Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mail Art and A Month of Letters

I've made it through the second week of A Month of Letters, but this morning, I realized I didn't have anything for today's mail.  Yesterday, I spent the day with a friend--drinking wine and reminiscing...only realized this morning that there was nothing to put in the mail!  
Quick trip upstairs to find one of the postcards I'd made, write the address and a note, add postage, and then put it in the mailbox!  

This was a great week for incoming mail:

From Penny Baugh of Art Journey!  This sweet charmer says, "choose magic," but it looks like magic chose me--receiving this little character was such a joy.  She is now hanging on the wall on my studio, overlooking my desk!  Instant inspiration.

    From Rift when I joined the postcard exchange on Goodreads.

From Donovan Beeson.  I'm now a card-carrying member of the Letter Writers Alliance.
And, OOOOh, yesterday from Annie this beautiful quilted postcard!  Fabulous, right? Right!  She really IS the high priestess of borders...and more.

I ordered some stickers from Neandercol's Etsy shop and love the envelope she used to enclose them.
The stickers are wonderful, too--made from old postage stamps.
And there was plenty of outgoing mail, too.  Something went in the mailbox every day, including today's hurried effort to be sure I met the challenge.  Two more weeks to go!   

Bryce Eleanor will be arriving shortly, but maybe I'll have a chance to show the outgoing mail tomorrow.  No, I'll share one-- I used my favorite photo of the kid from 5 years ago to answer a Mail Art Call on Barbies.  Still cracks me up!

Monday, February 08, 2016

A Month of Letters and A History of the Postal Service

Outgoing Mail for Feb. 1-6.  All but one of the Chinese New Year postcards, postcards to grands and friends, a card for National Mail Carrier Day to our postman,and letters. 

 I bought 5 of the "As long as there are postmen" cards from Missive Maven because I love them--this one went to a friend in Tupelo, MS because I thought he would enjoy it.  

The two postcards to the grands at the bottom of the collage below
got cut off when I made the collage.
Hmmm, maybe I didn't take a pic of B.E.'s.

The ones below went out in Jan.--
so not part of A Month of Letters

Incoming this week

Fee and I went junking last weekend, 
and I found these letters in a batch ready for me to bring home.
1928 and a 2 cent stamp on top!

I'm almost finishing reading Neither Snow Nor Rain an ARC I received through NetGalley.  Who would have imagined how fascinating a history of the USPS could be?!  

It has been both informative and compelling--from Ben Franklin through all of the Post Masters, through the battles with alternative carriers, the short history of the Pony Express, the  competition with technology, and so much more. 

 While I expected to find some interesting information, I couldn't believe how engrossing a history of the mail in the United States could be.  

“It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the United States Postal Service on American Life . . . This book explores the rich history of this formidable operation, as well as its slow disappearance.”—Chicago Tribune

Devin Leonard has achieved something astonishing. He has taken the Post Office—too often disparaged as the carrier of ‘snail mail’ in this age of instant communication—and delivered a vivid and surprising story filled with indelibly drawn personalities including a founding father, an obsessive nineteenth-century smut-hunter, the swashbuckling pilots of the earliest, nearly suicidal airmail service, and many others. With crisp prose and unflagging narrative drive, Leonard reveals the forgotten history of the institution, and makes abundantly clear, the story of the Post Office is also the story of America.”—Fergus M. Bordewich, author of The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government

The amount of mail handled by the USPS is almost beyond comprehension, even if the majority of mail now consists of junk mail and advertisements.

While the Month of Letters challenge is a bit overwhelming to manage, I'm even more pleased to participate when I think that the disappearance of first-class mail and the postal system as we know it is a distinct possibility.  

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Journaling and Creating Postal Missives

Before getting involved with A Month of Letters, I was working in a couple of journals, experimenting and playing with ideas.  

Now, my efforts are directed toward keeping up with getting a letter or postcard a day in the mail and trying to have something specific relating to the person I'm writing.  I've actually managed 2 items a day so far this week, but that might set me back later when I run out of names on my list.  

At first, I thought that actually writing the letters might be the hard part. You know, trying to think of something to say.  The letters aren't long, however, and postcards don't have much room. 

I've also found that the writing part a pleasure. Unlike a phone call, there is no awkwardness about being in the middle of something when the phone rings or about saying goodbye.  There is no hurry to type out an email and send it.  I can begin, and pause, take a break and sip my tea, and then come back to the message--even with the limited space on a postcard, I can pause.  

As a result, the process is rather relaxing and enjoyable.  It provides a certain mental connection that is slower in its construction, less immediate than text, email, or phone calls, and I'm finding this an unexpected pleasure--this feeling of having plenty of time to frame a response.

Although A Month of Letters is simply a celebration of correspondence through the mail, I've combined it with Mail Art (and "art" is a relative term) because it is fun to create a postcard or a decorated envelope.  The idea behind AML and MA is pretty much the same:  the work is freely given without any requirements of receiving something in return and there are no judgements about the quality.  

For introverts, correspondence is perfect.  To quote Lord Byron:  "Letter writing is the only device combining solitude with good company."  Writing to someone you like is certainly keeping good company.

Still don't know if I will manage to complete the month; I  prefer my previous method of sending one or two letters a week on one day.  Last summer, I put Wednesday as "Letter Day" on my Google calendar and have receive weekly reminders that are often ignored.  Since I've been writing more in the last couple of months, even I don't write on Wednesday, the notifications keep the idea in my mind.
Today is National Mail Carrier Appreciation Day.  My postcard will  be is in the mailbox!  

One day at a time, letter after letter after....

Monday, February 01, 2016

Day One of a Month of Letters

When I talked about the chaos in the studio, Teresa wondered what that might look like.  It is pretty bad.  There will never be enough places on which to put things, so I cover every conceivable surface, including the ironing board. 

Waiting for paint to dry is boring, even with a heat tool.  Ta dum, ta dum.  What to do?

OK --Move on to something else-- like cutting postcards to size, or applying fabric stiffener to a prospective envelope, or stitching envelopes, or perforating cinderella faux postage, or searching for a tool I just set down and can't find. 

MONDay, FEB. 1 -----------------
OK-- I cleaned up most of this mess yesterday afternoon.  Cheers and approbation appreciated!

Today is the first day of A Month of Letters  and I put one in the mailbox and took the other to the post office to be sure it had enough postage.  

Tonight, I'll write another letter or postcard and see that it makes tomorrow's mail.  Day by day, one letter at a time.  Maybe more than one letter, but at least one letter a day during February, with the exception of Sundays.  I'm glad I prepared some envelopes and postcards ahead of time.  

And so it begins.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year will begin February 8, and 2016 is the Year of the Monkey.  When I was taking Tai Chi, many students from our school would go to Dallas each year to celebrate the Chinese New Year with Grand Master Johnny Lee.  

My favorite at any exhibition (whether for the Chinese New Year or at various tournaments) was always the Lion Dance.  There are tons of examples online, but this one from a junior high school is a favorite.   

Back to the year of the Monkey for 2016:

    • Characteristics of people born in the Year of the Monkey:
The ninth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, the Monkey, is portrayed by a smart and inventive personality. The Monkey is constantly keen on learning and also on new encounters.
This interest can be found in the Monkey’s whims, and, incautious activities. Regularly disdaining schedule, the Monkey is not above getting involved in mysterious activities. Monkeys are actually very beguiling and witty, which adds to their inborn personality. As the Monkey is a standout amongst the most self-intrigued signs, they may experience issues understanding others and indicating sympathy. In spite of the fact that it might be difficult to understand, individuals from the Monkey sign can be touchy on occasion, particularly when reprimanded.
Socially, the Monkey is garrulous and outgoing. Now and again, the Monkey can undoubtedly be the most chatty individual from any gathering. It is not uncommon for individuals from the Monkey sign to have a considerable rundown of companions and admirers. The Monkey is dependably up for an enterprise, however they are infrequently tackled alone. In this sense, the Monkey may have a few friendly networks that fluctuate based upon the circumstance or trip.  More here.

 I love the following images for the year of the monkey.
The Energy Specialist

I realize now that the above image
(although I found it somewhere else) 
is by  Zen Brush who has an Etsy shop.

So charming and whimsical.
Zen Brush on Etsy

I love these images and realize it takes years to master the techniques of Chinese brush art and Japanese sumi-e. 

But...I've been experimenting with some Chinese New Year postcards featuring the monkey and inspired by Zen Brush's charming work.  I have about a life-time to go!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Thoughts

I feel as if I'm back in kindergarten or Vacation Bible School, as I've experimented with Chinese brush painting, collage, painting on dictionary pages, etc.  I've made some postcards and made and/or decorated some envelopes.  My work space and floor and every surface in the room is covered with papers, works in progress, paints, pens, scraps of both paper and fabric, and other odd items.

What I love about mail art is that it doesn't have to be good or even well-thought out (a definite advantage for me).  It can be spontaneous, experimental,  something that simply lifts a generic envelope or postcard into something "a little bit more."  Playing with decorating envelopes or postcards offers a freedom from judgement which is so much fun. Not all of the resulting pieces are what I hoped for, of course, so it is mportant to keep in mind that playing is fun and that experimenting with techniques doesn't have to produce great art work ('cause that is never gonna happen with me).  If the process satisfies me, the product has to take second place.  

Some interesting letter and mail art sites:

A Photo Pool on Flickr where various mail artists post their creations
Another Flickr Group   I love the stamp heads
More Images  

Letter Matters
Annie (freezeframe) -- does all kinds of cool crafting including mail art, cards, tags, and fabric postcards to die for

Thanks to all of you who emailed me addresses.  
I promise to mail you something in February, but 
--don't expect the caliber of some of the above folks!

Here are a few places with good ideas for techniques, especially for art journals, but can be used in such a variety of ways:

Diana Trout
Dina Wakely

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Month of Letters Challenge

Since renewing my interest in letter writing, I've found so many wonderful blogs and sites about mail history, mail art, and the art of writing letters.  Inspiration is all over the web.  Yesterday, I discovered A Month of Letters and have, with great trepidation, decided to give it a go.   

The Challenge

I have a simple challenge for you.
  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
All you are committing to is to mail 23 items. Why 23? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 23 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month.
Write love letters, thank yous, or simply notes to say that you miss an old friend. Send a fabric swatch from your new dress. A feather you picked up while on a walk. Whatever it is, let yourself step away from the urgency of modern life and think about an audience of one. Think of it as sending 23 little gifts. And, who knows, you might enjoy going to the mail box again.
Feeling intimidated? It’s fewer words than NaNoWriMo and I know how many of you do that. Join me in The Month of Letters Challenge.
Sincerely yours,
MRK signature  

  I am not at all certain that I will succeed, and immediately after signing up--panic set in.   I've been mailing several letters a week, but one a day?  OK--I could sent a lot of valentines, starting on Feb. 1.  That would help, but that only takes care of the first of the month.

I'm going to ask for help.  Send me your address, and sometime in February, I will send you something in the mail.  At least one item in the mail each day (with the exception of Sundays and Presidents Day) is quite the test of my determination, but writing to one of you would make it easier because I know you through your blogs.  

And maybe one of you will take up the challenge, visit A Month of Letters, and begin writing letters to friends, family, fellow bloggers, or even strangers.  

Even if I don't meet my goal of a letter a day, I'm looking forward to trying.  

 We treasure those permanent artifacts, those bundles of letters found in shoe boxes or attics and seized upon with delight.  Letters our parents exchanged, or those of our grandparents, or the letters of people we admire--how exciting to read them and get a personal glimpse at another time or place. 

Most people today seldom have time to write letters that will be placed in the mailbox, handled by postal workers, canceled, and delivered to someone else's mail or post office box.  
A Month of Letters offers an excuse!  

I'm always good with excuses!             

Monday, January 25, 2016

OMG - First post in 2016!

I've taken an unintentional blog break.  Sometimes I just fail to post one week and then the next--with no conscious plan of abandoning the blog.  Part of the reason for lack of posts is that I have not been working on dolls and only occasionally on embroidery.  When I have no ideas or too many ideas, avoidance takes over.

What I have been doing is writing more letters--trying to write weekly to the three grands and their mothers, and to write occasionally to friends.  I haven't always remembered to take pics, but here are some outgoing pieces of mail.

This past week when writing to Erin thanking her for our enjoyable visit to Baton Rouge to see her new house, I wanted to include a picture from her childhood.  Searching boxes in the garage that have been unopened since we moved into this house, I found not only some great pictures, but some cool stuff from when I was doing mail art years ago!  I will be putting them to work soon. 

 From Connie! 

to Connie  

I need to be more careful with photographing outgoing mail!  Incoming, which is rarer, I can always grab and take a pic, but once something is in the mailbox, it's gone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Truce 1914

For a year or so, I've been following Letters of Note and have mentioned it on my book blog several times because many of the letters are from authors I love.  For Christmas this year, there are links to the letters written about the season.  All of them are wonderful and articulate, and you should really read them all, but the one that I'm including is about the Christmas event that Sainsbury made their famous commercial about.  

But don't neglect the other wonderful letters
from Steinbeck, Tolkien, Mark Twain, and others.
I especially liked Sylvia Warner Townsend's
"thank you" letter for the gift of a matchbox.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Embroidery and Mail Art

I have been pretty absent from this blog lately, but I notice that many others are leaving a longer time between posts, as well.  It's the season, I suppose, that requires more effort in real life for many of us. Christmas is both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing for many.  It can be a very busy time or a time of needing a little removal from the bustle of life.

Mostly, I fall into that second category and spend a lot of time making stuff.  A physical withdrawal, but a creative and satisfying one.  Except for this year.  I haven't made anything.  Oh, I've looked at Pinterest and various creative blogs and admired and pinned, but have had no enthusiasm for actually making.

I've continued to embroider the doll bodies when I watch shows on Amazon or Netflix.  The first one that I showed you a while back was the largest.  This one is middle-sized, and I experimented with flowers.  

this will be front

But I'm still not in the mood to make heads for the three bodies I've been working on.  And little of the embroidery will show when they are dressed, anyway.  It has really just been an activity to keep my hands busy so I can watch my shows.

I'm completely enjoying my new foray into mail art, though. I've received two letters from Connie Rose and written two to her (one is in today's mail).  I've written to my grands, to my daughters, to a couple of friends, and to a stranger!  

I didn't take pictures of the first ones I sent, but here are some of the more recent ones.

This morning, I found The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing.  Not mushy luuuvvv letters--more "love writing letters" and/or "love receiving" them.  Getting a letter in the mail--a real letter, a personal letter--is like finding a treat in the mail box.  Snail mail is not as immediate as email or the phone, but there is certainly a place for each.  The 12 Days gives a list of people, strangers, that you could write, giving them the small gift of seeing a letter addressed to them and the pleasure of opening and reading a letter from a stranger.  I chose Anistazia, who is in an assisted living home and will surely enjoy receiving letters from strangers.  It, too, went out in today's mail.  

These letters don't go directly to the intended receiver, but are checked by the facilitator to see that there is nothing in the letter that shouldn't be there and then sent on to the individual.

Naomi of Naomi Loves does this all the time, writing to strangers, sending beautiful envelopes to people she has never met.  She explains why here

I'm no artist, but for some reason, decorating the envelopes is so much fun.  OK, time to go upstairs and decorate some envelopes, write a couple of letters.    

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Books and Mail Art

Although I am still behind on everything, I have at least found a little inspiration.  About time, too. Today, I've divided my time between playing and catching up on chores, but still procrastinating on some of them.  Bank statement?  Balance?

For the last two weeks, I've been reading even more than usual  (because I was in a serious creative lull) and have a bunch of book reviews to catch up on for my reading blog.  Yep, another procrastination.  I got hooked on a medieval mystery series by Candace Robb and have read 5 books in the series so far, but have only reviewed the first two.

  I love medieval mysteries.  My degree was in English lit;  not an awful lot of demand for that, so had to go back later to get my education degree.  Then on to a Master's in English lit.  From the beginning, I loved Beowulf and Chaucer, and I love English history.  My mother's fault--she loved historical novels, and I read hers like candy.

But if I read a novel about Ann Boleyn, I also had to read nonfiction about her.  If I read one about Elizabeth I, same thing.  I can blame Mother for the love of reading, but my father was responsible for the need to verify by reading nonfiction.  

I love both the medieval and the Elizabethan periods, and I love mysteries.  With every novel, I learn something new and do a little more research--which is so quick and easy with the internet.  I'll head to the library with a list of bibliographic materials and do even more research.  Compulsive.  

But now, after that long, dry spell of no crafting, I'm suddenly having a renewed interest in mail art and have set aside my Kindle and my stack of books...

because Connie  at Constance Rose: Art & Life sent me a wonderful envelope with a letter and several goodies.  Such a delight! I was off and running with a new/old passion.  
Just look!
So much fun to get decorated envelopes, 
and don't you just love the card?
Connie does the best stamp heads!

The Zine-- with stamps featuring cats from around the world.

Can you see why I was so excited?  Finding something in the mail that is not a bill or an advertisement is a rare treat these days.  And to have it be a visual feast?  A real hand-written letter instead of an email!  

I've been unable to find the box of mail art I received years ago, or all of the "postage" stamps I made, received, or purchased-- or any of the other stuff I accumulated while doing MA.

I do have a few from some cool people that I'd framed and not relegated to the box.  The one below,  I made for myself.  

See the stamp that strange woman is holding?  A mail art friend that I corresponded with regularly and sent little gifts to her girls, made a"postage" stamp of a drawing that one of the little girls made for me.   I got the drawing and the stamp in the mail.  So...I made the card below using the stamp.  I painted the crazy lady and the table and then literally stuck the stamp on the table.  I made a copy for her and for her mother, but kept this one for myself because it was so special with the original stamp.  I'd forgotten that-- just as I sent the girls little things like fancy pencils and stickers, they sent me their art.

Note the date--2002.
That little girl is grown now!  
But I still treasure the drawing and the stamp.

I'm now hoping to get my grandkids interesting in corresponding.  Like everyone else, they love to get mail, but are not so excited about writing a letter.  Since all 3 of them seemed to enjoy their art journals, I'm hoping mail art might appeal to them.  Decorating an envelope and writing a short note might catch their interest and not be too tedious.  :)

Oh, and Naomi of Naomi Loves Snail Mail has a new post about her recently formed Snail Mail Social Club!  What fun!

OK--back upstairs to continue work on something for Connie!