Posts Tagged ‘letters’

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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In which I will introduce you to a photographed beauty from my archives, with attendant (short) story to match…

mail slot from SF estate sale

Last summer, the Baron and I found our knick-knack starved selves at another estate sale, this time in SF’s Telegraph Hill ‘hood. While the sale had little to offer in the way of ephemeric treasure, I quickly snapped the building’s mail slot on the way out…

PS: later in the week: a run-down of teaching those “Mail Art 101″ and Mail Art 202” classes at SFCB…

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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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Well, I have sent out the Art’s Birthday postcards; if you made it onto my mailing list, be on the lookout! Half of the group of 48 was sent out on Tuesday — the other half was sent out this (Thursday) morning. I braved an all-day downpour and made it to my local post office, just as they were about ready to lock the door! Thankfully, I managed to sweet-talk my way in — whew. (“No really, I’ll just be a second I promise…I just have to check my PO box, and put these in the bin. Really. I super-promise.”) After depositing the aforementioned cards into the mailbox, I ran back out into the rain, crossing my fingers that public transit would be good to me. It must’ve been my lucky day. A bus appeared out of (seemingly) nowhere, and in a jiffy, I was on my way home again.

Tomorrow will bring about more stamp-affixing and envelope licking, but for now I’m going to call it a night. I’ve posted a few more photos of the project on Flickr; you are welcome to take a look over there!


PS: our next post will be comprised of various titles and page numbers; it will be a veritable “what’s what” of postal lit!

mailing away Art's Birthday...

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