Happy objects is an Australian Design Centre exhibition exploring the value of objects in our lives. We asked Meryl Ryan to share with us a 'happy object' and tell us a story about this object.

Meryl says:

I have always been a bit ritualistic about personal letters and take almost as much pleasure in the quality of the thing – the paper, the trace of the hand and colour of the ink, the stamp – as in the stories they tell. I’ve kept so many. For decades. In 1999, I found a way to celebrate what they represent and to mark the new millennium. Using a handful of postage stamps, from letters to or from my close friends and family, Hunter-based artist-pals John Turier and Nicola Hensel made these talismans for the future for me. They are beautiful, functional and meaningful; they can be worn, hung on a wall (where they normally live for easy access) or propped up on a surface. I kept two and made gifts of others (to their letter-authors).

Each of the three framed-postage-stamp brooches has a different and, for me, important story. The first with its striking stamp was on a postcard to me from a dear friend (after I recently returned to Australia from the UK). Tricia Williams, my generous, loving friend, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and died not long after her 50th birthday that year. Her family then gifted the piece back to me.

This second stamp was on a postcard from St Petersburg (then Leningrad) to my life partner back in London, when I was excited to be on the first of two trips to Russia as follow-up to a postgraduate scholarship. Russia gifted me good times, bad food and plenty of vodka! As a PS on the postcard, I told my partner I would never go anywhere without him again. But I have and I will. Nevertheless, the sentiment was heartfelt.

In the mid-80s we lived on a boat in the Seychelles for a year, crewed yachts on Indian Ocean voyages (Chagos Archipelago, Sri Lanka; The Comoros, South Africa) and were often beyond contact for months at a time. This stamp was on a regular catch-up letter to my parents in Maitland, NSW dated 13 June 1987, from Mahé, Seychelles. Among other things, I tell of the joy of the odd old movie at the British High Commission and brag to my fisherman father about the 3 foot-long Carangue and 4 kilo Bonito the three of us caught between Curieuse Island and La Digue. Wild, wonderful times.

For me, these objects are priceless.

Meryl Ryan lives in Newcastle and is a highly regarded and widely travelled curator, editor and arts writer with a long-term interest in interdisciplinary practice.