Making Time To Write

Letters, and their associated paper, envelope, stamps and ephemera, are so much more than just tools for communication with others. They can also serve as beacons: for slowing down, for noticing, for connecting with our own selves.

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In a world which seems to push us toward such focused doing - and with haste! - letters offer the opportunity to decelerate, to take stock and reflect. Handwriting forces our brains to ease toward the pace of pen on paper. There’s sensory pleasure in the colors and textures of stationery, and something visceral about hunkering over a piece of paper, pen in hand, making marks to an actual page. It’s translation and transformation, as if folding your own self inside that little envelope. Even the art of addressing, sealing, and stamping an envelope can feel like an act of magic: preparing a small parcel for its own disappearing trick into the mailbox - and waiting for it to reappear in a postal box across town, across the country, across the globe. Back in your own mailbox, or in the Dead Letter Office.

 

Letters are tactile. They beg for presence. That is, if we pause long enough to soak it all in. The trick is in carving out the intentional time for it. When we craft that time, letter writing is an act of self care and intention - even when you don’t have a penpal to write to. Sometimes we just have to make that time.

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Make Time is a full-day retreat allowing participants to leave the tugs and pulls of daily life at the door, and dedicate purposeful and non-distracted time to any desired project. I started Make Time over two years ago when I came to see just how much the to-do list, the constant beckon of technology, household chores, and work obligations were crowding the center of my life, and I was letting them. I was looking for an antidote, a way to set these pulls aside and create space to dive into creative projects. So now we gather each month to make time, not as a workshop or a class, but to hold space and write permission slips to focus on the endeavors that make us shine. Some show up to work on creative projects. Some come to tackle Ph.D. dissertations, writing projects with hot deadlines, or map travel plans. Our tools include guitars, sewing machines, ink, books, hammocks.

In the summers we gather at Make Time Farm in Beloit, Wisconsin, spreading out across the picnic tables, hay fields, pastures, and hammock to spin fiber, compose music, journal, or just fall asleep reading a good book. In the winter we cozy up inside the creative walls of Madison’s Arts and Literature Laboratory. In all seasons we hold each other accountable to a technology-free morning (your phone goes in the bushel basket), and savor a delicious potluck lunch and conversation. Each Make Time starts in the same way: we launch our special day with a different creative prompt each month.

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The morning creative prompts vary from scavenging the farm for found objects to drafting two-sentence short stories to tasting different varieties of apples. It’s all about warming up the senses, tapping into our self-awareness, and escaping the pathways we regularly use in the world. Letter writing appears at least twice a year - the perfect mix of reflection, quiet, and quirk.

Everyone seems to have preconceived notions about writing letters, maybe scarred by those required thank you notes we penned as children, or because there’s no one on the other side of the mailbox. But there are a million ways to write letters that don’t start with “Dear Aunt”, and the Write_On Party Pack helps Make Timers get to that place as quickly and joyfully as possible. In the past we have penned letters to deceased historical figures, drafted our own MacArthur Genius Award biographies, and in January wrote ourselves long list of all the mistakes we hope to make in the year ahead. Sometimes these letters get dropped in the mailbox addressed to Einstein or Nana...and we wonder where they’ll end up. Other times we address them to ourselves and they are squirreled away and mailed back to us months later...like little paper time capsules.

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This year we used the Write_On Kits in a different way. On a sunny June morning we set out to write the hard letters, messages we needed to write to set our own selves free. Letters that never need to be delivered or read by anyone else. Notes we write with the intention of just letting go. Letters offer us this, the chance to meet a blank page as if it were a conversation, and practice starting that hard conversation that’s stuck or too scary for real life. All without actually meeting the eyes or ears of another person. These types of personal letters offer us the chance to get stranded energy outside of our bodies, sealed up in an envelope, and sent away in a mailbox. Maybe it's addressed back to your own self to read in the future, or maybe it's addressed to no one - but there's power in physically plunking these hard-to-write letters into an actual mailbox and off our own backs.

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Although we gather only once a month to Make Time, it becomes its own little practice. By setting aside that one full day, it teaches and reminds us to carve out our own quiet spaces and moments throughout the remainder of the month. I also secretly hope some of those quiet moments Make Timers set aside can include sending more good mail, and I think it’s starting to stick. “I've been carrying the Write_On Kit with me every day,” says Jac, a graduate student attending her first Make Time over the summer, “I haven't written any letters yet, but I feel the ideas growing and bubbling. Honestly, I think I want to write more letters to myself as a form of self-care, processing, and documenting this summer in Madison before I travel next year.”

 

Bio: Vanessa Herald is lead chicken wrangler at Make Time Farm in Southern Wisconsin, where she hosts monthly creativity retreats, scribbles endlessly, and makes as much trouble as possible. In the wee hours you can find her handwriting letters, crafting art with vintage typewriters, and committing to a daily creative practice. You can find her on Instagram at MakeTimeFarm

 

Photo Credit: Lauren Rudersdorf of The Leek & The Carrot and Raleigh’s Hillside Farm

The Gratitude Campaign

Today’s Reason to Write: Write a letter of thanks to someone who has "pushed" you in life.

We’re very excited to highlight the Gratitude Campaign that marks the launch of an inspiring new film, I’ll Push You: A Camino Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends and One Wheelchair. The film is launching November 2nd -- plenty of time to grab a friend or two and stock up on tissues. For now, please join us for some writing!

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In today’s world, we are inundated with negativity. So much of the news is filled with pain and darkness. While these events that negatively impact so many people are a part of our world, there is also a lot of good. But the good often goes unnoticed. We want to change that.


So much of our story has been made possible through the helping hearts and hands of others. At the end of the day, we have much to be grateful for and most of our blessings point back to people who have pushed us to be better in life.


We have partnered with Egg Press to create a special way people can let others know how important they are. The film I’ll Push You is about community, kindness, and love. What better way to build community, spread kindness, and cultivate love than through acknowledging the people we are grateful for. I’ll Push You and Egg Press have created a limited edition write-on-velope that offers people a great way to say, “Thank you for pushing me to be a better person!” These unique letters provide a fun yet meaningful way for people to send a hand written letter to someone they are grateful for.

--I'll Push You

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Patrick and Justin, the friends in I'll Push You have made it so fun and easy to participate in this letter-writing campaign with three easy steps (they even have a great sample script if you're feeling at a loss for words!):

Step 1.

Identify Three or More People

Pick three or more individuals who have had significant impact on your life. These should be individuals who have helped shape who you are such as friends, family, or mentors.

Step 2.

Write a Letter/Note of Thanks

Write a short note identifying how they have helped shape your life. Maybe they helped you in a dark period of your life, mentored you, or helped raise you.

Step 3.

Post & Tag via Social Media

Use your notes to write a social media post thanking the individuals who have impacted you. Tag each of them and challenge them to do the same. #illpushyou


We're looking forward to seeing your posts on social media and learning about the people who have challenged, inspired, and helped you grow!





 

Letters of Thanks and Encouragement

Hard times bring the chance to come together. With so many people affected by the natural disasters of this Summer, there are so many letter writing opportunities. Why not gather some of your favorite people for some comforting togetherness and a little letter-writing to express gratitude to all the inspiring folks on the front lines of helping, from those involved in animal rescue to teachers ushering children to safety to politicians working for necessary firefighting resources, to those in the coast guard working in risky conditions?

 Portland firefighters at Multnomah Falls via  Willamette Week

Portland firefighters at Multnomah Falls via Willamette Week

We loved learning about the the Holy Smoke Thank You Letter Campaign where Southern Oregon kids have been writing thank you cards to firefighters which are packed in their lunches along with Calamine lotion.

The firefighters have been fighting for us like our whole entire lives,” Eager exclaimed graciously.

Aside from the good that letters of support provide for the recipient, writing letters to those dealing with hardship can also help us from feeling powerless and even improve our mood and anxiety in unsure times.

Need some tips and inspiration for hosting a get together?

  • Gather addresses to have on hand for animal rescue groups, fire stations, Governors -- whoever you're moved to write to.
  • The purpose might be serious but the mood doesn't need to be! Check out our letter-writing playlist.
  • Pass the hat and raise some funds for the charity of your choice. While letters are important and care packages are well-intentioned, the need for funds is great and every little bit counts.

Stamp It Send It + Write_On

 
Sarah of Stamp It Send It is a Snail Mail Queen and Master Pen Pal who sends out over 500 pieces of mail every year! We asked Sarah to share some of her creative ideas with us on how to repurpose all the mail you received during Write_On. You can follow her adventures in letter-writing on Instagram: @stampitsendit. Thank you Sarah!

Writing mail and sending letters is amazing, but I think the best part of this exchange is receiving beautiful handmade mail and being surprised when you see it in your mailbox. 

One of the most frequent questions that I get from fellow penpals and concerned friends is what do I do with the mail I receive after I respond? That's why the great ladies at Egg Press and Write_On are letting me share some ideas to re-use and recycle mail you get too!

Usually when I write and send mail, I like to wait to open my incoming mail until I can sit down and fully respond. As I do so, I save parts and papers that I think I can re-use in future letters. Such as, saving trim on a cute stationery paper, or fancy scrapbook paper from a card and I almost always cut the fronts off of cards and sew them onto new blank cards, because it gives my cards a fun look and a second life. 

 

Flip letters are also a great way to utilize scraps because you can tape down pieces that have been written on to hide that they're being re-utilized or use them as the flaps to add detail and layers. Seen here, I used the inside of an envelope from a bill because those patterns are always fun and colorful. 

 

Pocket letters are also super fun to create and send. Purchasing or thrifting old baseball card or business card plastic holders is easy and cheap and then you cut and place nine different papers, pictures, or little goodies in each of the sleeves. Seen here, I included some cut stickers, an old map, a picture of me and my boyfriend, and playing card with washi tape samples -- but the options you can include are endless. Since the sleeves are two sided, you can use a piece of paper that has a note on the back and then cover it with another and no one would know! Even better, you can fold the plastic sleeve itself into thirds and fit in a standard legal envelope and it's only a 49 cent stamp to send (typically). 

 

I feel a lot of pressure at times to hold onto each persons letters, because so much time and care goes into each handmade item and it's also a story -- I just haven't found myself ever looking back again at an old letter. I just like to save special words and anecdotes or pieces of handwritten parts, and have found that's enough. However, I know of several friends that have a folder for each penpal and keep each letter organized that way. Whatever your routine is, establish what works best for you and that it is always inspiring and helpful to your process. That's what I always comfort myself with when I gently rip apart, save pieces and ultimately discard a letter. I hope my friends aren't offended and that they like that their work is getting shared with new members of the snail mail community. 

Moving forward, I hope this post has helped you to look at your mail in a new way and inspire you to grab a glass of wine and write to someone today. 

Postcrossing

We're really excited to share today's blog post with you--read on and prepare to catch the Postcrossing bug! Over the past 4 years of hosting the Write_On Campaign we've made so many interesting connections with other passionate letter-writers and letter-writing groups around the world. One of these is Postcrossing, an international postcard exchange program, which at over 41 million postcards sent is hardly a niche community. We had so much fun teaming up with them on a giveaway last year and this year we wanted to share more about this amazing community and resource with Write_On participants. Thank you to Ana Campos, the Postcrossing community manager, who has graciously agreed to share more about Postcrossing with us.

And thank you also to Alexey of @posting2you for sharing the wonderful photos for this post. You can follow Alexey's Postcrossing adventures on Instagram. So far he has posted from 64 countries including North Korea, Cuba, Australia, Sri Lanka, and most recently Turkmenistan (!!). He tries to post a card from every country that he visits and shares with us a fantastic tour of beautiful postal boxes around the world along with interesting trivia about each country's postal systems.

How did Postcrossing get started?

Postcrossing was started by Paulo Magalhães, in the summer of 2005. Back then, Paulo was an IT student doing his internship with a tech company in Portugal, and on his free time, he started to play with the idea of Postcrossing. He loved receiving mail, and especially postcards, but there's only so many postcards you can send to your own friends and expect to get something back... so he wondered whether there were perhaps other people out there who, like him, enjoyed sending and receiving postcards but had no one to connect with. Little by little, he shaped and coded this idea into an online platform where people from everywhere could connect with the goal of exchanging postcards. He invited a few friends to join, and they invited a few friends, who invited a few friends... and 44 million postcards later, here we are! :)
 

I’m #posting2you from Vienna, #Austria! What a place to feel the excitement of coming Christmas!

Half of the over 44 million postcards sent have come from Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Russia, and the USA. Any theories about why Postcrossing is so popular in certain countries?

There are different reasons for why Postcrossing is more popular in some countries than others and it's often a combination of different factors. In some of them, it might be just because they're huge countries (Russia, USA), while in others it probably comes from a deeply ingrained letter-writing culture (Finland) and in others still, the postal service understands the value of Postcrossing and works with us to promote it (Germany, Netherlands).

The popular countries do change over time though, as word spreads in waves — a long time ago, every second card seemed to come from either Portugal or Brazil for instance, and that is not the case now.

Sri Lanka is the only nation that writes the country’s name ON ITS STAMPS in three different languages - Sinhalese, Tamil and English.


Penpals are often considered a childhood activity. Do many kids use Postcrossing?

There are lots of schools and children on Postcrossing — and we think that's amazing! Postcards are small and informal enough that writing one isn't as daunting for a child as writing a whole letter could be, and sometimes there's even space for them to use their creative skills. Receiving a postcard offers a number of learning opportunities as well — from the postcard image to the message or even the stamp themes. Many teachers use the postcards they send and receive to encourage their classes to practice their English skills or to discover more about other places. It's one thing to read about the pyramids in a geography book... but it's much nicer to receive a real postcard from Egypt, from someone who is there and can tell you about them first-hand, right?

The project is just as popular with grandmas though — and everyone in between! :) We make sure Postcrossing is a welcoming community to people of all countries and ages, regardless of their religious, political or cultural backgrounds.
 

China. It is really hard to find a person who can speak English in China. Same with the local post - to send a postcard from a Chinese post office to another country without knowledge of Chinese or an interpreter - mission impossible!

Any tips on what should you write to a complete stranger?

Anything that is on your mind, or that you find interesting because odds are, your recipient will find it interesting as well! Most towns have something that makes them unique or special: a discovery that happened there, an important person who lived nearby, or maybe even a unique confectionery that everyone should try!

I personally enjoy receiving a glimpse of what a day looks like for someone who is on the other side of the world... what did they have for lunch today? What are they studying right now? What was one nice or surprising thing that happened to them today?

#posting2you from Mother #Russia

Do many first postcards lead to a lasting correspondence?

Yup! People often discover that "strangers" across the world have a lot more in common with them than they expected... and after a first conversation via postcard, they end up exchanging more postcards or even emails and letters. Some eventually meet and become friends in "real life". We've told a few of these stories here: https://www.postcrossing.com/blog/tag/friendship
 

The Andorra postal service is provided by both Spanish and French authorities. The card that I sent to my mother with the French post arrived one month earlier then the card that I sent in the same day to my dad (same address) with the Spanish post.

Any advice for keeping a letter-writing practice going?

Just do it! As they say, "you need to send a letter to get a letter". To me, just the act of settling down with my stationery to send someone a surprise is as rewarding as receiving something in the mail. The fact that I know I'm about to make someone happy brings me immense joy!
 

#posting2you from #Estonia! Sent through a retro Soviet era #postbox. How many of them are preserved in ex-Soviet republics?

I was happy to visit a lovely Postal museum in Estonia in the city of Tartu.

What's your most memorable Postcrossing story?

There are just so many to choose from! From marriages to community-organised meetups in unusual places (such as on desert islands or trains!), dozens of friendship stories, stamps issued to honour the project, collaborations with schools, libraries and museums...

One collaboration we are especially proud of happened with a school in Tuvalu, one of the smallest nations in the world. The teachers and students there wanted to mark Earth Day by bringing the world's attention to the plight of their country, which, due to climate change is at risk of soon being "swallowed" by the rising sea levels. We've helped them register on Postcrossing, and over several years they've sent 811 postcards from their tiny island to the whole world! And of course, they also received the same amount of postcards, and the children were ecstatic to see the world through all the cards they've received. Tuvalu is one of the most remote places in the world (halfway between Hawaii and Australia), so giving those children a chance to see what is out there outside of their tiny island was very rewarding. You can read more about it here: https://www.postcrossing.com/blog/tag/tuvalu

Ashgabat is a city that is included in the Guinness Book of Records as the most white-marble city in the world. In an impressive architectural re-styling effort led by the government of Turkmenistan, an area measuring 22 km² (8.49 mi²) in the capital Ashgabat boasts 543 new buildings clad with 4,513,584 m² (48,583,619 ft²) of white marble. This looks so impressive that to avoid anything that can distract visitor’s attention, there are no commercial advertisements in the city or other things that spoil the impression from the city. The government decided to remove all green postboxes from the noble marble buildings. So, if you want to send a postcard, you need to pass it directly to the lady who is working in the post office.

Once becoming independent in 1991, Turkmenistan self-isolated from the world and had no influence from globalization. Local girls are not wearing jeans, but still wear the beautiful national dress. The girl in the photo here wears the official Turkmen Post uniform.

A visit to the biggest stamp show in the country!

Thanks to Write_On I've discovered some beautifully curated stamp shops like Send More Mail so when I heard about The American Philatelic Society Stamp Show happening at the Portland Convention Center this month, I was excited to check it out. It wasn't until I arrived, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, that I realized that this was a BIG deal. It's the biggest show in the country and people had traveled from all over the world to attend.

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I received a very friendly greeting at the info table and the seasoned vets weren't at all put off by my green questions. It's true there weren't a lot of young faces around, but they're working hard to change that and even had a whole section set up to attract a new generation of kids to the hobby.
 

I learned that stamp selling and buying is big business. The Harmer-Schau auction house was on hand with rows and rows of cardboard file boxes containing highly coveted stamps and letters. The mood was hushed and serious, which seemed appropriate once I learned that the auction the opening night had seen a single stamp fetch $40,000. I learned that it's not just stamps but envelopes too that can fetch into the several thousands for those that are historically significant. For instance, you can tell by postmarks if something was flown in a Zeppelin or a hot air balloon.

I think most stamp collectors have collector personalities. Stamps are particularly easy and interesting to collect. Stamps can be collected by the thousands, for very little money. They are interesting on many levels. They are easy to store and enjoy.
— David Markowitz of Uptown Stamp Show

My favorite part of the stamp show turned out to be the HUGE exhibit of Thematic Displays that were shown by individuals. Using stamps, letters, and photos these displays told different stories from every corner of the world. There was The History of NASA told through NASA Local Post Labels, 1967-1984. Another fascinating one was British Empire Anti-Communist Actions in the Jungles of Malaysia, 1948-1960.  With exhibits and dealers from Ghana to Singapore to Israel, I now see how stamp collecting is an amazing gateway to studying history.

Another thing I learned was that although stamp collecting can get very expensive, it can also be very, very affordable. I saw people culling through hundreds and thousands of stamps that were being sold for mere pennies, but they were nonetheless beautiful artifacts, and for the design and typography lover, an amazing source of inspiration. For under $20 I came away with some "first day covers" (envelopes containing newly released stamps), old letters, and unused stamps that I'm looking forward to personalize my own letters. Though I won't likely make it to next year's show which takes place in Richmond, Virginia, I have definitely caught the stamp collecting bug and look forward to adding to my collection.

Write where you are, with Eric Hunter

Since the beginning of April there have been 4,110 #write_on mentions on Instagram and perusing them has been a favorite pastime. As the month progressed we began to notice one person's photos in particular, partly because they always seemed to feature something delicious-looking to eat or drink, partly because they were shared by a man, and mostly because he was inspiring in the way he made letter-writing a routine part of his busy day, regardless of where he was or what he was doing. We've followed him all month as he's written letters on the NY Subway, in Irish pubs, at a work breakfast, in the back of a taxi, and on a trip back to his hometown for a high school reunion.

His name is Eric Hunter (@ericwhunter) and we got so curious about him that we decided to get in touch and see if he might be willing to tell us more about himself and his Write_On adventure. He graciously consented. Thank you Eric!

1. Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background? What's an average day look like for you?

I'm a big skier. In the winter, you can find me on the slopes in either upstate New York or out West. And I like to spend the summer at the beach on either Fire Island or in Provincetown.

I moved to New York City, where I have lived for nearly 17 years, from my hometown of Cincinnati to pursue a career in magazine publishing. Cards, letters, books, magazines—I have always loved the written word

Many people hear magazine and only think of the many talented editors, writers and designers who work at magazines. But I run marketing on the business side of the brand which means my team and I are part of the advertising sales operation. We get to do all kinds events, digital marketing, and even create content all in partnership with our advertisers. One of the best things about it is that every day is different, which keeps me on my toes.

2. How many years have you participated in Write_On? How did you hear about it and what interested you in participating?

I’m psyched to say that this is the first year I have participated in Write_On! It all started with an idea for a monthlong Instagram project during National Card and Letter Writing Month. Then I turned to my good friend Google for some ideas to help keep my posts interesting. That’s when I came across writeoncampaign.org, submitted my request for a free Write_On Kit, and the rest, as they say, is history.

3. What does your letter-writing practice look like? How often do you write, what types of letters do you most like to write, and how do you make time for writing in your busy schedule?

I wish I could say I have a letter-writing practice. That is what I am hoping this time participating in Write_On helps me jump start. Before April, I would typically write a note or letter about once a month. My goal is to get that up to once a week.

4. How's it going? How many letters have you written this month? Are you trying to write daily?

Honestly, I am a bit behind on my 30 letters in 30 days goal. My National Card and Letter Writing Month will probably stretch into May. But, I have been having a great time doing it. And that's what is most important to me about it.

5. What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?

Sitting down to write isn’t too hard for me. My big challenge is staying engaged beyond the first few sentences. I write much more slowly than I type. And so I have to remind myself to take my time and enjoy the process of actually handwriting the note. If I am writing a longer letter, it sometimes helps to complete the letter in a few sittings instead of trying to force it all onto the page at once.

6. What's been your favorite thing about Write_On so far and do you think it will change your letter-writing practice in the months or years to come?

I have really enjoyed the comments and encouragement I’ve received from so many of my friends, family, and even coworkers. Because I post about my letter writing on social media, I have received a note from a college friend who I haven’t seen in more than a year. One of my co-workers left me a clever handwritten note in my snail mailbox at work. And every couple days a coworker or friend somehow brings it up in conversation.

Once I wrap up the campaign, I know my letter writing pace will slow down. But taking part in Write_On has reminded me how much I enjoy the process and the connections it fosters with other people. It’s a fun form of personal networking. And I get to play with cards and paper, which I love.

7. How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?

One of my favorite memories about hand-written letters is a summer I spent during high school corresponding with a good friend who was backpacking through Europe. This was before email so letters or very expensive phone calls were the only way we could stay in touch. Both of us would string our letters together over the course of several days before we would drop them in the mail. I remember how much I enjoyed reading her letters and hearing about all her adventures. It's also fun to go back through the letters and remember those times.

8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?

There are two pieces of advice on this topic that have always stuck with me. First, you have to just do it (as the famous slogan says). Don't worry that your note will be too short or that it has been too long a time since you have been in touch with someone. And second, as my parents always taught me, everyone loves receiving a handwritten note or letter. It is always going to be more personal, and probably more memorable for the recipient, than an email or a text.

9. What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?

I’m planning to send a note to two good friends who are getting married this fall. Their beautiful save the date arrived in the mail recently and I happen to have a card from Paperwheel.com that is perfect for the occasion.

Using Vintage Ephemera in Letter Writing

Hello! My name is Julia Neises and I am the lady behind Eva Moon Press. I got my start by working at neighboring letterpress shops in Berkeley, California. Now, I live with my husband in Portland, Oregon and run my business out of a tiny room in our home. The work I do includes graphic design for small businesses, stationery design, styling, and selling collections of ephemera.

I first caught the ephemera spark when I was introduced to traditional letterpress printing. But it was just last year when my in-laws gave me two giant boxes of my husband’s childhood stamp collection that really led me to stamp and ephemera collecting. Pouring over all the stamps in each glassine envelope, drawer, and album and learning about their origins brought together all my years of print production, design, and a general curiosity about the world. Since then, I have attempted to better organize the collection and add to it where I can. While I have a lot to learn about the ins-and-outs of philately, I find such delight in sharing my collection and learning from others.

Antique shops and vintage paper fairs are my favorite sources for finding materials. I love chatting with shop proprietors and dealers and hearing the history of the pieces they are selling. I am learning that if I take the time to listen, other collectors have a lot of knowledge to share! At vintage paper fairs, dealers are generally interested to know what you collect so it’s handy to keep a wish list. My wish list always includes airmail labels and first day covers, postcards of post offices, and post office labels from other countries.  

The materials I collect come in handy not just for design inspiration when working on a branding project, but also in letter-writing: 

- I love adding vintage post office labels to letters and envelopes. (Tip: Wrapping labels around an edge is a fun way to add interest on each side of a piece.)

- In addition to using the appropriate mint postage, I occasionally add a cancelled vintage stamp to an envelope for added color and texture. 

- I’m really drawn to airmail ephemera (I love stripes and primary colors, so it’s a perfect match) and collect airmail labels in lots of languages. When putting together an ephemera swap or letter for a pen pal, I will often include a vintage label from their country or a place they’ve traveled to. It’s fun to match pieces of my collection to people I know.

- Saving interesting package is a good way to mix old and new ephemera. I recently bough some seeds from Floret, a great flower farm in Washington, and their beautifully designed seed envelopes have worked their way into my letters! 

Because I correspond with about 20 different people across the world on a regular basis, it’s not easy to pin-point favorite letters sent and received. I am continually delighted by the creativity of my friends!

The favorite letters that do come to mind are in two categories: Ongoing missives and a special occasion. My first memory of receiving mail is a valentine sent from my grandparents when I was child (my grandpa has the best cursive!). They love receiving mail, so now I send them pretty postcards of things I know they will like with little notes about what I’m up to. For the special occasion, I created a paper booklet that unfolded with four pockets for my pen pal Victoria Vu’s birthday. Victoria and I share a love of paper and gardening, so I filled the pockets with vintage ephemera that I knew she would like. 

Polly, my dear friend and pen pal (we both live in Portland and are still pen pals!) is the queen of tucking sweet little treasures into her letters to me. Her generous spirit overflows into everything she does—even in the mail! She has a great eye for color and I love the way she combines old and new materials. One of my favorite pieces from her is a very simple white card with a vintage Canadian stamp on front and wrapped with delicate orange thread. So inspiring! 

Photos by Tanya Pavlova. http://www.tanyapavlova.com/

Visit Julia at http://www.evamoonpress.com/

Seasonal Letter-Writing with Jaime of Send More Mail

Summer

Throwing a letter-writing get together in the summer lets you take it outside.  Gather up your friends and some stationery bits and bobs and get writing – by the lake or in your local park!

Summer tips:

Use the shade from a great big tree and spread out your picnic blanket(s).

Pack a cooler with cold lemonade, fruit salad + homemade brownies.  (Maybe even iced coffee?)

Set out your supplies. Cards, paper, envelopes, pens, stickers and postage stamps.  Keep things summery with bright and cheery colours.  My favorite thing to tote along is a teeny-tiny watercolor set.  Pooling together your stationery supplies makes for a fun and thrifty way to spice up your letter-writing game.  One person’s everyday washi tape is another’s gem!

Get writing and chatting.  It’s so nice to socialize while cutting, pasting and writing pretty mail.

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Winter

There’s no other way to describe winter letter-writing parties other than cozy.  When it’s a snowy Saturday in February it’s the perfect time to catch up with friends and write some letters while you’re at it.  Anything goes: birthday cards, thank you notes and for-no-reason-at-all letters.  (Honestly, receiving those out of the blue letters always delights me in the very best way.)

This is the time to put on the kettle and make a few pots of tea.  Hot chocolate works like a charm too.  Treat it like a mini potluck.  Each friend can bring along a snack or sweet.  Since you’re indoors, break out your typewriter and turn on your local jazz radio station.  (Typewriters are always a hit since not everyone has one of their own.)  Get super crafty with rubber stamps, stencils, glue, paper scraps and twine.  

Thank you Jaime for sharing these inspiring ideas! For those of you wondering where you can find the vintage stamps featured in this post, Jaime has a beautifully curated online store called Send More Mail! She also has a not-to-be-missed Instagram account for endless letter-writing eye-candy. 

Ready to Write! A Letter-Writing Toolbox

Of course, all you really need to write a letter are paper, pen, and thoughtfulness, but being organized and having a few extra tools can make it more likely that you'll write more often and generally make the process more enjoyable and one that reflects your personality.

Read on for some of the tools you'll find in my own letter-writing stash!

  • Vintage paper clamps to bundle outgoing mail, stamps, etc.
  • Handy paper snips for cutting ephemera, washi tape, etc.
  • Special paper that inspires you to write. This is woodblock printed paper from Haibara, est. 1806. I recently spotted Mr. Carson carrying a similar style in a brief scene in Downton Abbey! 
  • The letterpress Possibilities Notebook from Social Preparedness Kit for planning and plotting. 
  • Social Preparedness Kit Tear-Away Notes for letter-writing on the fly. There have been several occasions when I was kicking myself for not having this in my car glove-compartment AND my purse.
  • Little goodies! I love to send little treats with my letters like tea bags, seeds, and candy.
  • Social Preparedness Kit pouches. These come in a range of sizes from pen pouches to document size. I love to use them to gather up a whole stack of cards, stamps, and address book and go work on some letters at a cafe.
  • Postcards. Sometimes you aren't feeling very verbose and just want to send a funny joke, a few words of thanks for an awesome dinner, etc. It's nice to have a limited space to write!
  • I haven't painted since 5th grade (as you might be able to tell!) but I've been inspired by all of the Spring blooms in Portland to try my hand at water-coloring. “Strathmore Artist Papers™, a division of Pacon Corporation. ® and TM used under license from Mohawk (Write_On sponsor!) has these terrific watercolor postcard pads. I've been having so much fun with them. Perfect for a little plein air painting AND letter-writing!
  • A collection of brush pens (I like the Pilot Futayaka) and various paint brushes.
  • Vintage stamps! These are from Send More Mail, a wonderful curator of unused vintage stamps who sells them in packets which are all sorted by color.
  • Social Preparedness Kit card sets. I can't really imagine life without these. I use them as mini-card writing stations with one in my kitchen, one on my desk, and one on my livingroom table. Writing letters is hard! It's so important to have things at the ready whenever YOU'RE ready.
  • PENS! Gelly Roll pens from Sakura are so painterly and fun and perfect for addressing envelopes. For the inside of my cards and letters I'm devoted to the Japanese Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens. They have a very fine tip but don't drag. I recently bought the white refillable jumbo pen so I can have all my favorite colors at hand.

20 Reasons to Write a Letter, with Sabrina Moyle of Hello!Lucky

  1. A letter is personal, private, and permanent

  2. Writing it down in a letter makes it known and real

  3. A letter gives you perspective on what someone means to you

  4. Letter-writing takes time; the process helps us savor the people we love

  5. A letter is a shared object

  6. A letter is a shared experience

  7. Handwriting is more personal than typewritten text

  8. Handwriting helps us generate creative thoughts and ideas

  9. Letters give us a reason to be creative and expressive. They can include words, pictures, quotes, lists, poems, questions...

  10. Letters help us stay connected to people who don’t use computers often

  11. Handwritten letters are rare, which makes them special to receive

  12. Letter-writing is a form of contemplation

  13. Writing a letter helps you know yourself

  14. Writing a letter helps you develop your voice

  15. Letters give us a reason to express gratitude, which is scientifically linked to happiness

  16. Letters help friendships grow deeper

  17. Letters let us say things that would be hard to say in person or on social media

  18. A letter is a more meaningful gift than most material things

  19. Letters are 1-to-1 instead of 1-to-many

  20. Letters re-humanize relationships