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Posts Tagged ‘red letter day’

01_the century bindery_01

I think we can all agree that if you’re reading this blog, there are a handful of common interests we most likely share, for example: a love of postal items, sending things through the mail, and airmail stripes. It is also highly likely that you love items such as rubber stamps, all manner of paper/stationery, and books (whether old or new.)

02_ledger

Most RLD readers know that I am a biblio-nerd myself: I love book structures, sewing things together, and showing people how to make their own bookish creations. My favorite classroom moments occur when a first-time book maker completes final steps on The First Book They’ve Ever Made and you can practically see a lightbulb go off over their head. It’s incredible.

03_chairs at ABM

interior, American Bookbinder’s Museum (08.2015)

Now, imagine if you will: a museum in San Francisco that not only preserves the look and feel of a 19th C. bookbindery and print shop but in fact, invites people to skill share and interact with the museum’s equipment, so that participants can create their own “a-ha!” moments.

04_extra heavy

If that sounds interesting, then The American Bookbinder’s Museum is your kind of place! I stopped by their new SoMA space last week; I’d heard a rumor that they had a Rossback perforator nestled among the Albion hand presses and Smythe sewing machines.

Eureka! Within minutes, I had (presumptuously?) settled down to “get under the hood” of their Rossback and do a little bit of cleaning and scrubbing.

(all the while in the back of my head thinking “oh man, I hope they don’t think I’m some sort of weirdo book-gear stalker-y type…” I mean, WHO DOES THAT KIND OF THING? oh right…”nerds with a purpose”, my friend Sheree calls us…)

06_tools of the trade

pro tools…

Every Rossback I’ve ever “met” is slightly different, once you start loosening screws and cleaning off the grit. My favorite tools for Rossback repairs? A toothbrush, some WD40, a flathead screwdriver, and a pair of nippers.

05_rossback

Rossback perforator, with the top bar removed. Bottom bar (brass color) is still in place.

Folks always ask me, so here ya go: I’ll discuss some Rossback basics, as far as parts and clean up are concerned!

07_from above

looking down onto the top bar (removed from machine.) This piece is usually “shelf shaped”…

In the photo above: this is what the “top” bar of a Rossback looks like, once it’s been removed from the machine itself. See all those teeny little holes? That’s where the pins are placed! The pinheads rest atop each of those little holes.

08_pinholes_02

The Museum’s Rossback had some slight variations I’d never seen before, including the one shown above. See where the (stripped) screw is? Well that brass piece is what I call the “bottom” bar. The (top bar) pin points travel through the pinholes on the bottom bar, on their way to the holes on the base plate of the Rossback (shown as the darker colored metal in the photo.) When perforating a sheet of paper, the paper slides in between the bottom bar and the base plate; this is also where the pins first make contact with the paper and perforating happens.

Back to the museum’s Rossback: the bottom bar was divided into two brass pieces, which I’d never seen before. And that small bent up piece of wire to the left of the brass piece? That’s a pin that somehow ended up that way.

Ah – mysteries!

09_new pins in the bar

you can’t quite see the pinheads resting in place, but trust me — they’re there!

Hey look! The Museum had ordered a new set of pins from NA Graphics, so I carefully (with the help of Museum Guru Jae) placed them into the top bar…

10_pins in place

once the top bar was in position, I quickly placed a screw in one of the middle spots and attached the top bar. As you can see, I haven’t put the far left screw in place yet.

…and then was able to jimmy the top bar (by hand) into place with the bottom bar. Note: THIS IS TRICKY AND DOESN’T WORK WITH EVERY ROSSBACK. As you can see: the difficult part is aligning the top bar pins with the correct pinholes in the bottom bar. Each pin, every single hole, nothing crooked or at a slant.

If you get the top bar pins and bottom bar holes aligned correctly, everything should be fine when you press the foot pedal, moving the pins downward into the pinholes in the base of the Rossback. If you feel resistance or hear weird noises, stop what you’re doing! Either scenario usually means that there’s a crooked pin somewhere or the alignment of parts/pieces is a little off. I usually loosen some screws, triple check my work, and carefully re-apply pressure where needed.

See? TRICKY.

(side note: my Rossback at the RLD studio doesn’t play “nice” like this one; I have to hand set each and every single pin, which makes for a much longer “deep cleaning” process. That’s what I mean when I say every one of these machines is different in some way…)

11_smythe

smythe sewing machine: sew up textblocks in a jiffy!

After doing a victory dance (it IS wonderfully satisfying to have all those pins travel downward into their respective places, and not hear a single shearing noise…) I wandered around the rest of the space, taking in the various equipment on display.

14_palmer and rey

palmer and rey’s “magic cutting machine” — not it’s official name, but that’s what I call it!

One of the ABM’s goals is to have a group of docents and volunteers who are well-versed on each machine, in order to show visitors how the equipment functions while working on projects of their own. Each machine at the museum will be fully operational; all equipment has been sourced from different binderies and print shops across the country (sometimes traveling great distances to find a new “forever home” at the museum.)

13_guillotine

leftover evidence, palmer and rey…

A bit of historical perspective from the Michigan State University Library: “The early 19th century was an era of transformation for bookbinding. With the increase in the demand for books, binders turned to mechanization to meet this challenge. Publishers also began to take control of the whole book-making process, from editing to printing to binding.”

Operational 19th century gear to help you make books quickly? That’s what you’ll find at the ABM!

12_lithostone

litho stone…is that an ad for “pure rye whiskey”?!?!

Although the museum has not formally opened its doors to the public yet, interested parties are invited to stop by and say hello. Additionally: if you’re interested in learning how to operate any of the above mentioned machinery and/or volunteering at the museum, you can fill out a form online and museum staffers will get in touch. The ABM also has a monthly “volunteer meet up”; you can stop by and see the sights in person, if that’s more your style. (next meet up: tonight! Tuesday, August 18th!)

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All that being said, I’m off to use the museum’s industrial stapling machine – SF Zine Fest is coming up and I’ve got a MOUNTAIN of work to do! FAST! Who wouldn’t want to staple 100 zines in approximately 20 minutes?

Whoah!

–JH

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1960s+PARKWAY+MOTEL+Jackson+Hole+WYOMING+Vintage+Postcard

postage stamps? –> CHECK.

postcard blanks? –> CHECK.

knowledge of possible post offices en route? –> ABSOLUTELY.

I’ll be back next week with a brand new write up; until then, get out there and SEND SOMETHING!

–JH

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KWP_03

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.

all the tools

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.

bicycle postcard

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.

all the tools

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!)

KWP_01

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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01_borch

Nicholas Yeager is a man on a mission: to show the world-at-large that beautiful handwriting is not, in fact, a thing of the past. He’s a scribe practicing what he preaches, creating beautiful calligraphic works and historic bookbindings under the moniker of Biblioforge. Nick and I have known each other for well over a decade; every conversation with him is like an entire book conservation class in and of itself.

02_scribes at work

So when Nick described his current “Motoscribendi” project to me, I couldn’t help but be fascinated. 16th C. writing manuals? Visiting prestigious libraries across the US? And making the whole trip via motorcycle?

I MUST KNOW MORE.

Luckily for me, Nick was more than happy to answer a few questions for RLD readers! Continue reading below and discover fascinating details about calligraphic cursive, creating the perfect letterform, and the history of fancy flourishes — all hot topics for fans of contemporary lettering and calligraphy!

03_letter m_USE

Jennie Hinchcliff: In general terms, can you describe for RLD readers what a writing manual is, and how it is different from other special collections books at the library?

Nick Yeager: A writing manual is an illustrated instruction manual describing how to make a specific writing style or “hand.” These books came into being early in the 16th century, with illustrations of stroke sequence being cut in wood to be printed in relief. In early writing manuals, the text was cut in wood, and no type was used. Later, the publishers would set instructions on ink making, quill-cutting and pen holding in type. By the end of the 16th century, texts and illustrations were being engraved in copper and printed intaglio rather than relief.

05_writing manual

JH: What specific “tangibles” appeal to you about writing manuals? Why are they important (historically speaking)?

NY: I am drawn to the beauty of the graphic design. Writing manuals are a very complex mixture of book and advertising design in the earliest sense. Writing masters were trying to sell their skills and appeal to an audience through these beautiful writing samples, while educating people in as clear a fashion as possible.

The books themselves are quite interesting to handle and examine. First and foremost, I’m handling something that is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 years old – and sometimes as “young” as one hundred years old. I’m touching the past, connecting with artisans who used and made these books. I guess that’s intangible, but it feels concrete to me. Secondly, the paper and ink and impression are fascinating, because I am a craftsman who makes letterforms and cuts them in wood, so I want to discover how those forms were made. I learn more by handling original prints than I ever could from a reproduction.

04_hand with quill_USE

JH: What inspired the idea of touring around the US by motorcycle and stopping at different special collections libraries?

NY: I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 13 and have always dreamed of riding across the country for an extended period of time. But just wandering around doesn’t appeal to me as there’s no structure to that. Just riding to a destination to “get there” doesn’t interest me either. I’ve been learning calligraphy, book design, and bookbinding history from writing manuals for decades. I’ve done this in libraries all over the country. Combining my love of motorcycle travel with my love of studying Renaissance (and later period) writing manuals into one effort makes sense to me. Anytime I can expand my knowledge, it’s an adventure, whether it’s on a motorcycle or in a library.

06_single page

JH: Do writing manuals have quirks of printing or binding in the same way that medieval manuscripts (or other genres of bound codices) do? Is so, what are some of those quirks?

You’d be hard pressed to find two writing manuals that are the same in terms of binding, pagination and even paper! At the time of printing and publishing a first edition of any one of these titles, there were likely a number of similar copies even if they were bound differently. But these books tended to be used and used up, leaving very few copies of any given edition. Sometimes books were printed using blocks from other books, and sometimes an engraver made a fairly accurate copy of an existing image with some minor change that isn’t easily recognizable.

07_writing manual

Also, as per your question: there’s absolutely no comparison to medieval manuscripts because they were always created one book at a time.

JH: Once you’ve returned home from your cross-country travels, what will be the next step with this project? 

NY: Looking at writing manuals will be a grand time, but that’s only the beginning! The academic side of the trip is to learn different cataloging systems of various libraries in order to make a census of where these books are located. The Seymour De Ricci census is the model I hope to use for my writing manual census. Upon my return to the SF bay area, I’ll begin compiling catalog information and making it searchable online so that researchers/designers can find the location of certain writing manuals, which will aid future study in the field.

08_letters

JH: last but not least – if RLD readers want to know more, where can they find you?

NY: Currently, I’m running an IndieGogo campaign to help pay for gas and travel expenses during my three month, cross country ride. I’ll be setting off on August 5th and from that point, readers can follow the Motoscribendi blog, where I’ll be keeping track of my thoughts and sharing stories from the road. And social media being what it is, you can find me in the following places:

Twitter – Nicholas Yeager

Instagram – Motoscribendi

Facebook – Motoscribendi.com

Well: it’s time to shake the dust off my shoes! I can hardly wait to see where Nick travels and what sorts of discoveries he makes. And who knows? Maybe somewhere, down a hidden aisle and amongst a stack of rare book gems, Nick will uncover a writing manual that has been unseen and untouched for generations – a book waiting especially for him, an exceptional treasure that all book readers (whether they know it or not) secretly long to discover.

–JH

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feet with heart

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.

Header-Collage

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.

love_USPS

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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GAC artistamp...

At last year’s G.A. Cavallini show at San Francisco’s Italian Cultural Institute, you may have noticed an eye catching artistamp displayed alongside an autographed photo (to E.F. Higgins!) of GAC. This artistamp was fascinating to me, with its rocket bright colors and red-hot typography. After posting a photo of the stamp on the RLD blog, creator Otto David Sherman got in touch and mentioned that it was one of his.

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Over the course of my mail art career, I’ve been the lucky recipient of many of Otto’s creations. It was a treat to meet the man-behind-the-artistamps when I was in NYC in 2011; Otto is just as bold, colorful, and creative as his stamp sheets.

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Every time one of his envelopes arrives at the RLD P.O. box, I know I’m in for a roller coaster ride of pop culture references, eye-popping color, and in-my-face politics.

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 I love it all.

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In Otto’s world, there are no sacred cows; first world leaders share equal time with dictators of banana belt countries. Cardinal Dolan sports stiletto heels and Vladimir Putin puts on a top hat. Another day in paradise, right?

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Even the inside of Otto’s envelopes are a sight to behold:

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Interested in seeing more? Visit Otto’s IUOMA page. His mail art and artistamp philosophy is discussed over on the Mail Artist Index page.

–JH

PS: if making your own artistamps is something that you’d like to learn, I’ll be teaching a class on creating faux postage at the SF Center for the Book on January 22nd. Take a look!

 

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daruma_2015

(warning: the following post is filled with a heapin’ helpin’ of words and is pretty low on visuals. But don’t worry: I promise LOTS and LOTS of beautiful eye candy in future posts!)

2014 has wrapped up and I have to say that it was one of the most interesting, educational, and inspired years in recent memory. Things started out with a bang: Ex Postal Facto seemed to be the pace car, setting the bar high for mail art interactions and postal socializing (postalizing?) From there, I jumped headlong into Red Handed Rubber Stamps and all the details a new business requires: sourcing, purchasing, designing, phone calling, marketing, and a thousand-and-one other niggling details that keep a girl awake at night.

That was May 2014. Sure there was a trip to NYC and a completed artist book as well as an interview with the USPS, but for the most part I kept my head down here in San Francisco, working on a handful of pet projects that had been put aside since 2013. By the time summer arrived, I was neck-deep putting together SF Zine Fest. My fellow organizers — an incredibly talented group of writers, illustrators, and zinesters — are some of the hardest working folks I know, with a refreshing take on the DIY scene (and small press publishing in general.) It was a pleasure to work with them (once again) in 2014.

SFZF always marks the beginning of autumn for me. The event takes place on Labor Day weekend, traditionally a time associated with the end of summer and the beginning of the fall teaching semester. Just like every other year, the last few months of 2014 were booked solid: SF Correspondence Co-op meetings, workshops at SF Center for the Book, teaching in the Printmaking Department at the Academy of Art. Recently, I’ve been completely buried (once again), hard at work putting together another artist book edition for the upcoming Dig show at Central Booking in NYC (but I’ll talk about that in a different blog post.)

Looking at the above paragraphs, it’s no wonder I haven’t had much of a chance to update the RLD blog! My time has been spent getting together with other artists, working in the studio, creating things with my hands  — activities which make all the (other) hard work worth it. Meeting people face-to-face is a far different interaction than sitting solitary behind a screen; 2014 showed me that I sometimes need more of one than the other, and that’s just fine.

So what does that mean for the RLD blog? Well, a bit of a re-tooling for starters — but nothing too too drastic, I promise! I’ll be trying a few things out, to see what you guys are interested in. Instead of my usual, super-wordy blog posts (do people even read that much these days?!) I’ll be posting more photos of mail art and postal related things: an occasional piece of mail, inspiring articles from around the ‘net, projects I’m working on. I’m hoping this will be a new direction of interest to all RLD readers, regardless of which side of the screen we’re sitting at.

That being said, my email inbox is always open (and my PO box too!) I love hearing your feedback, dear readers — your ideas help make a good blog even better! Back in 2009, when I started the RLD blog, it was a way for me to reach out to readers of Good Mail Day and connect with the mail art community on a deeper level. Today, I count that as a goal which has come to pass, and generated incredible interactions with each of you, on so many different levels. Together, with each letter/postcard/artwork sent and received, you and I are creating a new wave of postal Networkers. Our shared love of bonding via words, art, and writing is something I give thanks for every day.

Viva le Mail Art! (and happy new year to all!)

–JH

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