching up on a favorite show. I also enjoy going to flea markets and thrift stores when I can. It’s a thrill to find a new old treasure.

Tell us about your background in art and how you got started.

I feel as though I’ve always been an artist. Some of my earliest memories are of my father teaching me how to draw. He was an animator at Disney for many years and has always been very supportive. For a long time I thought I wanted to be an animator like him, until I found illustration. I really liked that I could take something from a sketch all the way to the final product and the whole way it was mine. I graduated from Art Center College of Design’s illustration program in 2014 and have been working freelance ever since.



Can you tell us about the work you’ve done in the greeting card world in the past? We know that you have worked with some big brands in the past. 

I have! I’ve been lucky enough to work with Papyrus, American Greetings and Card Nest in the UK. I also make cards of my own with Clover Scout, a collaborative made up of myself and illustrator friends Loris Lora and Patrick Hruby. I really enjoy working on cards and do my best to make something that’s unique. I like imagining the person finding my card in the store and the joy they feel of giving it to a loved one.



How did you get the chance to design stamps? Did the USPS reach out or did you hear they were looking for an artist?

Designer Greg Breeding reached out to me about working on the stamp. He had pitched the concept to the USPS and wanted artwork that was fun and colorful and my work was what he was looking for.



What was your inspiration for the theme/designs?

Greg approached me with the concept from the get-go. He knew it was going to be a stamp(s) with words or phrases surrounding it, but it was uncertain how it would all come together. Early on, we attempted a version with the text ‘Thinking of You’ directly on the stamp, but it just didn’t work. The design felt too specific to one way of saying ‘Thinking of You.’ We then landed on the idea of icons, which allowed the stamps to have more versatility throughout the year instead of only being used around Valentine’s Day or a birthday. In the end, the stamps came out really fun and I look forward to seeing how others use them.



How long did the stamp design process take? What was working with the USPS like?

The whole process took 4 years. I started work on the stamp in 2019. Because the stamp isn’t commemorative there was no saying when it would be released. I’ve been told that I’m lucky I didn’t have to wait long. Working with the USPS was unlike any other project I’ve worked on. The process is different in every way and I’m glad I had Greg to guide me through it.



What was the coolest/weirdest moment you had throughout the stamp design process?

I think the weirdest was getting used to how the USPS works. It is unlike any design project I’ve ever worked on. In a typical project, I will only show my work to the Art Director who then gives

notes or approves the work. With the USPS there are far more steps and people the artwork has to go through for approval.

The coolest part is that my work is going to be on a US Forever stamp. While I’ve had my work in big publications, I think this project has the farthest reach. I’ve always felt my work was for everyone and it’s exciting to know that whether you’re 5 years old or 80 you will be able to enjoy these stamps. And as an added bonus, it’s pretty cool that my work will be in the Smithsonian.



What do you feel is special about snail mail nowadays? Do you send any snail mail yourself?

I’ve always enjoyed getting mail. Especially as a kid it was very rare for me to get mail, so when I did it felt special. Now that we’re in an age of email and texting it is even rarer to get mail that isn’t a bill or advertising. I do make a point every year to send out a holiday card that I designed to friends, family and some clients from that year. I’ve been doing it since I was in high school! I enjoy hearing that someone has gotten their card and where they’ve chosen to display it. I also like getting cards in return.


What are the most important elements in sending a ‘Thinking of You Letter’ for you personally?

I think the thought behind the letter is what counts. We get so little ‘fun mail’ in the digital age and when someone has chosen to send something physically through the mail it feels that much more special. It’s a great way to reconnect with someone in a tangible way. It’s a very different feeling when you can see someone’s handwriting versus a typed out email.

When shopping Paper Source, what are your favorite products for sending a letter?

I like to have three things; some fun stationery, lots of colorful pens and some washi tape or stickers. I enjoy personalizing the letter to whom I’m writing to. I want whoever receives it to be excited when they get their mail that day. So I would probably decorate the envelope as well as the letter with stickers or drawings using the colorful pens.


And lastly, if you had to pick, What is your favorite Paper Source colorscope color?

This is difficult! I love so many of these colors. If I had to pick one though I’d probably go with Persimmon. I use a lot of red/orange in my work and I never grow tired of it.


To find out more about Ellen Surrey, her illustrations, and to shop her original works, please visit