Polly Hatfield — known fondly in the letter-writing community as Miss Polly — considers herself paper besotted. Hands down, over the moon. In fact, she has often wondered whether there may likely be a paper wasp or two in her family line. She is most at home when squirrelled away in her study with vintage typewriters at hand and her ink pot full.
We loved catching up with her in her study this spring. Read on and learn about some of Miss Polly's favorite letter-writing tools, and tried and true correspondence tips. Be prepared to be one hundred percent charmed by the magical, correspondence-rich world she has created in her home in SE Portland.
in the study with Miss Polly...
I must confess, I have been a stationery magpie, office supply zealot and avid letter-writer since elementary school. I never fail to be utterly wowed by the magic those 26 letters of our alphabet have the potential to spur. And, in truth, sending mail proves the best bargain around. For a mere 49 cents for a first class letter, or only 34 cents for a postcard, you can quite literally send your words — whether a simple hello, a cherished quote, or an outpouring of love — on wing to anywhere in the United States. Hand to hand, door to door, heart to heart.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to join me and send well-tended epistolary joy as part of the Write_On Challenge this April: it's fun, easy and as the saying goes: good mail begets good mail. Make someone's day — and maybe your own, too.
I once had a yoga teacher that liked to remind her students to begin their practice prop rich. That way we'd be ready for whatever the practice called for on any given day. I've held on to that wise morsel and believe the same holds true for a letter-writing practice.
pouches & tools
By keeping an on-the-go portable letter-writing pouch on hand, you can jot a note when you find yourself with a clutch of minutes on the bus or when you've arrived early for your lunch date. A heartfelt postcard can easily be penned in these little wedges of time. I like to keep my letter-writing pouch well stocked with a handful of postcards, a few well chosen cards and a tiny up-to-date address book. If you use an electronic device for your contacts, be sure to add postal addresses! Keep a stash of postage stamps on hand, tucked into your wallet for spontaneous mail making.
A few favorite writing implements add panache to your practice. I prefer vintage fountain pens, Prismacolor pencils and the vibrant strokes of Sakura Gelly Roll pens. To corral my lively assortment of writing implements, I employ a collection of castoff containers. Two vintage aluminum canisters that used to house someone’s kitchen staples: tea and grease! on a countertop near a long ago stove now call my desk-perch home, another sort of hearth, a fire that warms and feeds.
I relish making my own envelopes as well as decorating outgoing envelopes. A little postal joy for all the hands that touch each parcel along its journey. San Francisco-based Red Handed Rubber proves a reliable source of inspiration on the rubber stamp front, and their offerings never fail to make a great impression. The owner, Jennie Hinchcliff, is the co-author of the seminal & swoon-worthy book Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art.
Baskets & tins
I keep recently received correspondence in one spot, a veritable trove to inspire, so I can both remember to reply in a timely fashion and also have them close at hand to answer any questions as I jot my reply. I choose to end my missives with a query or two so that they feel more like a dialogue than a simple reportage. A big basket that is often full to overflowing holds incoming postal gems which eventually migrate to the ‘replied to’ basket before being archived in old Korean teacake tins.
Earlier Risers: A perfect way to start any day of the week: brew a pot of tea and collect some of your favorite letter-writing supplies. Light a candle or incense and spend the morning with pen and paper in hand — it's like sharing a cup of tea with an absent friend. Drop the missive in the mailbox on your way to work and know that you've launched your day off to a great start and will likely soon make someone else's day, too.
Night Owls: If you find yourself more of a night owl than an early bird, practice letter-writing as a way to unwind at day's end. Settle into your coziest chair, or enjoy the especially indulgent practice of penning letters from bed.
Like any practice, it's bit by bit. Congratulate yourself for each piece of mail sent and be sure to do whatever you can to kindle those letter-writing fires. The brighter they blaze the warmer they are. Remember: as mail artists like to say: you need to send good mail to get good mail.
Keep your flag up!