Posts Tagged ‘correspondence’

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 –



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30,000 feet up in the air, writing letters in style!

30,000 feet up in the air, writing letters in style!

It’s true: I’ve returned to SF after a week-long escapade in NYC. Next week I’ll have a run down about all of the groovy mail art shenanigans I got up to while visiting the Big Apple! In the meantime, RLD readers should take a little jump-step over to the Felt & Wire blog; when F&W inquired as to what kind of  correspondence items I simply cannot travel without, I had no problem reviewing some of my “I can’t possibly leave home without ’em” tools.

Until next week — make sure the pens that you fly with are “leak proof”!


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A box full of happiness...

A box full of happiness...

Once again, I bring you news from the world of mail!

You may have known (or perhaps you didn’t) that April is National Letterwriting Month — time to break out the special stationery, peculiar perforations, and unusual envelopes. Of course, I shouldn’t really have to provide a reason (excuse?) for you to assemble the tools of happiness in one place, but I understand: once in awhile, it helps to have a little -ahem- validation, a bit of the “no really, I think it’s quite alright that you have A4 envelopes in every size/paper weight/color known to man” .

So I’m here to be your cheerleader.

Explains the USPS: “To mark this special time of creative correspondence and the friendly exchange of passionate, poignant prose, the Postal Service is extending this popular campaign by carrying it over into May, culminating with the writing and sending of cards and letters for Mother’s Day, May 11.” Says Postmaster General John E. Potter: “National Card and Letter Writing Month is an opportunity for all Americans to rediscover the timeless and very personal art of letter writing; since the beginning of recorded history, famous people, from Moses to Martin Luther King Jr., have written letters that helped shape the destinies of entire nations.”

Three cheers for that! Missive makers and mail artists, gather your tools of choice!

this is what happiness looks like, close-up...

this is what happiness looks like, close-up...

How will you celebrate? Who will you send mail to? Perhaps you establish a specific goal for yourself (“I’ll write a postcard a day!”) or get in touch with someone you’ve fallen out of contact with (college roommate/best friend from high school/treasured auntie)? If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then I’ll assume we share some common traits: you love sending things through the mail, as well as receiving them. It’s that notion of “give/receive” that is crucial to mail art and writing letters, the sentiment that one can build a  feeling of community via the mailbox.

Often, when mailing something away to someone, I spend just as much time considering their reaction. Perhaps my letter will somehow make a bad day better. A silly joke or gag written on the front of a postcard might invoke a fit of giggles; perhaps a zany, “object de mail art” inspires a conversation around the work water-cooler. That’s the truly amazing thing about mail: people respond to it, in one way or another. When you send something to somebody, it lets them know you were thinking of them. Often, we can write things on the back of a postcard that we would have a hard time telling another person out loud.

Funny, right?

Here then, are a few tidbits to get you jump-started, to start April off with a          –bang!–. Whether you’re interested in getting a new pen-pal (and who isn’t, really?) or looking for a bit of inspiration (from Crane’s, of course!), I have hand-picked a few of my favorites, and share them with you.

— Crane’s “Letters You Keep” contest from 2008; an amazing look at the letters people cherish and save, through thick and thin…

— purveyors of postal delights: the Letter Writers Alliance. Need I say more?

Becky and Chris of “Going Postal” will be more than happy to help you find a pen-pal…

— my friends Ward and Linnea over at Atelier Gargoyle provided the incredible sealing wax you see in the photos above. It has a bit of rubber in it, so that it won’t crumble or break going thru the mails! (PS: they’ll custom-design a wax seal for you…don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

— last but not least: the “Unwritten Letters” project; don’t let this happen to you!

In all things postal,

I remain —


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Kitchen table: still life, with pens

You know what I love, more than fresh baked chocolate cookies or cute puppies or a really crackin’ pair of foxy heels?


That’s right. Some of you know precisely what I’m talking about, because you’re part of my gang.

Why do pens top my list? Do I really have to explain it? Pens won’t come back to haunt you in the summer time (swimsuit season) reminding you of the (delicious, not fat-free) eggnog you had at Christmas. Pens definitely will not chew on your sexy stilettos (puppy teeth marks are impossible to get out of suede). A good pen is like an old friend: you can pick up exactly where you left off, with no need to explain where you went, or for how long, or even why. And like any true, stand-up friend, you always wish the two of you could spend more time together, and wonder what makes that friendship so easy, so effortless…

It has recently come to my attention that one of my best friends, the disposable Pilot V-Pen, is going to be retired.

How sad does this make me?

Pretty darn sad.

The Pilot V was one of my first loves, discovered in the wilds of a Tokyo twenty-four hour office supply store. I thought I had died and gone to some sort of heaven: jet-lagged and unable to sleep, I stumbled into an emporium of highlighters, envelopes, and glue — two floors of office supplies in the heart of Shinjuku. At that time, the Pilot V seemed like just another disposable fountain pen in a sea of many, but I decided it might be fun to give it a try.

The next afternoon was spent sitting in a Harajuku cafe writing postcards to friends back home — I was hooked on the Pilot V. Here was a pen that cost about three dollars, wrote smoothly, and had a range of nib sizes (S/M/L): everything a girl like me needed. I went back to the store and bought half a dozen more, intent on giving them to other fountain pen acolytes when I returned stateside. Since that first trip, I’ve never looked back.

But now, there is sadness. Sure, sure, there’s a “replacement” pen (also made by Pilot), and my spies tell me it is a fine and mighty replacement. The new kid on the block is named “Pilot Varsity” (what’s not to love about the name?!); it comes in a few different colors (purple, turquoise) and has a jazzy design (stripes). I’m sure it writes fantastically and is easy to hold and can program my DVD player for me. I bet it’s wonderful.

letters from Japan, circa 1954

My heart is still broken.

My coping strategies? Well, I went ahead and ordered all the Pilot Vs I can get my hands on and cleaned out all of my local sources. Even though I know hoarding pens is not the most reasonable solution, I can’t help myself. I plan on sharing these precious pens with folks that I know will love and appreciate them, folks who will use them and write letters and create beautiful mail art. I’ll pass on something that I love, even though it means saying goodbye to one of my favorite and most trusted friends.


You can order a range of pens/notebooks/office goods from these companies; they specialize in Japanese office supplies!

Tokyo Pen Shop

Jet Pens

— if you’re interested in talking/learning about pens of all types and kinds, you might find Stylo Forum interesting…


PS: thanks to catwrangler for giving me the tip about the Pilot V’s disappearing act…

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vintage nibs and inkwell

Break out those fountain pens, fancy stationery sets, perfectly sharpened HB pencils. Take a moment to write a holoalphabetic sentence such as “The five boxing wizards jump quickly” or “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” — these are also known as pangrams (sentences which incorporate all 26 letters of the alphabet). Write your chosen sentence not once or twice, but several times, and once you’ve done that, look over the sum total of your work. Do your J’s swoop? W’s dive below the baseline? Perhaps your penmanship looks similar to a doctor’s prescription, as opposed to the handsome script of your third (fourth?) grade teacher, the one who first introduced you to the idea of cursive writing. Each of these quirks make up your handwriting, a tool utilized every day and often taken for granted. Consider your handwriting to be a personal seal, almost like a fingerprint of sorts; your handwriting is unique to you. No one else can copy the way that you write. (Forgery — now that’s something altogether different…)

Many people consider Platt Rogers Spencer to be the grandfather of “fancy” lettering. This was a man obsessed with penmanship; as per WikiPedia: “Platt was passionately fond of writing and, because paper was difficult to obtain at the time, Spencer wrote on birch tree bark, sand, ice, snow, the fly-leaves of his mother’s Bible and, by permission of a cobbler, the leather in his shop”. In 1840, Spencer realized the need for a penmanship style which could be written both elegantly and efficiently, for use in matters of business and commerce. Over time, the Spencerian method of penmanship was adopted in school systems and became synonymous with standardized writing.

Take a look at your sentences one more time. Do you like your handwriting?

Many people are dissatisfied with one aspect or another of their handwriting. There are penmanship fixes, and they are usually pretty simple. For example:

–Chicken scrawl? S-l-o-w down a bit. The tendency to rush through a written message means that the end result will often look messy. As you write, pay attention to what you are writing and give it your full concentration. I know, I know: it sounds silly. But really, I promise — it will help.

–Perhaps there’s ink all over the page, or strange smears in all the wrong places. Adjusting the way that you sit or the angle of your writing hand may be the answer. Sometimes folks don’t even realize that they are gripping a writing pen too tightly or leaning forward at an awkward angle. Changing these routines may be the solution.

In the book “Script and Scribble” by Kitty Burns Florey, it is mentioned that Spencer’s last request was for his pen, and he passed away with it clutched in his hand. One can only wonder what his final written message was (I’m sure it is recorded somewhere…) but we can be certain that it was written in an immaculate hand.

Some further reading:

–“Spencer’s New Standard Writing“; scans of an original penmanship lesson book from 1884

–“Teach Yourself Better Handwriting” by Rosemary Sassoon

–“Handwriting in America” by Tamara Plakins Thornton

Want to try your hand at Spencerian script? John Neal Booksellers has all the tools, equipment, and instructional books that you would ever want or need

Happy Handwriting Day — go out there and write something beautiful!


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outgoing mail...

Off they go to the UK, Argentina, Spain, and other far-flung destinations. I spent an hour stuffing envelopes, writing “hello hello” ‘s, and attaching the perfect postage to each and every missive. The result was a happy, satisfied feeling: the ker-chunk of mail going into the box, the idea that within a couple of days (or a week), someone would be the recipient of something a bit unexpected…


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Postcards at Blue Bottle in SF

Postcards at Blue Bottle in SF

Do you take the time to write letters? Send postcards? Lick postage stamps?

There are a legion of folks out there who also do those things, although at times, you may feel as if you are the only one.

When asked what one did over the weekend for fun (while standing around the watercooler on a Monday morn), you will hear very few proclamations of  “I wrote some letters” or “I made postcards for a friend”.

With that in mind, I ask you “Why not?” Why not carry an addressed postcard in your handbag or backpack, ready to be filled out and mailed off? Why not write five (or more) words on a drinks coaster from your favorite cafe and toss it in the mailbox to a friend? All it takes is a postage stamp (easily transported in your wallet!) What about an envelope folded from the menu of your local brasserie, created as you are waiting for your dinner to arrive tableside? The waiter will be charmed, I guarantee, and you may even get a complimentary glass of wine (it happened to me!).

Sending a letter doesn’t have to be an orchestrated process; often something spontaneous is just as effective. The most important thing is to send. To get a letter, send a letter: it’s as simple as that.


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