About seven years ago I entered Klaus Flugge’s office for the first time. The first thing I noticed was the vast collage of decorated envelopes on the wall above his desk. Mischevious cats in skirts and trousers, a bed on a cloud, a crocodile mask, a scribbly London skyline, each picture original and unique.
‘You don’t look like you’ve been in Africa,’ said Klaus, looking up from his desk. ‘Where’s your tan?’
‘I don’t know,’ I replied lamely. ‘I like your envelopes.’
Klaus Flugge was born in Germany in 1934. He trained as a bookseller in Leipzig but his political views forced him to flee East Germany in 1953. He worked in publishing in New York and London and eventually founded his own company named after Hans Christian Andersen. He has a keen editorial eye and is great at selling books.
I was born in 1976, the year that Andersen Press was founded. As a small child I owned books illustrated by David McKee and Tony Ross. Andersen Press would not have rung any bells with me, but I knew and loved Elmer the Elephant. And Mr Benn, of course – he was my hero, a true adventurer.
As the twenty-nine year old me sat goggle-eyed in Klaus’s office, gripping the arms of my chair and gazing at the Incredible Envelope Wall, the familiar illustrative styles before me evoked thoughts of childhood, wonder and adventure. And travel, of course – for the stamps herald from as far afield as South Africa and Japan.
The first illustrated envelope was sent to Klaus by David McKee, who got the idea from a book of illustrated envelopes entitled ‘Letters to Georgio’ by the well known French artist Jean-Michel Folon. McKee’s first few envelopes were displayed in Klaus’s office, inspiring other artists working for Andersen Press to do the same.
The pictures on these envelopes are especially charming because they were not drawn under contract. They earned no advance, no royalties, no flat fee. They have never been pixelated, filtered, or photoshopped. They are pen and ink doodles – simple, quirky expressions of friendship, humour and joie de vivre.
And this week the Incredible Envelope Wall is coming to a bookshop near you. Klaus Flugge has just published Letters to Klaus, a compilation of 100 envelopes, with all proceeds going to Save the Children. Highly recommended.