Her name is Elizabeth Quarrier Eddy Cassetti, but this Pittsburgh native is known as "Q." Cassetti. The short first name is as pretty and saucy as her illustration that inspired the 2014 Love stamp for the U.S. Postal Service -- just in time for Valentine's Day.
The forever stamp called Cut Paper Heart was released Jan. 21. It's the latest in a series of Love stamps that were introduced in 1973.
"Combining her skills as a designer with her love of illustration, [Ms.] Cassetti created a style influenced by the arts of woodcut, cut-paper and silkscreen, among others," said Roy A. Betts, a Postal Service spokesman. "She is especially inspired by the motifs and symbols of folk art from global cultures of past and present. Although her influences are traditional, her method of working is very modern. She generally hand-draws her sketches and then digitally translates the designs into finished art."
Ms. Cassetti, 56, is a 1975 graduate of The Ellis School who received her bachelor's degree in graphic design at Carnegie Mellon University in 1979. She worked as a corporate communications designer until 1997, when she opened her own design consulting firm Luckystone Partners in the Finger Lakes town where she lives, Trumansburg, N.Y. Among her clients are Tiffany and Co., Estee Lauder, Corning Inc., Steuben Glass, Quest Diagnostics, Cornell University and Ithaca College.
She presented 30 approaches to the Love stamp to postal art director Antonio Alcalá, who had originally sought her out to illustrate a stamp. He created the final design for the Love stamp that features her illustration.
"Out of 30, it was narrowed to the 'Cut Paper Heart,' " Ms. Cassetti said. "I did this a couple of years ago, and not until November of 2013 did I know its use. Until three weeks ago, I didn't know of the issue. They keep it close. ... I can guess why. Perhaps it's the collectors out there."
Ask Ms. Cassetti what she was paid to design "Cut Paper Heart" and she'll say, "I'm not at liberty to say." Ask her if she's drawing other stamps for the Postal Service, and she'll repeat: "Again, I'm not at liberty to say ... ."
Mr. Betts said that Ms. Cassetti's illustration and design work have been recognized by The Society of Illustrators (New York and Los Angeles) and by such national magazines as American Illustration, Applied Arts Magazine and Communication Arts.
At age 46, Ms. Cassetti said she started feeling stale with her work and looked to advance her skills. She pursued a master's in arts degree in illustration at Syracuse University and later received an M.F.A. in illustration at the University of Hartford.
"I got the master's from Hartford on the pursuit of developing a style through valentines. ... I kept a blog," she said.
Ms. Cassetti posted her thesis online. One Friday she got a request from a New Yorker magazine art director wanting a portrait of English author Margaret Drabble by the following Wednesday. She did it. "So the portrait ran, and eight months later I got an email from someone I didn't know." It was Mr. Alcala of the Postal Service.
"I got in touch, and he asked me to do the Love stamp, based on my thesis and work for the New Yorker.
"It's a limited edition of 50 million," Ms. Cassetti said, adding that the coloration and the look of the illustration can be appreciated at all times of the year, not just for Valentine's Day. The stamps even could be used to pay your bills or taxes.
"The design's not fluffy or feminine," she said. "We love to pay our taxes. We can show the love every day of the year."