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can it be? is it true?

can it be? is it true?

Perhaps you know that San Francisco has a Muji store (the eponymous Japanese “lifestyle goods” brand). Located in a neighborhood I rarely frequent, I found myself passing through last week. Thinking out loud, my rationalization went something like this: “They have nice pens for writing, good for airplane travel; I should really pick up another one (or three) since I’m here.”

Little did I realize.

examples of work created by Muji staffers...

examples of work created by Muji staffers…

Muji has a rubber stamp buffet. That’s the best description I can give you. Rows and rows and rows of oversize rubber stamps, there for shoppers to use — this must be what heaven looks like, if you’re someone like me/us. Once you purchase a grey tone file folder, a journal with creamy lined paper, and a set of kraft paper brown postcards (whoops! did I just give myself away?), you are free to stamp to your heart’s content.

they make it sound so easy (and it is!)...

they make it sound so easy (and it is!)…

Granted, some of the rubber stamps had been used more than others , so the ink was faint in spots. But the Muji staff was excited by the fact that I was so excited; after a bit of discussion, we were all stamping postcards to send away to friends and family. What better way to celebrate National Card and Letter Writing Month?

my hero!

my hero!

Muji is located at 540 9th Street, in the SoMa neighborhood. It is a hop/skip/jump from SF Center for the Book; why not plan an outing? Afterwards you can always run by Arch to satisfy your urge for beautiful pens.

–JH

 

mail it NOW!

mail it NOW!

April first and no foolin’ around: today kicks off National Card and Letter Writing Month! Fire up those fountain pens and get your postage in order: you have thirty days (that’s all of April!) to celebrate.

my third grade classroom...

my third grade classroom…

In the third grade, I was taught cursive writing by Mrs. Hall. I’ll spare you the details of being a little kid left hander (yeah, they tried to “change me over’ to right-handedness…) but suffice to say that learning cursive at an early age helped me later on. How so? Well, my best friend and I developed our own alphabet/code based on our newly-minted knowledge of cursive; passing notes in Mrs. Hall’s class became more fun than ever!

if only we'd used invisible ink...

if only we’d used invisible ink…

I’m always turning to interesting letterforms for inspiration; luckily, there’s a steady stream of contemporary calligraphers such as Thomas Ingmire and Fung Ming Chip who serve as sources of amazement. It’s a good (lesson (in design and skill) that is often overlooked: pattern, form, and repetition are some of the best teachers.

So what am I up to for National Letter Writing Month? Well, in addition to the usual mail art making-and-sending schedule, I’ll be trying my hand at a couple new techniques…

there can never be too many postcards...

there can never be too many postcards…

…most notably, edge bordered stationery! Has anyone else tried this out? I imagine it’s a relatively simple process; in the video below, our friends at Crane and Co. make it look absolutely effortless! I’ll give it a whirl, and report back to RLD readers; perhaps you’ll see the fruits of my labors in YOUR mailbox!

Additionally, I have a brand new typewriter that I’ll be figuring out:

used for official documents and accounting...

used for official documents and accounting…

…and I’ll be brushing up on my sketching skills for a project which shall (for now) remain nameless. There are postage stamps (of a sort) involved, as well as PVA glue and exacto knives.

comin' at'cha!

comin’ at’cha!

What will YOU be up to, for National Letterwriting Month? Is there a project you’re spearheading or an idea you’d like to share? If so, let us know in the comments!

In all things postal –

–JH

 

printmaking studio at the academy of art...

printmaking studio at the academy of art…

This week is filled with stellar things to do, if you’re in San Francisco (most weeks are…) Would you happen to be interested in printmaking? Artists’ books? Discovering artists who are working with ink, paper, and alternative printing techniques? Then look no further. The Southern Graphics Conference International kicks off this week.

here's your invitation!

here’s your invitation!

SGCI is a national conference which rotates to different cities every year; SF is the lucky host for 2014. Over the course of four days, nearly one hundred different events, openings, and lectures will take place —  something for everyone! I’m super-excited about a few specific events, so I thought I’d share those with RLD readers.

delicious delicious delicious...

delicious delicious delicious…

The Shift-lab Collective is comprised of five incredibly talented book artists; their latest show “Shift” is currently up at the SF Center for the Book. Each book in the exhibition can be handled; delicate colors, spot-on letterpress work, and thoughtful writing make each book sing. There will be a reception on Friday, March 28th from 7pm – 9pm.

did you know that this is what carved fog looks like?

did you know that this is what carved fog looks like?

Friend and colleague Macy Chadwick of In Cahoots Press left me a message last week: “I’m carving fog,” she explained, “and it’s really exciting!” If you live in San Francisco, you understand that fog is a unique component of city living, a phenomena that can’t easily be pinned down. Wanting to know more about this fog-carving, I pressed for photos (see above).

and then, there were the bridges...

and then, there were the bridges…

That’s how I found out about Span, Macy’s artist book collaboration with printmaker Carrie Ann Plank. As the name suggests, Span is a project about both bay bridges: the “new” one (which debuted last year) and the “old” one (which hasn’t been torn down yet). Both bridges link San Francisco to the east bay.

multiple layers, two different bridges...

multiple layers, two different bridges…

With multiple press runs and die cuts, this three dimensional beauty has all the surprise of a traditional pop up book and the craftsmanship inherent to top notch artists’ books. On March 29th, the public is invited to stop by and see Span “in process” – the presses will be rolling, many sets of hands will be sewing, and copies will be available for sale. Details can be found here.

beautiful in black and white...

beautiful in black and white…

The bay area has always been a safe haven for rubber stamp folks, regardless of which side of the fence you fall on (the cute vs. quirky battle still rages…) John Held Jr. has played an integral part in making the San Francisco mail art scene happen, ever since moving to the city in 1996. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of local rubber stamp lore and correspondence art history, he’ll be sharing that knowledge (along with a performance or two) at his “Rubber Stamping: Bay Area History and Applications” event at City College on Thursday, March 27th.

JHJr. in front of one of his paintings...

JHJr. in front of one of his paintings…

For a full listing of all SGCI events, head over and take a look at the schedule. The conference promises to be an action-packed four days of print, paper, and non-stop inspiration. Bringing together artists and printmakers from across the country, this a wonderful opportunity for the public to see world-class printmaking on display throughout the city.

–JH

PS: I have five artists’ books in the “Activate” exhibition, which opens tomorrow night at the Atelier Gallery (79 New Montgomery, Academy of Art University). Stop by and say hello if you get the chance — 6pm – 9pm!

someday, I'll live here...

someday, I’ll live here…

March: in like a lion, out like a lamb! In my case, it’s actually the other way around, with things busier than ever. My calendar is quickly is filling up with neon pink pen marks and cutie Japanese place markers – sure signs that good things are on the horizon.

well of course -- mail art!

well of course — mail art!

I’m already looking forward to April: not only is it my birthday month (Aries people, REPRESENT!) but the weeks will be filled with multiple teaching gigs. Starting the whole thing off, I’ll be in Portland, Oregon for the Art and Soul Retreat. If you’ve ever wondered when I’d be workshopping in the great Pacific Northwest, now’s your chance to come and play!

"the yes men", made for cascadia art post...

“the yes men”, made for cascadia art post…

I’ll be teaching on April 12th (Saturday) and April 13th  (Sunday); Saturday’s “Hidden Surprises” carousel book class promises to be filled with TONS of creativity, rubber stamping, and book arts brainstorming!

And then on Sunday, I’m at it again, schooling students in the ways of mail art mayhem…

a little bit of outgoing mail...

a little bit of outgoing mail…

…which means MAKING and SENDING! Through a series of individual and group projects, students will learn about mail art practices, as well as gain inspiration from others in the class.

there's that mailman rubber stamp again!

there’s that mailman rubber stamp again!

We’ll spend part of the session creating faux postage (a.k.a “artistamps”) using a variety of techniques. Students end the day with sheets of artistamps they have created, ideas for future mail art projects, and the know-how to get involved in “the Eternal Network”.

working small...

working small…

After that, I’ll spend a couple days with friends and family in Portland (Powell’s Bookstore: LOOK OUT!) and then it’s back to San Francisco. My travel time to Portland is short, but I’m always on the lookout for fantastic new places to go. What do YOU suggest? SCRAP, Collage PDX, and the IPRC are all longtime faves, but I have a hunch that there are things I have yet to discover in Portland’s neighborhoods – let me know what cannot be missed!

discovered last year, in corvallis...

discovered last year, in corvallis…

Also: RLD readers may notice that I’ve made a small change to the layout of the RLD blog. To the right, I’ve added a column for “Classes & Sightings”, so that RLD readers can see upcoming workshops and Co-op meetings at a glance. If you’re looking for detailed info about any of the posted items, visit the “Classes & Sightings” page of the RLD blog – venues, registration info, and descriptions will be posted for your perusal.

the act of creating -- what fun!

the act of creating — what fun!

That’s a lot of exciting info for a Tuesday! If you register for a class at Art and Soul, be sure to post a comment and let me know – it may turn out that there’s a little surprise waiting for you in the classroom!

In all things postal –

–JH

 

 

 

 

photo: USPS Stamps website

photo: uspsstamps.com

It’s always been a dream of mine to be recognized in some way by the USPS; now that dream has come true! Way back in January (I guess it wasn’t really that long ago…) I was interviewed by USPS Stamps about my mail art activities, what motivates a person to make/send so much mail, and some all around thoughts on the state of the postal system.

photo: uspsstamps.com

photo: uspsstamps.com

The result is this lovely article, which I am hoping mail artists near and far will agree with. As RLD readers know, part of the artistic process of mail art involves the post office and postage stamps, as well as a certain amount of trust that our mail will get from Point A to Point B. “The Postal Moderns” captures this idea perfectly, and I thank USPS Stamps for such a wonderful write up!

In all things postal –

–JH

ben franklin knows best!

ben franklin knows best!

Hello RLD postal pals! March has already found its way into my mailbox – how can that even be possible?! I want to thank each and every single one of you for the incredible letters, postcards, and artwork you’ve been sending; springtime greetings, XPF thank yous … I’m always inspired by your creativity!

let this be a reminder to us all...

let this be a reminder to us all…

Speaking of XPF: in the days and weeks leading up to Ex Postal Facto, I found that my sense of time was wrapping around itself: there was either too much time or not enough time. Each minute of every single hour was filled with something to procure, a phone call to be made, or a question to answer.  My collection of lists for the weekend was something Santa Claus would aspire to (if he’s into ephemera!): scraps of paper safety pinned to lists of artists which were stapled to venue phone numbers.

please, please, pretty please...

please, please, pretty please…

The fact of the matter is: I LOVED putting together Ex Postal Facto. There were speed bumps, to be sure. But here’s the truth: from our very first planning meeting (one year ago!) to the final Sunday night dinner at Absinthe, I loved the exhilarating whirlwind of postal modernism and shared experience that has come to be known as Ex Postal Facto.

XPF badges, designed by Happenstance Type-O-Rama...

XPF badges, designed by Happenstance Type-O-Rama…

What else is there to say? I love organizing events. It’s a habit started in high school and I’ve never really stopped. Nightclub parties, catwalk shows, monthly get-togethers: event planning is something I’ve always done. There’s a certain kind of magic that happens when like-minded folks are in the same room, talking about the things they love; a shorthand language is created, steeped in excitement and the fact that certain things don’t have to be explained, are just understood. When all the details have been orchestrated just so and that magic happens, it’s unlike anything else in the world.

SUCCESS!

SUCCESS!

The Ex Postal Facto Conference was not only about meeting people for the first time, it was about meeting people you thought you’d never have the chance to meet. It was about gaining a deeper understanding of mail art culture and community (if you’re relatively new to the scene) or being reminded why you got into the scene in the first place (if you’ve been involved for awhile). The weekend was a fuel-injected shot into the mail art Network; for individual artists, it was a validation/reaffirmation that this thing we do (i.e. sending mail via the posts/creating connection) is not only alive and well, but more important than ever before.

“So, what’s next?”

A lot of folks have been asking me that question lately. While I won’t go into specifics here and now, what I can say is that things are already shaping up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing these exciting developments with RLD readers: items like teaching/workshop dates, Correspondence Co-op get-togethers, and (!!!) a project-of-epic-proportions which I think you’ll find very exciting. There’s never a dull moment here, and 2014 is proving that once you get the ball rolling, things just keep gaining momentum!

–JH

PS: interested in ordering an exhibition catalogs for the “mail/art/book” show? Info can be found at the Ex Postal Facto website.

PPS: there are still a handful of XPF logo rubber stamps and XPF logo badges which can be ordered via the RLD online store; once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Celebrating Art's Birthday on January 17th, 2010 -- thanks to Robert Filliou & the Eternal Network!

(edit: it’s becoming somewhat of a tradition that I post this particular article on January 17th. Read further to see why!))

You may or may not have known, but today is Art’s birthday.

You remember, you’ve met Art before: the last time you snatched up a fountain pen, inked a rubber stamp, or folded a snazzy envelope…that’s Art.

is this Art? yes -- I believe it is...
is this Art? yes — I believe it is…

The idea of Art’s Birthday was introduced by Robert Filliou in 1963. The idea goes something like this: 1,000,000 years ago, there was no art. (!) But one day, on the 17th of January to be precise, Art was born. (!!) According to Filliou, it happened when someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water. (!!!) And thus a new holiday was born. Art’s birthday is celebrated in a wide variety of ways throughout the world; there are accounts of musical/noise recordings, get-togethers in which artists build/exchange “gifts” to/for Art, or all-night birthday parties/celebrations.

ask yourself a question...
ask yourself a question…

Mail artists feel a special affinity for Art’s Birthday; Filliou and Fluxus artist George Brecht introduced the term “Eternal Network” to the art world (circa 1965), and mail artists have adopted this phrase for their own usage. Filliou himself believed that art didn’t have to express itself as an object (i.e. a painting/sculpture/tangible something-or-other). He saw art as a form of play that could even occur as unrealized notions, which is a view which stays with us today, stronger than ever.

tools of my trade...
tools of my trade…

One of the important ideas attached to the Eternal Network, (or “La Fête Permanente”/ The Constant Festival as it is also known) is that “the artist must be aware that he is part of a larger social network, part of the “Constant Festival” which surrounds him everywhere and elsewhere in the world.” For mail artists, this notion is always at work — creating, sending, and receiving in return are the gears that keep postal machinery running and mailboxes full.

Filliou went on the travel the world, as well as conduct interactive art experiments and events. His constant study of Zen Buddhism led him to incorporate many of it’s core beliefs into both film and art works. In 1987, after creating his final piece (Time is a Nutshell), Robert Filliou passed away.

hand carved, hand perfed, hand stamped!
hand carved, hand perfed, hand stamped!

We are left with a yearly celebration, a time to consider how important this thing named “art” is to us. Take a moment to create, to reflect, to share. How do you live with your art/works? What promises do you make to Art, and yourself?

Making is doing. Creating is learning. Art is all around us, in big things and tiny glimpses.

–JH

PS: the recent book “Felt: Fluxus, Joseph Beuys, and the Dalai Lama” by Chris Thompson is a fascinating look at the way western art met eastern philosophy when Robert Filliou and Dutch artist Louwrien Wijers arranged a meeting between avant garde artists and the Dalai Lama in 1982. Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in avant garde art history and it’s intersection with eastern philosophy.

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