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
A very generous blog reader in Connecticut sent me these postcards. If I recall correctly, the writer supposed that a relative had brought them home as souvenirs after a tour of military service overseas. Is my historical photograph/paper age sense incorrect, or do I surmise that these may date closer to WWI than WWII? I believe the scenes are from France; they are not all labeled but the ones that are seem very French. There are a couple of chateaus. (Chateaux?) I just know that they are so gorgeous I'm not even sure I'll be able to use them! My favorite one is on top, the dungeon-looking door with the light shining through... spooky yet lovely.
Here's the back of one...
...and here's another. I am honored to be the recipient of someone else's history!
After I sort the day's mail (my beloved does get some mail, occasionally), my personal letters usually sit in a wee pile until I sit down and read them in one fell swoop. Soda often beats me to it - she knows a lot of my attention goes to mail - and sits upon them, so that I must pet her sufficiently before she will relinquish them.
I know I'm being a little indulgent, posting 4 photos of her settled on this one day's mail pile...
While I applaud the effort anyone puts into a handmade envelope, I've been mulling over these two for a while. I've got a few big philosophical things to say about them, first and foremost that I find them deeply, deeply disturbing.
I grant you I don't have a TV. I don't follow or worship celebrity. I am blissfully ignorant of pop culture, and I don't think you could stuff a fashion magazine down my throat if you tried. I am deliberately distant from this crap, and such deliberate distancing was crucial to my personal process of healing and rebuilding my own body image. (In my youth, I was NOT so distant from such advertising culture.) There is a reason I find this blather appalling, and this pretty much sums it up.
No wonder our women, especially young girls, have serious body image issues (and eating disorders and cutting disorders and everything else that goes along with self-hate) when they're barraged with this crap... and then internalize it as their standard of beauty.
So here we have the emaciated warrior. I will confess I like the woman warrior aspect of it, but good lord, this waif hasn't the muscle to heft a spear! She is skin and bones, people! I look at this skeletal frame and wonder if she actually has enough body fat for her body to function hormonally. If I saw a young woman like this, I would be concerned about an eating disorder. This is so skinny it repulses me, and it repulses me further that women see this starved image and aspire to look like that.
Now, creepfest #2. I can't see enough of this one's body to know whether she's got a healthier figure or not, but let's deconstruct that eye makeup. Good lord, this woman looks beaten. She looks happy to be beaten. You have to turn this envelope over to see the rest of the ad, but...
...look! She's kinda sorta chained up! WTF?? Chained and beaten? And this is sexy? What, exactly, is this ad selling? (I'm not even sure- clothes? perfume? a submissive woman?)
I'm not a prude, people, and I love me some good pin-ups. There is a big difference between showing powerful, sexy women and objectifying women and starving them. I'm sure we can argue the finer points of this, and I imagine this blog post will generate some interesting comments... but I just have to go on record by saying that images like this creep me out. I have a very, very different standard of beauty. [Edit: Please keep your comments polite. Mean-spirited comments will not be published.]
So check out this fabulous handmade envelope with the little vintage camper/transportation theme. Tres mid-century kitsch, right up my alley. And why am I so gaga over pointing hands? What is it about them that makes them so essentially awesome in mail art? The stamps are also fabulous, of course - more James Bond, a little old car, and a fairy from the mythical creatures Royal Mail set.
Here we have the back of the envelope, plus the inner envelope held within. And lo - another pointing hand!
The piece de resistence is this "Don't be skinny" rubber stamp. Wow. I am in awe. I dig the way he specified my location, too.
I've been doing some light searching on this, and I don't have any real answers. I have to assume that since most flights are grounded, international cargo (and mail) isn't moving around much either. Of course I couldn't find anything about the U.S. Postal service (certainly not on its own website!) but I did find this link, which said, "Europe's largest mail and express delivery company Deutsche Post said it was switching to road transport where possible."
Of course road transport is not possible between here and Europe, so I'm settling in for an indefinite wait in delivery and arrival of a good deal of international mail. I've got quite a few correspondents in the UK, Finland and Germany in particular... and I guess those Postcrossing postcards I just sent to Germany and the Netherlands are going to hang up in limbo for a while, too.
What a fascinating and amazing turn of events, this volcano!
If anyone knows of any postal information for specific countries, do comment and fill us all in. (Thanks to a very helpful comment from Erasercarver, I can share this like to Royal Mail to learn what's going on in the UK.)
Here is one of my most recent and unique mail anomalies - an international postcard that arrived ripped in half. What a cute little kitty! What does the rest of this illustration show, I wonder?
I got the half with my address, but not the stamps. Thank goodness her signature is legible, and if she wouldn't have said "greetings from Helsinki," I would have had no idea from whence this came. So, Anu L. in Helsinki, Finland, your postcard did arrive, although it was mangled. (Sometimes, if the US postal service mangles something, it will arrive in a plastic bag apologizing for the damage. This didn't happen - it was just half a postcard in my mailbox.) I can't write you back because I don't have your address. Maybe it was on the top half of the postcard!
I've actually gotten quite a few postcards with no return addresses lately, incidentally... Sometimes I write people's addresses down in a little book, and sometimes I don't. If you want to guarantee a response, give me a return address, even in tiny writing on a postcard. (I put a return address on EVERYTHING.) If you don't use a return address, please do not expect to hear back from me.
I've mentioned my ink journal and shown samples from the pages so many times, I guess I should show you the outside! Here's the front of my pretty simple but perfectly useful Clairefontaine ink journal. It is the smaller Clairefontaine Basics clothbound journal, and...
...hopefully this tag tells you everything you need to know.
Remember that post about my ink samples from Pear Tree Pens? Well, here are toothpick samples of many of them. In the aforementioned post, I mentioned my quest for the perfect burgundy. Let me tell you, none of the above samples are it! I will reiterate my distaste for pinkish burgundies, and most of these seem to be that. Diamine Claret? Come ON, people, that is just HOT PINK! The caveat is that these inks DO look different in pens, I have put some of them in pens and discovered that I still don't like them. The Mandalay Maroon and Diamine Maroon are both chalky, and just not the color I wanted. The Visconti Burgundy is quite nice, actually, but to me it is more of a red. Some of my own dark reds are closer to burgundy than the Visconti Burgundy. As for the Herbin samples, I've never met a Herbin red I liked. Those won't even see the inside of one of my pens. (Golly, maybe I should do a giveaway of all these wee ink samples I don't like!)
This photo, for comparison's sake, shows the dark red/burgundy inks I DO like. Many of these are in bottles, a few are samples. You have already seen examples on this blog of how different some of these inks look in a pen (see "a few red inks"). I don't really consider Monaco Red or Tiananmen to be burgundy or maroon, but they're great dark reds. PR Burgundy Mist is a GREAT color, but it dries really slowly (as nearly all the PR inks do), and that color is infamous for turning to brown after the bottle has been open for a while. R&K Alt Bordeaux is one of those purplish burgundy inks I actually DO like; can't really say why, it's just a color I really dig. I have that in one eyedropper pen that needs a refill right now, hmm.... Interestingly, Caran d'Ache Storm actually looks much darker in a pen - I don't care for this toothpick sample, but in a pen it's lovely. I only have a sample of that, but someday I may buy it in a bottle...
For search purposes, inks shown in this post are: Diamine Amaranth Diamine Maroon Noodler's V-Mail Mandalay Maroon Visconti Burgundy J. Herbin Rouge Caroubier J. Herbin Rouge Bourgogne Diamine Claret PR Black Cherry PR Burgundy Mist Caran d'Ache Storm Noodler's Red-Black Noodler's Swishmix Burgundy Noodler's Tiananmen Noodler's Widowmaker Diamine Monaco Red Rohrer & Klingner Alt Bordeaux
So far Diamine Violet is the winner - looks smashing in a pen (more views of that later), shades well, behaves well, and has the charming effect of changing color as it dries. It goes down much more pink/magenta, and you can just watch it dry more blue. I really dig that.
Noodler's Sequoia is too... meh... for me. If I want a green, it needs to be more green than this. Also, it dries a bit slowly.
Noodler's V-Mail North African Violet is a lovely bright purple color, but it also dries a bit slowly for me.
The J. Herbin Vert Reseda was a gift. It is far too light for my taste. I put it in a pen once and could barely read it.
This lovely tail-eating alligator is from the Amanda Visell Don't Eat Paper stationery set. I should have taken a photo of the back of the envelope, which says, cutely, don't eat mail. I am particularly fond of this stationery set for its mix of cute and dark/weird. I really like the illustration style, too. (Here's another design in this set.)
Here's a closer look at those gator fangs, which I embellished with Stickles glitter glue. Sparkly pearly whites!
The silver border was already on the brown paper envelope, but I added some bling with Stickles glitter glue and a fountain pen rubber stamp. I thought the Elvis and Okefenokee swamp stamps went nicely together, too.
These envelopes are from the Potter StyleAntiquarian Note Card Book. I saw these in a real live brick-and-mortar store (which I visit so rarely), and I'm so glad I did, because all the online descriptions of this set do not show you how lovely the envelopes are!
I like that the envelopes have their own built-in decorative labels, so to speak, and on the bottom envelope in the photo above, I added my own home-made glitter bats. (I used this bat punch on pages of the letter, and I took the bat confetti by-products of said punch and sprayed them with glimmer mist glitter spray, then glued them to the envelope.)
This Noodler's V-Mail series GI Green ink generated a lot of hubub because of the "orange halo" that appears around thicker lines of the ink. It is clearly visible in these photos, especially on the wetter dip nibs used. However, Noodler's has since reformulated this ink to make it darker. The samples shown here are definitely the original version. You can view this large if you have a Flickr account of your own.
More views of the sane ink, from different dip nibs. You can also take a closer look at this one, with said Flickr account. I do have this ink loaded in a pen now, but the pen (a Platinum Riviere - thanks, Carroll!) is rather on the dry-writing side, and I've never been able to get the orange tones from the ink in that pen.
Here's one of the envelopes I've made so far (using the PaperSource envelope templates I reviewed a while back) from a wonderful, fantastical children's book called King Bidgood's in the Bathtub. The premise of the story is that the King doesn't want to get out of the bathtub, and calls all of his daily activities to happen with him in the tub. I really, really love Don Wood's illustrative style. Oh, and I tried to continue the theme somewhat in the stamps, where I used a 29-cent Columbus landing in America anniversary stamp that showed a similar kind of sailing ship.
Above is the back of the envelope as you would open it; I reinforced the seal with some deco tape and gold stickers...
...and now you can see the illustration continue, with the envelope upside down.
I had a lot of fun making this one! It kept making me smile, to look at it.
This charming hand-painted watercolor cat envelope came to me from Sirpa in Finland. It is so evocative! The cat looks very content... I can almost hear him purring. This was a joy to receive, most particularly since the letter was just as lovely as the painting.
Sirpa wrote about it on her blog, too and there you can see photos of the inside of the letter, which include photos of a visiting cat in a sauna! I really thought I had taken photos of the inside of the letter, but now I can't find them, so I guess I didn't - glad you can see them on Sirpa's blog!
Since enough folks commented that they like my monthly mail-sent stats after my March Madness experiment, I'll continue those in April and possibly beyond. I'll keep the same little left-hand table system, but I'm not on a goal anymore so I took away the remaining column.
I confess I am posting this even though I'm a little chagrined that I've not yet written any letters in April, only postcards... but I am sure that will change before I sleep tonight.
Here are some of my dark red inks, shown in pens and not in toothpick samples. We have Noodler's Tiananmen, Diamine Monaco Red, Noodler's Red-Black, and Noodler's Swishmix Burgundy. This is probably a fairly accurate representation of the colors, though most of the nibs were very much on the fine side. As for the Noodler's Swishmix Burgundy at the bottom, I have to admit I do not much care for it. I find it chalky, and that really bugs me in an ink in ways I can't even explain. If you have a Flickr account, you might like to see a larger version of this photo, where you can see the subtleties of the inks.
Next we have a cropped version of the top three inks, which I do like. This was not a conscientious red ink comparison, I just happened to refill a bunch of dark reds at once.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Noodler's Red-Black, which is usually too brown-looking for me. On some papers, usually coated postcards, you can really see the red undertones of the ink, but on most papers it ends up looking sorta brown like this. The upside is that it's partly waterproof - the black component is waterproof, so the red may wash away but the black will stay.
The Tiananmen and the Diamine Monaco Red have very special places in my heart. It doesn't hurt that the Monaco Red is in one of my very favorite pens - a red Esterbrook LJ with a semi-flexible 9048 nib. It's a joy to use, and the shading (color/saturation variation) in the Monaco Red is lovely.
Are you getting sick of the ink stuff? I am, a little bit. I have more ink photos in the queue, but I believe for my next post I'll jump ahead in said photo queue and post about a letter.
It's really true: April is National Card and Letter Writing Month! I learned from the fine Red Letter Day that this year the "month" is extended through Mother's Day on May 11. So, as if you needed another reason to write a letter (or a card), now you have it.
As for my little March Madness challenge, my final tally was 122: 71 letters and 51 postcards. I did that in actually 5 weeks, not 4. It was sort of fun keeping the stats, but I'm not sure if that sort of posting is annoying. Is that a bit precious, to list my outgoing mail stats? I'm not sure - what do readers think?
I have decided I'm going to keep my own monthly stats, for myself, but am unsure whether or not I should post them as I've been doing this past month.
What do you think, dear readers?
And go write a letter to celebrate National Card and Letter Writing Month!