Welcome to my celebration of snail mail! This letter-writing blog features photos and thoughts on letters and postcards written and received, favorite stationery, fountain pens, mail art -- all the accoutrements of the old-fashioned letter in your mailbox. So read about letters for a bit, contact me with questions or comments (and/or follow me on Twitter), and then GO WRITE A LETTER!
"Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company." -Lord Byron
It's taken me a while to work up to being able to make this post, but I think it's time now.
After I posted the sad news of my grandfather's death last month, the blog reader condolence cards poured in. I was truly overwhelmed. After I returned home from a week away to be with my family and attend his funeral, there were a ton of sincere sympathy wishes awaiting me, and they continued to pour in over the next weeks.
I have to thank everyone who sent their heartfelt wishes. They were touching and supportive in ways I can't even explain. A lot of people wrote that they didn't really know what to say but they wanted to say something - that's GREAT! I can now say, from the perspective of the bereaved, that those sympathy cards are a comfort and a blessing. If you're wondering whether or not you should write one to someone you know who has just suffered a loss - DO IT! The recipient will appreciate it so much. And I know I'm preaching to the choir here when I say that handwritten cards are so much more meaningful than emails.
The envelope above has a quote from Shakespeare that reads: "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break."
The card itself reads: "There is a theory that when the people with whom we are closest leave this world and go to their final reward, they become part of the little voice that helps to guide us in the choices we make and the paths we take. With these little voices, we create a link to the past and keep the memories of those we cherish alive in our hearts."
Thanks for hearing me out and helping to give me an outlet for my grief, dear readers.
It's time for more Muppets! This is another in the lovely Miss Piggy's Art Treasures series, featuring a spoof on Fozzie Bear. There are all kinds of little inside Muppet jokes, if you're a member of the muppet-lover club...
You can see some writing in Noodler's Eternal Hunter Green ink, for any of you fountain pen ink nuts out there. This is a pretty true-looking sample, on my screen.
I don't actually own this, but I wish I did. I saw this Blue Q airmail zipper pouch at a local gift shop and just had to take a picture. Too bad I didn't get it... I may yet do so. Wouldn't this be a perfect pouch for your traveling mail kit? It's 9.5"w x 7.25"h so it would be big enough to carry some stationery and stamps, and even a few pens. Oooooh la la.
This lovely handmade card and envelope set came to me from PostMuse. The envelope is a larger version of the little lady on the card, who says "I am only as strong as the coffee I drink and the hairspray I use."
So the wonderful GirlZootZilla wrote me a letter spread out over a bunch of postcards - what an awesome idea! She did a blog post about it in a much more timely fashion, so check out her fine Postcard letter post to see better photos of all the postcards (two hadn't yet arrived when I took this photo, and I realized just now that I have the Wonder Woman postcard upside down). Great fun!
I've had enough letters misdirected and returned to me, for reasons valid and ridiculous (twice returned from someone whose name and address were correct, and still lived at that very address - very strange), that I always put a return address on everything. Everything. Yes, even postcards. Even Postcrossing postcards. So it totally mystifies me when people don't write return addresses on their envelopes.
I got a letter today from a blog reader who wrote once before, and I wrote him back. And he wrote me again, and this second letter is what arrived today. His original letter is buried in a box somewhere, if I kept it - and he didn't put a return address on this new letter. It's a nice letter in a beautiful handmade envelope, and I'd really like to be able to respond properly. [Edit 8/25: thanks, he emailed me his address! All good.]
And yes, in case you're wondering - I DO use an address book, but no one goes into the address book until our exchange is well-established. Sooooooooooooo many people only write 1-5 letters and then go away forever that if I put them all in my beloved Edward Gorey address book, it would be full three times over. So you gotta get over that hurdle for a while before you make it in there. And even then, if you write your return address all nicely on the corner on the envelope, or inside, then I don't even need to open my address book.
And thus concludes the rant for the evening. Thanks for hearing (reading?) me out.
If you don't use a return address, and you DO want a letter back -- whyever not? Please do comment, I am genuinely curious.
While perusing the lovely Goodnight, Little Spoon this morning, I came across a really beautiful letter-writing story that I just had to share. Sincerely, John Hughes is a blog post about a woman who corresponded with John Hughes for 2 years when she was younger, in the mid-80s. Yes, they wrote letters. It's a lovely story and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. (And yeah, I am a child of the 70s and 80s, so I'm a big John Hughes fan anyway.)
In other news, I have three (3!!) sets of houseguests over the next 7 days. I may not be posting every day (I'll try, no promises) and I may not be writing all that many letters (I'll try, no promises). So yeah, the letter pile is gonna get even bigger and I'm gonna get even more behind. *le sigh* Don't take it personally, I'd rather be writing letters...
If you've been following my blog for at least a month, you have probably heard that my beloved grandfather passed away recently. He was a casual collector of stamps, and his collection was fueled by his 40 years working for the Post Office (as it was called then: "U.S. Postal Service" came later).
In going through his effects after his death, my mother found this wonderful newspaper photo of him demonstrating the newfangled stamp-dialing machine. (Does anyone else think "That is so 1955?" I do.) I can't believe how awesome this is. I would love the idea of postal history involving a stamp-dailing machine anyway, and probably share that with you for the coolness factor, but the fact that the photo shows my dear grandfather (with hair! I never saw him with hair!) just makes my day. It was such a joyous thing, to come across this in our grieving. My mom mailed the clipping to me (along with a letter, of course!), and I scanned it. This appeared in the Kansas City Star on July 3, 1955.
My favorite quote from the article: "The customers seem to like it," one of the postal clerks said, "but they're sure surprised at seeing anything efficient at a post office." HA! My grandfather so could have been the one who said that. I can just hear his laugh after making a crack like that.
For anyone who has trouble viewing this small size, I am experimenting with a new way to download documents. I don't know if this will work for you or not, but here is a link to view the PDF of the scan.
The wizard behind Everyday Correspondence sent me this tasty - vintage letterheads in a handmade bourbon envelope. The theme holding it all together was the roaring 20s - a time in history that I find very fun, at least for the styles and imagery.
Anyhoo, not only was it in fun packaging, it was also a great letter, because his are just like that. (AND he uses fountain pens - what could be better?)
For your viewing pleasure, a closer look at the envelope, and of course I must show you the back, too:
Here's the kicker: he didn't even know when he created this envelope (our correspondence is fairly new) that I am a great bourbon fan! It was total coincidence. My usual brand is Knob Creek, but I am in fact a great fan of Woodford Reserve, too - it is a touch sweeter and more nutty than Knob Creek, and nice for the occasional change. Well done!
I just stumbled across a column by Tara Seel, the city editor of the Daily Graphic in Canada. She calls it The Lost Art of Letter Writing, in which she talks about her lovely Aunt Jean and the promise she has made to her that she would "get better about writing letters," and later says "Let’s make Aunt Jean proud and reclaim the practice of writing letters." It's a fun column, do go read it - but best of all, she extends an invitation to write to her. "If anybody out there wants to write a letter, and they’re just not sure who to send it to, let me extend an invitation," she says. "I would be most pleased to receive letters from any of you."
Lovely handmade envelope from a young correspondent. It was rather refreshing to see these frosty leaves on a hot summer day. Love the Victor Hugo quote; if you can't see the photo or are having trouble reading it, it says "One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas."
So I normally just hawk stationery products and stuff you can use for letter-writing, but this book definitely falls under the umbrella of "stuff you can use for letter-writing" so I'm going to share my immediate postal excitement about it.
I had reservations about whether or not I should buy this book, because I figured I pretty much know the scene for pen-palling and have my own happy style already, and some of the promo materials make it sound like a how-to guide. Also, I am a mail enthusiast but not a mail artist; I'm not much into art for art's sake and prefer the communication of a letter of postcard. (Bracing for attack from mail artists now) BUT, this book is just great for any postal enthusiast, from the beginner to the advanced. Not only does it include envelope templates and suggestions on where and how to find pen pals, but it's got great resources for supplies and other things, the writing is very witty, and the photos are inspirational and beautiful. Just go buy it. Oh, it's listed as a paperback, but the cover is kind of cardboardy and it's really more sturdy than I expected, too.
If you're unsure, definitely have some fun at their blog, Good Mail Day. (It's been linked in my "letter blogs" sidebar for a while.)
I haven't even finished reading it yet, but I've paged through it and am (obviously) just ridiculously excited about it.
At the fine Chronicle Books sale last month, I snagged these awesome Star Trek postcards. They are quite kistchy and fun. Some of them have funny captions, others do not. I'm sure you'll see more of them in the future.
This lovely decorated air-mail-esque envelope came to me bearing a letter and even gifts:
...the best ink blotters ever! I am indeed smeary, dearie, and these made such a lovely little surprise gift with this letter. Instead of putting them on a rocker blotter, I just lay them over the top few lines of my letter as I write. (I am right-handed, but an overwriter, so I smudge almost just like a lefty.)
I love how the two halves together form a heart, and the text is quite witty. I think you can read it if you view large. (Hey, does anyone ever have trouble viewing links to my photos or viewing large? I know some people can, but someone else mentioned in a letter that they couldn't do it. Let me know if this isn't working.)
The deco tape on the back of the envelope rocked, with phrases like "Sending you my joy," "EXPRESS: to those who struggle with time," and "A gift full of dreams coming straight to your door."
The image is some kind of vintage pin-up from the 1940s, though the postcard itself is not vintage but a modern reproduction. Of course Chris has long since beat me to it, and blogged about this last month. Chris, you are way more on top of it than I am!
Yes, folks, this post title deserves three exclamation points.
Thanks to a trip to the lovely IKEA on Monday, I have two new sets of cutely named Expedit shelves that are now organizing the items in my study. In the past, when folks asked me how I organized my stationery, I had to admit that it was spread out in a million places all over my apartment. No more!! It's all here, folks, and I am kind of chagrined to realize how much I actually have. Good gravy. NO MORE EBAY STATIONERY FOR ME. Oy.
(Yes, the shelves are blocking a door; we never use that door and it was already being blocked by another piece of furniture pre-reorganization, anyway.)
Each of the cubbies has a theme, of course, which probably only makes sense to me, but you can see them all in notes on the Flickr photo. Roll your mouse over the photo to read the notes explaining each section. (Yes, I have a whole cubby dedicated to The Muppets, a whole cubby dedicated to vintage, and half a cubby just for Edward Gorey. You see where my interests lie...)
I am way, way too excited about this. I even have two empty cubbies! (I am considering putting my letter pile in one of them, but having it in the living room, where I actually write, helps me to see it all the time and know how many letters loom.)
The only downside is that I kind of stand in front of the shelves indecisively, wondering what the hell I'm gonna use for my next letter.
Perhaps I live under a rock (well, I don't have a TV) but I've only just learned, through reading a postal-related blog, that postal workers in the UK are having strikes all over the place that are affecting mail delivery. My sympathies! What a predicament. I am reading up on the whole backstory now.
I do hope folks in the UK have not experienced significant delays or difficulties, though it seems inevitable...
Ah, postcrossing. Sometimes you get crap, and sometimes you get an absolute gem. I am totally enamored with this postcard from Maggie in Shanghai, who translated the characters on the back and told me on the card that "This card is a beauty of Shanghai 1930."
Now, go ahead and view large and tell me if you don't agree with me that the little object in the upper right-hand corner is a pack of cigarettes. My bet is that this was an old cigarette ad.
I am a smoking bigot, I absolutely loathe cigarettes and smoking, but I'm going to post this postcard anyway because I love the Shanghai beauty.
Of course I love that the pixie is riding a snail (even with a fabulous harness)... Could he be making a snail-mail delivery, perhaps?
Looking at the beautiful and subtle wavy lines over the stamp makes me marvel at how much more artful UK stamp cancellations are than those in the USA. Or is the grass just greener on the other side of the pond?
For some reason, one week in July brought not one but TWO incredible peacock stamps, from two different countries. Above we have two lovely stamps from China; if you view large, you might be able to see that the border of the peacock stamp is actually metallic gold foil.
As lovely as the Chinese peacock stamp is, though...
... it cannot hold a candle to this Thai peacock stamp. An elephant and a peacock together, what could be better?
Here's a closer look, but if you really zoom in, you can see that the stamp is even iridescent. Wow. That is seriously spectacular.
The wonderful stamps came on the above Postcrossing postcard, TH-23811, from Postcrosser Sathitporn.
I can't believe this is the first time I've managed to blog about my beloved Edward Gorey stationery from Pomegranate. This is great stuff, with part of a drawing sliced down the side of the page. There are 4 designs, and this is one of the sets that gives you more paper than envelopes, which I totally appreciate: 48 sheets, 25 envelopes. As you can see, the envelopes have their own lovely printing inside, though they are not gummed. The set comes with stickers to seal the envelope, but I usually add some more stickers just to make sure it stays sealed through all the postal machines and such.
Anyway, the paper is of an excellent weight and texture, takes fountain pen ink beautifully and never feathers or bleeds.
Even the box is lovely. I can never thrown them away when I've finished a set. (Oh yeah, and that's my red Esterbrook LJ next to it. Doesn't the color go nicely?)
They're currently on a half price sale at Pomegranate, but they've been like that for about a year now... my paranoid mind worries that perhaps they are going to be discontinued, so of course I've stocked up.
I don't know what to do about it except encourage people to keep writing letters and sending mail. I admit I'm a little worried. I DON'T want to see delivery fall to 5 days a week; I know I'm in the minority here, but I'd rather pay more for stamps.
I have no photo for this post, which I know means exponentially fewer people will actually read all the words. C'est la vie.
I have often contemplated writing a letter to a favorite author. In fact, I have two specific authors in mind, both of whom are rather famous. One of them is even known to write with a fountain pen! I always thought, oy, they probably get absolute nutters writing to them all the time, and their publisher won't even forward the letter to them, etc etc. And it's not that I'm expecting a response at all, but I DO hope my words would reach them. But, through a lovely twist of fate, I am writing to a published author now whose books I've actually not yet read (though his latest sounds quite interesting, and I do intend to read it - you can check out his blog at bentpage.wordpress.com and get info on his books from there); I started writing to him through the fountain pen network, as we are both fountain pen aficionados, and his letters have become among my most interesting and cherished ones. (Gee, a professional writer who writes great letters: go figure!) Anyhoo, I just got another letter from him yesterday, and he answered my question in greater depth about what it's like to receive a letter from a reader, from the perspective of a bona fide published author. And he really encouraged me to go ahead and write those letters. I actually think I will, though I know I'm going to take ages and ages to craft them *just so*...
I haven't often turned questions on to my blog readers, but I will do so now, since you are all such an interesting and erudite bunch. Have any of you written letters to favorite authors? What has the experience been like for you? Have any of them actually [gasp] written back?
The set comes wrapped in cellophane, with the G. Lalo logo embossed in gold on the band that holds them all together so prettily.
The paper texture on the cards and envelopes is laid, or slightly textured/lined. On the cards it is straight/horizontal, and on the envelopes it has a lovely diagonal slant. The envelopes are lined with nice, crinkly white tissue liner.
Although I am a big fan of green, I don't tend to like pastels, and this one seems to have a lot of orange/brown undertones with a kind of washed-out feel. Would I have chosen this off the shelf? No. But it's still an enjoyable experience to write a note on it. Actually, contemplating the color... for you ink-nuts out there, perhaps the new Noodler's V-mail GI Green would be a match. I hear it has some funky orange undertones and edges to it. (Sorry, inside ink joke there for those of us that follow new Noodler's inks and their funky behaviors... maybe just a bit too closely.)
Of course how it behaves with fountain pen ink is one of my primary considerations, so here you can see a closeup (and if you want even closer, view large). I used a Sheaffer Agio fountain pen with a fine nib, carrying Noodler's Hunter Green ink. This ink doesn't exactly harmonize with the shade of green on the border, but oh well. At least the ink is waterproof. It behaved beautifully on the paper - quick drying, no hint of feathering.
The envelopes are so elegant and beautiful - thick and weighty, but not too much so - that they hardly need anything else... but this peacock wanted to go along for the ride.
Though there was no price on this pack of cards, my research direct from the Exaclair website indicates these retail for $13 and come in packs of 10. (You can purchase them at Distinctive Stationery.) I am generally loathe to pay more than $1 per card unless it's something spectacular, and this is a little too understated for my definition of spectacular, so I probably wouldn't buy them. But, they're still lovely and I'll enjoy using them.