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This past weekend I felt oh-so-lucky: I was an invited artist for the American Library Association’s Zine Pavilion! Imagine if you will: a national conference of librarians descending upon San Francisco, who are brimming with curiosity about zines and zine making!

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I spent most of last week getting a bunch of new (and old) things ready: issues 1-4 of RLD, rubber stamps, zines that were due to be reprinted…

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…and Miz Happenstance put together a handful of “Herstorical Oakland” artistamps (shown above), in order to showcase them at the table.

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Much of the weekend was spent discussing zines: what sorts of people make them, how they can be defined, the different ways in which libraries collect them. In the photo above, you can see some zines on display; ALA attendees could read anything they wanted, with the entire collection raffled off to one lucky winner on the final day of the conference.

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Interested parties could contribute a page at the make-a-zine table…

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…using materials and supplies provided by Zine Pavilion organizers.

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The idea being that: on the final day of the conference, if you had contributed a page to the group project, you could return to the Pavilion on the final conference day and collect a copy of your zine! (I really really really love this idea, and would like to figure out a way to implement it into my own zine making projects.)

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Some of you may remember punk rock poet/zinester/mail artist Irene Dogmatic from last year’s Ex Postal Facto event; she was my tablemate for part of the event, which I greatly enjoyed. XPF was so frenetic, I didn’t have a real chance to connect with Irene in just the right way. Sharing the weekend with her was enlightening, entertaining, and wonderful.

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I learned a new party game called “Knuckle Sharpie” from Alex Wrekk (one of my zinester heroines) and Jonas Cannon (buy his zine Cheer The Eff Up RIGHT NOW): cross your arms at the wrists and have a person on the left and right hand side of you (different folks, naturally!) write four letter words across your knuckles. No peeking! When everyone has written something silly/serious, put your right and left hands together: that’s the name of your new punk rock/goth/emo band! Hilarity will ensue.

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(I even managed to get some “work” in, during the down time of the event…SF Correspondence Co-op lists shown above, hand stamped with all the usual goodies!)

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Weekend’s end: I packed up my remaining zines and headed back out to the fogbelt. As I was making my way to the studio, I spied this work of art hanging from a telephone pole — I felt this was a good omen for the week to come, as well as a lovely way to end the fantastic weekend which had just passed.

May each of you have a creative and inspired week, as well as a happy fourth of July! Light some fireworks for me (my Aries personality LOVES fireworks!)

–JH

01_UnderwoodTags_via snfranciscomemories.com

As many of you know, June 23rd is World Typewriter Day. This is a day in which we celebrate those weighty machines which give us great joy by clicking, clacking, and “ding!”ing. It’s a day to swap out old typewriter ribbons for new ones and oil our carriage levers!

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(above message reads: “What do you think of this machine? It is in operation every day. –Al)

Let’s take a step back and look at a larger picture: this year is also the 100 year anniversary of San Francisco’s Pan Pacific International Expo (PPIE, for short.) In 1915, the Expo was a wonderment to behold — San Francisco’s first big “event” after the devastation of 1906’s earthquake and fire. Countries from around the globe (as well as states across the US) sent emissaries, exhibits, and artwork of their best and brightest. Practically speaking, the PPIE commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal and celebrated SF’s phoenix-like rebuilding of the city.

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I have always been fascinated with the PPIE; in the San Francisco of today, you can still find remnants of the Expo – if you look carefully. The Palace of Fine Arts still stands, but there are also many hidden bits (artwork and architecture) tucked away around the bay area.

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(typed message reads: “Westward Ho! Over the Rockies we go: on our way to the Golden Gate we will see deserts, prairies,cowboys, ranches, mountains, canyons, and the wonders of the west; the Orient, the Occident, the South Seas, the Arctic — all the world will be there. Meet us in the Palace of Liberal Arts, Court of the Universe, San Francisco.”)

But there’s one mystery that I’ve been working to solve, something that no one ever seems to discuss. It’s a question of the massive Underwood typewriter, which was shown with much fanfare at the PPIE.

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“Writing daily at the Underwood exhibit”, the Underwood Typewriter Company debuted an enormous 14 ton typewriter at the Expo’s Palace of Liberal Arts. At twenty one feet wide and 18 feet high, this particular Underwood was a feat of engineering. A grown adult could sit on one of its keys; photos from the Expo show attendees dwarfed by the gigantic contraption. Plans for the giant machine took a full year to develop; it was another year before the behemoth was constructed.

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(typed message reads: “Bulletin by United Press: Liverpool, May 7th — the Cunard liner Lusitania with a heavy passenger list of Americans, was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast this afternoon. Small boats rushed from Queenstown to Old Head of Kinsale off which point the liner was torpedoed.”)

Daily news headlines were typed out on a nine-by-twelve-foot piece of paper; the typewriter itself required a 100-foot-long ribbon. “Printer’s Ink” magazine (Volume 91, April 1st, 1915) tells us that “it is run by power generated by three single one horse-power motors.” A regular sized Underwood in front of the larger showpiece was used in the typing of daily newsworthy headlines. A breaking news feature on May 7th, 1915, announced to fair-goers the sinking of the Lusitania by German submarines (as seen in the photo above.)

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So here’s the mystery: a 14 ton typewriter with keys the size of car tires and taller than an adult elephant – where does something like that end up? I’ve long wondered. That’s the beauty of the internet: if you search diligently, you can usually piece together clues.

Giant Underwood Typewriter, Underwood Garden Pier Exhibit Atlantic City

After the PPIE wrapped up on December 4th, 1915, many of the Expo’s artifacts were sold at public auction. Parts of buildings were floated downriver to other bay area cities; artwork and furniture found their way into private collections. The Underwood Typewriter Company sold their 14 ton, award-winning typewriter to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. Taken apart and loaded into two boxcars, the colossal machine traveled from one side of the country to the other.

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The excellent oz Typewriter blog has a first-rate write up of Jack Dempsey’s (that’s right – the boxer!) connection with the enormous typer, once it arrived in Atlantic City. As far as I can tell (via internet sleuthing), the Underwood resided in Atlantic City for twenty-or-so years. (Internet) Rumor has it that hired dancers pranced across the keys, typing out messages for onlookers.

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In 1939, the World’s Fair opened in NYC. It seems that Underwood’s typer found a new home in the “Business Systems and Insurance Building” – a far cry from its glory days at the PPIE. Bill Cotter, in his book “The 1939-1940 World’s Fair” (Arcadia Press) states that “the exhibits inside were unlikely to attract many repeat visitors for they consisted of displays on banking, life insurance companies, calculators, safes, and other office equipment. The most popular displays were a 14 ton typewriter, the largest in the world, and IBM’s Gallery of Art and Science.”

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(typed message reads: “Hey Folks: Welcome to the World’s Fair of 1940 in New York. –Henry D. Gibso… –> the young lady in photo has her foot at the ready, hovering above the letter “N”.)

At this point in my searching, the trail of the 14 ton typer goes cold. I’ve found vague references to World War II and implications that the Underwood Master Typewriter was sold to the US Army for scrap metal. Is this really truly what happened? Is there any way to ever possibly know?

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With all of our collective (internet) knowledge, I have no doubt that the “Whereabouts of the 14 Ton Typewriter” will one day be solved — beyond a question of a doubt. For now, I’ll keep hoping for the day that mankind manages to perfect time travel.  Then I’ll be able to find my way among the promenades and pathways of 1915’s PPIE, heading towards the Palace of Liberal Arts and a typewriter that dreams are made of.

–JH

Some great resources in relation to this write up:

KQED’s “Forum With Michael Krasney” – an interview with PPIE historians and author Laura Ackerly (Jewel City, published by Heyday Books)

Excellent photos of the Underwood exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair (blog: History by Zim)

Learn interesting facts and unusual aspects related to typewriters! oz Typewriter (blog)

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(above: samples from the “Introduction to Bookbinding” class taught by Red Letter Day)

It always seems weird to me, every single time: in the middle of summer (or fall or winter) I’m sitting down with my datebook to plan up a storm of teaching. Any workshop instructor knows that most classes are scheduled well in advance; that means I’m already well into the planning stages for holiday 2015 classes while most folks are packing the RV and heading off to Lake Tahoe.

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(above: Non Adhesive Accordion Books, 09.23, SFCB)

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(above: The Book of Flim Flam, 08.24, SFCB)

This year is no exception! If you’re here in the San Francisco bay area, I’d love to see you in one of my classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

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(above: Creative Carousel Books, 10.11, SFCB)

I’ll be teaching plenty of favorites: “Faux Postage”, “Creative Carousel Books”, and “Non-Adhesive Accordion Books”…

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(above: Fabulous Faux Postage, 11.18, SFCB)

…as well as a new class or two! (“The Book of Flim Flam” and “Single Signature Hardcover Binding”)

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(above: student work from the Creative Carousel Books class)

Needless to say, there’s something for everyone, regardless of skill set! Just think: if you start planning now, you can give a handmade gift from the heart during the holiday season. Perhaps you’d like to design artistamps for your outgoing kringle mail; maybe Auntie Grace or a nephew would like a created-just-for-them journal. Whatever the case, I’ll be teaching a class that shows you how-to!

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(above: “Introduction to Bookbinding” samples)

Dream it and DO it! (and I’ll see you in class!)

–JH

For more info, visit SF Center for the Book –> Workshops, and search by either “month” or “type”; my workshops fall under both “binding” and “arts”.

 

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There is a magical wonderland of a place that you may or may not have heard of, in the heart of New York City. Miz Happenstance and I were lucky enough to get in on the action when we visited NYC two weeks (or so) ago.

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CW Pencil Enterprise is a place which, I’m convinced, could only exist in NYC (or Tokyo.) Upon entering the lovely little store, one is immediately transported to a time when the smell of pencil shavings meant practicing one’s cursive writing and hand-crank pencil sharpeners were a staple in every classroom.

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Temptation is all around: beautifully arranged glasses filled with all manner pencils line the shelves…

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And a lovely cork board displays available models (why yes, they do have the famed Palamino Blackwing!)…

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There is also a wonderful selection of journals, erasers, and pencil sharpeners from companies far and wide. Japan, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, Argentina…pencils from across the globe are yours for the purchasing!

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The icing on the cake? CW Pencil Enterprise can customize pencils for you! Starting at two dollars per, there is a range of colors to choose from (see the above photo.) And guess what? No minimum order! So whether you want to order one for yourself or one hundred for the holiday season — CW can help you out. The extremely helpful staff is generous with their pencil knowledge, but beware: mechanical pencils have no place here!

Sharpen, sharpen, sharpen —

–JH

CW Pencil Enterprise feature in the New York Times

a fun interview with Caroline Weaver (CW Pencil Enterprise owner) via Pencil Revolution

how are pencils made? the History Channel shows us!

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As you can see, it’s been a whirlwind of productivity at the RLD studio! Don’t let the mess frighten you; it looks far more daunting than it actually is. Underneath the above pictured “mountain of mess” is a pile of items-to-be-mailed-out, projects-which-have-been-completed, and things-in-progress. All in all: a great and fantastical situation to be in!

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I’m happy to announce that I am in the process of booking up my fall teaching schedule; more on that with next week’s blog post! I have a handful of new classes that I’ll be teaching at SFCB, alongside ever popular book/mail art favorites. Photos and descriptions will be forthcoming (you’re welcome to follow my Instagram and twitter feeds [@redletterzine] to keep track of all the booky/stamp-ish details!)

Love and Postage —

–JH

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Sure, sure: today’s Friday the 13th. But have you seen this morning’s blog post over at uspsstamps.com?! Featuring the work of mail artists Sally Wurlitzer, Stan Askew, Niko Courtelis/Philatelic Atrocities (and yours truly), there’s a slew of delicious eye-candy, postally speaking.

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photo via uspsstamps.com

Each artist was invited to create work inspired by 2015’s new USPS Forever Love stamps, the post office, and Valentine’s Day. In addition, we were asked to discuss our working process and reasons why we “love the Love” so much.

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Thank you so much to the USPS Stamps blog for inviting me to participate in this article as well as highlighting contemporary correspondence artists! While USPS employees “move the mail” every day, designers behind the scenes give correspondence artists additional tools (i.e. beautiful postage) to work with. A beautifully designed postage stamp is icing on the (cup)cake, so to speak: a thoughtful detail which completes a single work of (mail) art.

–JH

PS: interested in reading about why I make the things I make, and mail the things I mail? uspsstamps.com interviewed me last year about what it means to be a contemporary postal modern. Take a look here.

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February: already?!?! I can’t believe it. And yet, I look at my calendar and the proof is right there in black and white: today is February 4th.

This month heralds many things to the postally-minded: construction paper hearts  of bright pink, the debut of the USPS’s annual Chinese new year postage, a smattering of red glitter and glue stick. The days are (slowly) growing longer, which means a few additional minutes to dash over to the P.O.

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The end-of-year holiday bustle is over (whew!), so that also means there’s a bit more “breathing room” when it comes to doing things just-for-fun. To that end, I discovered something I’m excited to share with you, RLD mail art creators!

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First: some background info. Located in Berkeley, CA, Castle In The Air is a heaven on earth for folks who can’t get enough of the following things: the smell of fountain pen ink, the feel of finely milled paper, and the sound of hand bound journal pages softly whispering through the air. A world unto itself, “The Castle” is a nook you never want to leave — a fairyland of shelves and drawers filled to the brim with pens, nibs, books, and things of beauty. (personal plug: they also carry Red Handed Rubber Stamps!)

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store photo via businessinsider.com

Castle In The Air loves correspondence and all things related to mail art, letter writing, penmanship, and beautiful missives. They believe in old school correspondence so much, they have a gem called the “Blue Castle Badge”, which I KNOW you are going to want.

But you have to earn it!

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How do you earn a BCBadge of your very own? Start off by heading over to the website, and perusing the guidelines for mailing

Some additional advice for readers of the RLD blog:

  • –address your letters/postcards to “Blue Castle Badge/Castle In The Air”, etc. etc. ; this will help the Castle sprites sort your missive into the correct place and stack.
  • –interested in creating a themed postcard or envelope? Show/tell Castle In The Air why you love letter writing, correspondence, mail art, fountain pens, calligraphy — anything related to the paper or book-ish arts!
  • –if you’d like, feel free to mention that you read about the Blue Castle Badge right here at the RLD blog.

In return, you’ll receive a lovely enamel pin to wear proudly on your label. Or, perhaps – if you’re like me – it will adorn your pencil case!

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Happy creating! Go forth and share your love of correspondence and let me know what you send off to The Castle!

–JH

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