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Posts Tagged ‘mail art’

01_AB

Calligrapher Alan Blackman has an unparalled passion for letters — both typographically and philatelically speaking.

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Letters to Myself: The Calligraphic First Day Covers of Alan A. Blackman at the SF Public Library exhibits truly stunning work created by Blackman over the course of thirty six years.

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Simply put: this is a beautiful exhibition: incredible calligraphy, wonderful philately, and ingenious design. I had the great good fortune of having the gallery (somewhat) all to myself when I stopped by to see the show; I  felt that I was able to spend time one-on-one with each of Blackman’s creations, free of distractions.

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Alongside the displayed artwork, a video interview (linked below) with Mr. Blackman describes his work at the Rincon Annex postal counter, a P.O. near and dear to my heart. He also references “two shops selling stamps for collectors near my place of employment” — I’m hoping that’s a reference to US Stamp and Supply Company, another place dear to my heart (which closed up shop in SF last year.)

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“For colored writing I used gouache in tubes or water-soluble colored pencils. I later learned how to grind a set of colored Japanese stick inks on individual ink stones: one stone for reds, one for blues, one for greens, etc.”

–Alan Blackman, courtesy of the SFPL Book Arts and Special Collections “What’s Happening On the Sixth Floor” blog

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There have been some delightful interviews and reviews of this exhibit over the past couple of months, most notably by the good folks over at Social Correspondence and the SF Chronicle. And while I feel that I could spend hours writing up how inspiring (and inspired) this show is, I find that putting the exhibition into words is much harder than I thought it would be, simply by virtue of the fact that it is so overwhelmingly thoughtful.

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In interviews, Blackman is modest about his work; he says that he was initially surprised by people’s positive reactions to his decorated envelopes. Presenting them at a monthly meeting of San Francisco’s Friends of Calligraphy, he remarks: “I was so shy and sheepish, I thought something as personal as this would not appeal to anyone else. I brought what I had of my collection at the time, very sheepish, thinking that nobody could possibly be interested.”

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“To my astonishment, everyone was fascinated beyond my wildest expectations. It seems like there might be a law here… something like the more personal your work, the more people admire it, but I don’t know if that’s universally true.”

–Alan Blackman,  courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library’s YouTube channel

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What more can I tell you? Do yourself a huge favor and stop by the Koret Gallery at the Main Branch of SFPL. Exhibition runs thru October 13th, 2015. More details can be found here.

–JH

add’l resources:

What’s On the Sixth Floor? (SFPL Book Arts and Special Collections blog)

video interview with Alan Blackman (many of the above quotes are pulled from this video)

Alan Blackman Calligraphy (Mr. Blackman’s website)

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It’s that time of year again: San Francisco Zine Fest time! Taking place September 6th, 2015 at the SF County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, this year’s DIY extravaganza is gearing up to be something else.

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Just like last year, Miz Happenstance and I will be sharing a table! And also (just like last year) I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll have a riot of rubber stamps, postal mayhem, and brightly colored goodies for you to look through!

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I’ve managed to put together full sets of issues 1-4 of Red Letter Day…

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…as well as some new copies of Posted (a zine all about artistamps and why I make them.)

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(I’ve got a couple new things I’m hoping to get put together before the event.)

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I’ll also have a selection of Red Handed Rubber Stamps on the table for your delight and consideration! Pro tip: it’s NEVER too late to consider your rubber needs for Halloween and the holidays. Interested in a placing a “special order” and picking up at the Fest? Get in touch (redhandedrubber@gmail.com) and let me know what I can bring to SFZF especially for YOU!

Alrighty: it’s back to the studio for me – of course I’m burning the midnight oil for the next two weeks!

–JH

PS: details about SFZF 2015 can be found at their website: www.sfzinefest.org. Two items of note: 1) SFZF2015 is a ONE DAY EVENT this year and 2) BART will not be running the weekend of September 5th and 6th. You’ve been warned!

 

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I can’t quite remember when Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press first found her way to my mailbox. However, I do remember that feeling of “holy cow! What is this beautiful printed thing here in my hand?!” The postcard was a little dinged up (that’s what happens when you send soft printmaking paper through the cruel machinery of the postal system) but the scritches and scratchings only added to the mystery of the card itself.

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Through a handful of addresses and cities, Hope and I have always managed to keep in touch postally. Her artists books and prints are a world unto themselves: beautifully printed, lovingly bound together, thoughtfully written. Her “Keep Writing Postcards” project is a natural extension of fine art works, a call-and-response with friends and strangers, using the medium of the post office.

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Oakland-based gallery E.M. Wolfman is exhibiting “To Get A Letter, Send A Letter: Selections From the Keep Writing Postcards Project” through the month of August. Graciously, Hope took a bit of time to answer some questions for Red Letter Day readers about her process, what the “Keep Writing Postcards” project means to her, and the future of the project itself.

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Jennie Hinchcliff: In general terms, can you describe for RLD readers what the “Keep Writing Postcards” project is all about?

Hope Amico: It started as a way to keep in touch with friends as I moved away and began college. I started printing one postcard a month, using the handset type and presses at my university, mailing about 60 to friends on a mailing list. Within the first year I began collaborating with friends on the cards and began offering subscriptions to strangers. By the time I was finishing up school, it had evolved into the thing it is today: each month I letterpress print a folded card, consisting of two postcards. One postcard is something I’ve designed, illustrating a story or a quotation that I like. The other half has instructions for the recipient, usually somehow related to my design. Recipients fill out their half and mail it back to me. I post it online and sometimes share them in gallery shows.

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JH: Describe an average month (from start to finish) for “Keep Writing Postcards” (i.e. what’s your working process like?)

HA: Ideally, on the first of the month, all the cards for that month are in the mail.  Usually they make it to the post box a few days later and sometimes get mailed as late as the middle of the month.  I spend a few days working out an idea, drawing, scanning, searching clip art, writing text and revising.

Then I spend about 2 days towards the end of the month making plates and printing.  I trim the cards, bring them to my home studio and spend a few hours listening to radio shows while scoring and folding, taping and stamping.  At some point I remember to print mailing labels from my subscriber list spreadsheet.  Sometimes this takes a minute; sometimes, on bad computer days, it can take hours, during which I reconsider the time-saving measure of printing labels. (ed note: HA! indeed…)

The last step is best.  I write at least “hello” and sign my name on all the cards, writing longer notes every few cards.  Sometimes I bring a stack with me if I am going out to eat alone.  Then I drop them in the mail box and start again.

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JH:How do you decide on each month’s theme?

HA: I have a list in my journal of potential ideas. Some months there is an event or holiday I would like to highlight or work with but sometimes I have a technique I want to work with.   I try to mix it up so that some months ask for a story, followed maybe by a fill-in-the blank image or sentence and then maybe a drawing-friendly idea.  That’s the ideal.

But sometimes I plan a few months ahead only to think of something more appealing to me at the last minute.  I like the month to month variety but sometimes I print everything in silver for two months in a row.   I want to plan two months ahead but I also like having a thoughtful but open enough prompt that many people want to respond. There is a balance between offering enough guidelines and specifics to inspire and be clear while leaving room for all the creative answers.

And some months I just want a break or want to give everyone a break or have an idea for a card without a response so I print that. Everyone needs a break from obligations to keep them fun, right?

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JH: Each of the postcards that you send out are beautifully letterpressed and oftentimes incorporate an image you’ve collaborated on with another artist. Can you talk a little bit about the nature of collaboration, both in the postcards you’ve created and the works you’re receiving from participants?

HA: When I started the project, the first year was just a single postcards that I printed.  Then I thought I’d try a year of collaborating with a different artist friend each month.  A few of my friends are printers and they sent me 150 cards partially printed  leaving the rest for me.  Those were fun but took a lot of coordination.  If someone was late, then I was behind schedule. And some of my friends are not printers at all and had wild ideas about what to make.  Collaborating every month was fun but not practical.

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I wanted a way to hear back from people, so that it wasn’t just my story being told but my part of a story, my point of view.  So I began these cards with a tear-off response card, allowing people to choose to participate but the project continues even if some people never send cards back.  But sometimes, when they do, it adds something unexpected.   One month, I drew a map of my neighborhood in New Orleans, as I remembered it, and asked recipients to send me back a map of anything. One of my favorite responses was from my best friend and former neighbor who drew the same neighborhood from their perspective.  It was lovely.

Having a card with my address already printed and a question to be answered meant I would hear back from people, sometimes people I would not expect to write back.  My best penpals do not necessarily send the most postcards, but my little (now 30 year old and married) cousin had an amazing streak of responding to every single card.  It often surprises me who I hear from the most often.

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JH: Did you find that it was an easy transition to think about the work you were receiving at your mailbox in relation to a gallery show? Did “Keep Writing Postcards” start out with the intention of an eventual exhibition?

HA: This started out as a personal project but I was spending so much time on it while in school for my printmaking degree,  I realized that it was worth getting credit at school.  But I was so protective of it I didn’t share it much until its 3rd year, entering my final year at school. By that point, I knew I wanted it to be part of my senior show, that I wanted to spend all my time making postcards.  This is when I started printing the cards in the form they are now, an interactive piece with responses to share.  So, from that point I knew they would be shared.

When I graduated and moved to Oakland, I knew I wanted to have another show and share the work again.  I also work in other forms, but this project is definitely what is most dear to me — it is the one that is easiest for me to be excited about and to share and explain. I like creating environments in which people want to sit and read the cards, where it is clear that you can handle the art work and participate.  I like that intersection of function and involvement in a gallery space. I want it to feel like home, so I have included a lamp, a desk, a writing utensil and even a tape player with headphones to listen to music written especially for the show (another kind of collaboration!)

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JH: I’m super excited to see the show at E.M. Wolfman! What sorts of additional activities will there be, in relation to the show itself? How long will the show be running?

HA: The show is up through the end of August. There is a box with this month’s postcard so gallery-goers can participate. I am taking the responses from this card (about neighborhoods) and making a map for people to give themselves a self-guided tour at the end of the show.  I want to do this every few months: have a mail box stationed at a certain place, asking for input from whoever comes by.
Also, every Saturday in July from 1-3 pm I will be there writing letters. You can join me. There are postcards and stationery for sale and I think I’ll bring a few other fun surprises to share. On July 22nd, I’ll be giving a brief talk about the project too during the Post A Letter Social Activity Club event at E.M. Wolfmann.

for more information:

“Postcard Artist Trusts the Message Will Be Delivered”, SF Gate, July 1st, 2015 (Evan Karp, author)

— Hope will be vending her lovely wares (including subscriptions to the “Keep Writing Postcards Project” at this year’s SF Zine Fest, September 6th at the SF County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park.

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I know, I know: two posts in one week. But I just couldn’t save this one until next week (especially since I’ve got a FANTASTIC interview with Hope Amico all lined up!) So I figured I’d share this as a “welcome to your weekend” sort of thing.

I was interviewed at the ALA2015 Conference by Joseph Coco, on behalf of Rebecca Hillburn and her “Natto Soup” blog. Joseph and I chat about mail art, zines, and how to get involved in the Network — take a look! (everything was completely UNSCRIPTED –> insert some sort of anxiety emoji here…)

PS: there is a little flub that I made at the very beginning of the interview…did any of you catch it? If you hit the 2 minute mark, you’ve gone too far!

–JH

 

 

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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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