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Posts Tagged ‘USPS’

01_OL2014

Summertime is always filled with the kinds of things I like: ice-cold beverages, a place in the shade for book-reading, and plenty of postal adventures with friends. This year, the unusually warm San Francisco days seem to stretch on forever; the fog is nowhere to be found.

02_artistamps

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival  (a quintessential summertime “to do”) – courtesy of the USPS! The USPS was unveiling their new Janis Joplin stamp, which is part of the “Music Icons” series. To be hinest, I felt a bit like one of the kids in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, once I found out that only fifty tickets were issued by the USPS. Lucky girl!

03_postcards

So you guys know how it goes: I stayed up until 2 a.m. on Thursday night, putting together commemorative postcards to mail out to some of my postal pals…

04_hellman hollow

…and then the next morning (after fueling up on coffee) I headed over to Golden Gate Park. The Festival is spread out over a fair amount of GGP; since it was my first time attending, I didn’t realize that I’d be hoofing it into the middle of the Park, only to backtrack to Hellman Hollow – the scene of the ceremony. Whew – good thing I had all that coffee in my system!

05_stamping

Once I arrived, everything seemed to fall into place: there was a beautiful display of Joplin stamps and a wooden table in the corner became my perfect out-of-the-way work desk. The “hard-core” philatelists had arrived early, armed with their own ink pads and agendas. Many of the stamp collectors I met had arrived from somewhere else – L.A., the east coast, the pacific northwest.

06_postal cancel

I always worry a little bit when I attend first day ceremonies: will the postal employees let me cancel my own mail? Will my stack of -ahem- multiple postcards be too much of an imposition? Will I have enough time to get stamps on everything? My anxiety always amounts to energy wasted: the postal employees are gracious, interested, and (often) a-ok with me canceling my own mail.

 

I ran into SF philatelist (and XPF attendee!) Branton Burke and he let me capture some video of him in action…

08_michael joplin

…and then it was time to get down to the music part of the ceremony! Once Megan Brannan of the USPS had officially debuted the Joplin stamp,  Janis’s brother Michael came onstage to say a few words. He was visibly caught up in the moment, stating that “the recognition of her legacy and persona on such a permanent and iconic symbol as a United States postage stamp is truly humbling”. Musicians Mary Bridget Davies (A Night With Janis Joplin), Kacey Musgraves, and Nicki Bluhm each performed incredible renditions of Joplin songs that got the crowd movin’ and groovin’.

09_envelope

Postcards canceled, postage stamps purchased, ceremony witnessed: the rest of the afternoon was mine! And because I was at a summer music festival, of course I hung around to see the sights. Wandering through the mass of music lovers and festival goers, it became apparent how festivals of yore – the same festivals that Joplin had performed at – were an incredible experience for so many. For a few hours or a few days, a person can forget all worries, sit on the grass in the middle of Golden Gate Park, and listen to a favorite band – a classic summertime scenario remembered long after the season has changed.

–JH

If you are interested in obtaining a first day of issue postal cancel like the one pictured above, head on over to the USPS website. Scroll to the bottom of the article for detailed instructions.

 

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photo: USPS Stamps website

photo: uspsstamps.com

It’s always been a dream of mine to be recognized in some way by the USPS; now that dream has come true! Way back in January (I guess it wasn’t really that long ago…) I was interviewed by USPS Stamps about my mail art activities, what motivates a person to make/send so much mail, and some all around thoughts on the state of the postal system.

photo: uspsstamps.com

photo: uspsstamps.com

The result is this lovely article, which I am hoping mail artists near and far will agree with. As RLD readers know, part of the artistic process of mail art involves the post office and postage stamps, as well as a certain amount of trust that our mail will get from Point A to Point B. “The Postal Moderns” captures this idea perfectly, and I thank USPS Stamps for such a wonderful write up!

In all things postal —

–JH

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this is my SWEET ride for the month of december...

this is my SWEET ride for the month of december…

Pssst: December’s upon us.

That means egg nog, well designed gift wrap, and a full social calendar. (It also means long lines at the post office, but I’m trying not to think about that part…)

I have a handful of Christmas traditions I like to observe, and I bet you do too. One of my traditions is “no Christmas music played in the house until December 1st” (anyone with me on this?). Another is “egg nog and brandy is best shared with a minimum of three friends”. These yearly rituals serve as reminders that the holiday season should be filled with festivities and shared with the people I love.

how does he keep the place SO clean?!

how does he keep the place SO clean?!

One recently added tradition over the last few years has been my participation in the USPS’s Letters to Santa program. Some of you may remember my “first year of participation” write up; with each passing year, I’ve stepped up my game by taking on a few more letters. It’s a great way to help out the USPS, and at the same time create something truly special that will (hopefully) brighten a child’s Christmas experience.

"promise you'll make sure it gets to the right place..."

“promise you’ll make sure it gets to the right place…”

When I posted my original write up about creating the “santa letters”, I received a cavalcade of questions from RLD readers about how to get involved — how could YOU connect with post offices and write letters of your own? This year, the USPS has made it easy for the public to get involved – and I’m going to help steer you in the right direction!

could I have that cutie mailbox as a Christmas present?

could I have that cutie mailbox as a Christmas present?

Some important things you’ll need to know before you take part:

–you must present proper forms of identification at your chosen post office, as well as fill out the necessary forms. More information can be found here and here.

–once you have been “ok’d” by a postal employee, you will be able to access binders which contain letters awaiting “adoption”. Individuals are allowed up to 10 letters.

–once you have crafted your reply letter and/or purchased the requested gift, you must return your letter/gift back to the post office where you “adopted” your letter. The PO will handle things from there!

have you seen this man?

have you seen this man?

Be sure to take a look at this .pdf document; it’s a full list of post offices nationwide that are participating in the Letters to Santa program. Carefully check dates and hours; the usual post office hours (usually) don’t apply. And last but not least: if you decide to participate, let us know! I’d love to see your letters and hear about your experiences.

Ready or not: HO! HO! HO!

–JH

PS: here’s a little yuletide cheer for RLD readers: participate in the 2013 Letters to Santa program and receive a gift from Jennie! Create a fantastic letter, snap a photo and email the .jpeg to redletterdayzine@gmail.com. Be sure to include your mailing address (so I can send you your goodie!); please title your email “USPS Santa letter” (so it won’t get lost in my inbox!) Please understand: I can only send you a goodie if you include your photo and follow the instructions. Deadline to send photos: midnight (west coast time), December 20th, 2013.

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it still pretty much looks like this (except, the roads are paved...)

it still pretty much looks like this (except, the roads are paved…)

So. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing a little something different at my local branch PO — speaking purely from a graphic design perspective.

on the outside, looking in...

on the outside, looking in…

I may be late to the -ahem- counter in bringing this up, but…

look at that typeface! and those zing-y colors!

look at that typeface! and those zing-y colors!

Has anyone else noticed the classy new signage that the PO’s sporting these days?

A new typeface, two new Pantone colors (#’s 1807 and 3035, from the look of things) and clever use of stars…I give it a thumbs up. While recalling the USPS branding of days past, there is also a refreshing, contemporary look to the new signage and Priority Mail Express packaging. (I hear that the font used is a “tracked out” Gotham…)

and let us not forget the verbage...

and let us not forget the verbage…

The website Brand New has a great breakdown of the old priority mail “look” versus the new one (although they’re kinda lukewarm on the redesign). Personally, as I look over the “old” school side-by-side with the “new”, I feel (somehow) more confident that my package will arrive at its final destination, thanks to those royal blue mock-arrows and zippy red stripes. I suppose that’s the power of graphic design (which I am eternally a sucker for.)

red stripes, with a subtle hit of blue!

red stripes, with a subtle hit of blue!

What do you guys think? Do you like the re-design? Feel that it makes a difference in your perception of the PO? And here’s a bonus question: if you could add something to the new design, what would it be?

I’ll start: a little more (Mr.) Zip would be a welcome addition!

–JH

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a postal PSA…

mini, teeny-tiny letters...

mini, teeny-tiny letters...

 

Here’s a little something I think all the RLD readers might be interested in. When I stopped by the P.O. today to mail out packages to JP in CA and Shelita W., I also purchased some postcard stamps (domestic rate). “Did you know the rate’s going up?” my always informative person-behind-the-counter asked. “The rate will be twenty nine cents as of April 17th.”

 

City Post Office 1923, Washington D.C. (imagine if you worked here!)

City Post Office 1923, Washington D.C. (imagine if you worked here!)

 

Well, no – I actually hadn’t been aware of that. Me being me, my first thought was: will there be a new postcard stamp to replace the polar bear? Because I like the polar bear (very “Golden Compass”…) but I also like the new. I feel that postcard stamps don’t really get a fair shake, in the world of new additions to the philatelic stamp line-up.

 

hmmm...a little Laura Ashley, if you ask me...

hmmm...a little Laura Ashley, if you ask me...

 

I was assured that there will be a new postcard stamp on April 17th – and sure enough! A little research via Google the Great led me to the USPS website, where the stamps are available for pre-order.  (I also found a little blurb on the designer/artist of the stamps.) If you’ll be ordering product via the USPS website, you may as well pick up a canceled sheet of the AE stamps as well – a great gift for your favorite postal geek (and you know who you are!)

In all things postal,

I remain –

–JH

PS: those tiny little letters in the photo at the very top of the page? They’re from a company called “Our Mini Things” and you definitely need to check out the “North Pole Village” section of their store right now. You’ll know why when you see the awesome…

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he wants YOU to write a letter...

he wants YOU to write a letter...

The newspaper article was pretty clear: “Post Office Needs Help Answering Kids Letters to Santa”. This year in the bay area, there’s been a large influx of letters to the jolly guy, and the post office needs all hands on deck to help answer santa mail. The article quoted SF Postal District spokesman James Wigdel as saying that an average of 300 – 400 letters come in each year. So who gets to write all those responses?

this is the mail room at the North Pole...

this is the mail room at the North Pole...

We all know that writing a letter (no matter what time of year it is) can make a huge difference, whether sharing important news, telling a loved one “I was thinking of you”, or just wishing someone well. How to pass on this idea on to kids, that receiving a handwritten letter is a meaningful gesture?  Writing a letter to Santa via the USPS “Letters to Santa” program is a great way to start!

you are here...

you are here...

I arrived at SF’s main post office on a gloomy Tuesday – the last day to pick up letters. The premise of the program is straightforward: children write letters to Santa, you drop by the PO and choose a few, then write your “santa reply” by a certain date. There is some simple paperwork to fill out, and your reply has to be returned by a certain date, in order to ensure delivery by Christmas.

it's fun to watch left-handers write...

it's fun to watch left-handers write...

The scene at the PO was quiet, although a TV crew was asking questions and shooting footage (hi Mom!). There were only two other “santa’s helpers” flipping thru the letters from children…

decisions, decisions...

decisions, decisions...

It was hard to decide which letters to respond to – there was a variety of wants and needs. Some of the letters were intense (“I would like my cocker spaniel back”), others were flat out hilarious (“I want a Costco Pony” — huh?!).  I had no idea what many of the toys/items were that the kids had listed – I guess I need to hang out with my niece and nephew a bit more…

and I had some mail of my own to put in the box...

and I had some mail of my own to put in the box...

Arriving home, I developed a plan of attack; thank goodness the PO gave me four different “reply from Santa” templates to choose from, so I didn’t have to re-invent the wheel. I decided on a response that sounded festive (mention Rudolph and cookies), yet didn’t make any promises in regards to specific toys (“I’ll look in my bag for something special, just for you!”). Then I busted out the Torpedo typewriter. Clickety, clickety, clickety – eight replies went by pretty darn fast…

look at that Torpedo go!

look at that Torpedo go!

Onwards to the decoration! I wanted to create something that looked like an old school Victorian document, with sealing wax and faux illuminated lettering. As for Santa’s signature, what sort of typeface would it be? He seems like a “Middle Saxony Text” guy to me. Once that important decision was made, I got down to work…

DIY lightbox: my living room window!

DIY lightbox: my living room window!

Once the typing and tracing were complete, I headed for the colored pens and pencils. My illuminated lettering skills aren’t the best (not winning any calligraphy prizes any time soon), but I figured the person who receives my letter will get the main idea.

ho ho ho, indeed!

ho ho ho, indeed!

The icing on the cake? A wax seal with ribbon, of course! I was going for that “Santa Claus-meets-a-crazy-pirate” look. A bit of gold colored gouche on the flourishes added to that effect…

by royal order of S. Claus, North Pole...

by royal order of S. Claus, North Pole...

And then I put each letter into an envelope, said “goodbye”, and took the stack back to the post office.

That was that.

I’ve shared postal/mail art experiences with kids and teens and I always wonder what they think about writing letters. In this case, will they take one look at the santa letter I created and think “that’s weird”?  Or will it be the kind of thing that Mom or Dad put into a box and carry around from year to year? It’s a similar feeling when reaching out to a new mail art/Networking correspondent – will the two of  you have anything in common? What kind of person are they “in the mail” as compared to “in person”?  Of course, I’ll never meet the children that I send these santa letters to, but I still wonder what they’re like.  Will they grow up to enjoy mail just like me?

every day should be like Christmas...

every day should be like Christmas...

I can only hope so.

Don’t forget to put out cookies for the Big Guy. I hear he likes peanut butter chocolate chip…

–JH

12.16.10 edit: here are some snaps of the “santa-lopes”; a few among the RLD readership have been asking to see ’em. The always-generous-with-his-time-and-a-camera Von Span took a few photos before I returned the whole kaboodle to the PO…

 

two fronts, one back...

two fronts, one back...

 

closeup; each envelope was a wee bit different from the other...

closeup; each envelope was a wee bit different from the other...

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he knows if you've been bad or good...oh wait! wrong guy!

he knows if you've been bad or good...oh wait! wrong guy.

 

This year the post office expects to deliver 16 billion pieces of mail to customers around the globe – 16 billion. I can’t even begin to imagine how many trips to the moon and back that would be, if you laid all those envelopes end-to-end. However, what I always seem to be thinking about at this time of year is how to make things easier for my friends working the counter at my local PO.

 

blue boxes of happiness...

blue boxes of happiness...

 

As a mail artist, I send a lot of wacky things through the mail – that’s not a surprise. I have no doubt whatsoever that the folks behind the counter can spot my postal precociousness when sorting and sifting through parcels in the backroom. Even though they may not “get it”, the post office staff are patient, tolerant, and (at times) encouraging about the things I have brought to them throughout the year.

 

yes, virginia, that's called "old school technology"...

yes, virginia, that's called "old school technology"...

 

Since things really shift into high gear for the PO at this time of year (remember: 16 billion!), I like to make it as easy as possible for my mail to make it to its final destination. A few important things to keep in mind:

  • be sure to write legibly! This seems like a no-brainer, right?
  • double check addressee zip codes and make sure they’re correct.
  • be sure to include a return address on your outgoing mail. That way, if it is somehow undeliverable, the PO can return it to you.

 

"got mail?" -- of course!

"got mail?" -- of course!

 

I know, I know: it seems like I’m stating the obvious. But this time of year (more than any other), it’s good to be reminded that other people are looking at and handling your postal creations. These are hard working folks you will never meet and who, if the machines at postal processing plants cannot translate your chicken scratched address label, will turn to Plan B. “Plan B” usually means A) “return to sender” or B) a stopover at the Dead Letter Office (in today’s parlance, DLOs are called “Mail Recovery Centers”, but Dead Letter Office is just more poetic, somehow…

 

Dead Letter Office, circa 1922...

Dead Letter Office, circa 1922...

 

So, at the end of this funny ramble, what is the takeaway? The USPS will oftentimes go out of its way to deliver the crazy items that we test their systems with. That’s part of the fun as a mail artist, right? The challenge of “will it make it?” The thrill of “is it there yet?” The holiday season is no reason to set aside our mail art activities – if anything, all of you RLD readers should step up your game a bit! But be sure that your writing is tidy, your zip codes are correct, and a return address is placed somewhere on your missive. Otherwise, your wish list might not make it to S. Claus, c/o the North Pole!
–JH

final shipping dates for the USPS, if you want you gift/card to make it there by Dec. 25th

–a little bit of history about the USPS “Letters to Santa” program

–info about Dead Letter Office (the entity), as opposed to “Dead Letter Office” the R.E.M album

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