ITHACA, N.Y. –– Camille Chew, an Ithaca native and artist, has been chosen to have her artwork featured on a stamp celebrating the Year of the Rat and the Lunar New Year.

The Year of the Rat begins Jan. 25, 2020, and ends Feb. 11, 2021.

The stamp features several motifs and design choices that are symbolic of the Lunar New Year.

The main design is a hand-cut and painted rat mask that is mostly blue, one of the lucky colors for individuals born during the Year of the Rat. The circle in the center of the rat’s head represents the new moon on which the Lunar New Year begins, and the yellow crown on top of the rat’s head highlights the importance of the animal’s position as the first of the 12 zodiac animal signs associated with the lunar calendar.

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities around the world and is primarily celebrated by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Malaysian and Filipino heritage.

Known as Tet in Vietnam and the Spring Festival in China and elsewhere, Lunar New Year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and historically marks the arrival of spring. In communities across the United States, people shop for food and other supplies, hang decorations and ceremonially clean their homes and streets to welcome the new year with a fresh start.

Camille Chew, after graduating from the Lehman Alternative Community School, studied Printmaking at Alfred University. She graduated in 2013, and since then has been working as a freelance illustrator, and is now in grad school at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, also for Printmaking.

She was approached by Art Director Antonio Alcalá, who found her work through his daughter who was a fan of some of Chew’s illustrations.

In her online portfolio, Alcalá found a series of paper animal masks Chew had made, and thought that they could be a good fit for the new Lunar New Year stamp series. She worked with Alcalá to make a digital sketch of the design and once the design was finalized, the mask was constructed using monotype prints, paper mache, and hand-painted details, before being sent off to be photographed.

“I looked at the masks used in lion and dragon dances, traditional paper-cut art associated with Lunar New Year, and different Asian textiles for inspiration when creating the design,” Chew said.

Alcalá’s final design featuring Chew’s artwork can be purchased through The online store at, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), by mail through USA Philatelic, or at Post Office locations nationwide. Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1‑ounce price.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at