stamps & sundries: last unicorns

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Though I’m usually not one to read too many analyses of the state of the internet, I seem to be prone, at the moment, to stumbling upon articles that bemoan the death of blogging. As I have seen more than a few of my favorite blogs from past years vanish into obscurity – often replaced by a robust Instagram account instead – I sense a degree of truth to this blogging-eschatology.

I don’t want to start singing an influencer-inspired version of “The Last Unicorn” yet, though, because I still find this medium the most compelling vehicle for sharing stories. So here I am, with my Instagram private (and honestly less appealing to me these days):  attempting to keep my own little virtual storybook alive instead!

Here ends this unnecessary set of musings: onward to envelopes! 

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The animated unicorn-and-bunny pair above arrived in mid-January in this beautiful conservatory of an envelope.

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As someone who finds winter to be the most challenging and dispiriting time of the year, I usually prefer colorful, summery stamps: but even I must admit that the “Winter Birds” have captured my heart, and I have a booklet of them awaiting me in my craft room.

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More than one elegantly decorated brown-craft-paper envelope appeared in my mailbox over the past few weeks – I adore them! – and they inspire me to reminisce about my snail-mail-crafting habits of about four years ago. For a while, I loved embellishing brown envelopes with a few artfully placed stickers or cut-outs: perhaps it’s time for me to resurrect that pretty style again? Something like that unicorn, I imagine, would look particularly enchanting on a neutral backdrop!

stamps & sundries: nautilus ahoy!

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About a year ago, I halted my long-standing tradition of blogging about the mail I received. Somehow I’d turned the delightful pastime of documenting beautiful letters  into a responsibility, and I felt a great deal of self-imposed pressure to photograph mail before I’d even read what they contained (mostly due to the fact that limited winter light rarely allows for good picture-taking indoors!).

To be honest, though, I did so enjoy possessing a visual diary of the letters that traveled to me from various corners of the world. With that in mind, I’m resurrecting my old series with a slight twist: as the title suggests, I will mainly feature stamps and envelopes, with some (assorted) exceptions.

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my year in letters, 2018

 

pure imagination  ♥  the whole world is a garden  ♥  odontocetes and others 

diving into the wreck    lost worlds    pastel imperfections 

It might be tempting to characterize 2018 as a “Dark Age” for my snail mail productivity and hope that a glorious Renaissance awaits me in 2019. Given the surprising amount of medieval art scholarship I’ve done in the past year, however, I would never bandy about the reductive stereotype of the “Dark Ages” lightly. In fact, just as the Middle Ages featured some truly remarkable artistic and architectural developments, I would argue that my low-letter year has included a few instances of rather satisfying envelope-crafting.

Looking back through these posts has been honestly a little frustrating, though: I remember, for example, excitedly making those dinosaur envelopes in July with very particular recipients in mind (you may know who you are) – and then not actually having the time to send the letters until months later. What a difference from January, when I put together those envelopes from the most glorious mermaid-themed paper pack and sent them off into the world days after!

I considered deleting this blog altogether a few times this year, but I think I’ll give it another concerted try and see what happens. It’s now officially been four years (four!!) since I started my pen pal journey in January 2015, and it’s always been a joy to document the art I send and receive, the friends I’ve made, and the massive assortment international stamps I’ve collected as a result. I don’t want to stop!

I know I have not been the world’s most reliable correspondent this year, but I have not stopped thinking about you, pen pals who might be reading this! And to anyone who used to write to me but hasn’t been able to for a while – please feel free to get in touch with me. I’d love to hear from you again, and I promise I won’t judge: I’ve been there myself!

(It’s probably no surprise that I’ve enjoyed reliving the Golden Age of my snail mail days by reading through my 2017, 2016, and 2015 “Year in Letters” posts – here’s hoping 2019’s list will join their illustrious ranks!)

outgoing mail: pastel imperfections

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Perhaps the reason why the stereotypical fairy tale/ fantasy romance closes with the wedding scene is because the alternative–“and then after the marriage, they proceeded to live a quiet and wonderful life together as the princess spent her days reading primary source texts from the nineteenth century, studying the history of ceramics, and otherwise navigating her second year of graduate school”–while delightful to me, lacks the charm of the more celebratory happy ending.

Which is all to say: hello! In the two months since I vanished from this blog, I’ve enjoyed the wedding of my dreams, spent a two-day maritime mini-moon by the coast in Salem, and subsequently found myself very reluctant to return to real life. Living with my husband/best friend/former pen pal for the first time has been absolutely incredible, but it’s also coincided with a very busy fall semester. Needless to say, I’ve not only fallen behind on my letters once more, but have also barely had the chance to experience mail-related post-wedding activities – like sending out thank-you cards and announcements!

Because we “eloped” (which is to say we had 10 people in attendance at our enchanted Hobbiton-esque venue), there are many friends and relatives around the globe who were not able to share in the festivities, and we planned on sending out some photos and cards to spread the word in a way that’s a little more personal than a Facebook post. Combining my husband’s illustrations with some Tolkien-friendly typefaces quickly resulted in the ultimate elopement postcard! To keep them safe, though, we will nevertheless send them in envelopes – which I took upon myself to create this past long weekend.

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outgoing mail: lost worlds

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Of late, I’ve found my thoughts straying to dinosaurs: or more specifically, the Dinosaur Court built for the relocated Crystal Palace Park in the mid-1800s, where models of Megalosaurus, Iguanadon, and a number of other prehistoric beasts struck awe into the hearts of nineteenth-century audiences. In all the time I’ve spent in the U.K., I’ve never had the opportunity to visit these strange relics of historical science, and I dream of one day wandering through their lost world in London.

In one of my thrift-store expeditions, I discovered a beat-up – and relatively unreadable – copy of dinosaur encyclopedia (this one, if you’re curious, except the one I found was a Spanish edition). It was already missing a few pages and had suffered some damage, so I worked my envelope alchemy to salvage what I could for crafting. In the end, I was so pleased with how these collages turned out: and glad as ever to offer new life to a dying book!  Continue reading

outgoing mail: diving into the wreck

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Over the past week, I’ve written and mailed upwards of eight letters: far surpassing the unimpressive number I sent within the past few months. Isn’t summer break grand?

In fact, I worked through my inventory of available envelopes with such great speed that I soon found myself in need of more — and equally in need of an excuse to take advantage of sales on ocean-themed crafting supplies at a particular local vendor. Glimpsing the gem-like radiance of these colors — like the brightness of a coral reef seen when you first dip your eyes below the waterline — fills me with an energy I’ve not felt since I last left the Pacific an August ago.

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As I approach an upcoming anniversary of my college graduation, I’ve found myself both strangely nostalgic and bewildered at how quickly the time has passed. I’ve been living in this town for almost four years, writing letters for three and a half, and blogging here for about the same amount of time. To satisfy my curious yearning for the past, I’ve plumbed the abyssopelagic depths of my old journals, planners, and letters, searching for some distant meaning like a diver on the hunt for algae-covered treasure.

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Perhaps the style of these envelopes reflects my sentimental mood: back in the days before I knew how to make my own, I often decorated envelopes with various taped layers of patterned papers! I hope to see these real-life version of these oceanic spectrums of blue in person very soon – even if only on the shores of the Atlantic.

the lord of the weddings: our diy wedding invitations

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Like Sauron forging the most powerful ring for his own purposes, it’s probably no surprise that a snail mailer would reserve her most delighted crafting energy for her wedding invitations. (Except, you know, these cards are much less evil.) Since my future husband and I met by happenstance in the glorious mail art universe, elaborate invitations seemed essential: even though only about 10 people will attend our nuptials.

Of course, the wedding stationery market relies on bulk orders, and since most vendors wouldn’t let us purchase anything under a minimum of 25, we decided to assemble our own! Some laser-cut lace bases, an enchanting custom design by my fiance, and jewel-like wax seals proved the necessary ingredients for invitation alchemy.

(This marks the first post in what will no doubt become a series of wedding-related posts on my blog! Our theme is part Tolkien-inspired, part “elaborate fairy tea party in the forest,” and entirely us. We’re a crafty couple on a budget with a shared flair for the whimsical, so expect starry-eyed DIYs in great numbers!) 

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I’ll admit to some initial healthy skepticism about these inexpensive laser-cut card bases, but they arrived looking appropriately pearlescent and adequately detailed.

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Creating a unique design for the card itself proved easy enough – considering that I’m lucky enough to have a talented illustrator as my betrothed! (The otter must be wondering why disembodied text has appeared in the midst of his quiet pond.)

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Though I’m sure this comes as a surprise to many, I do not actually possess a wax seal kit of my own. (Yes, it’s right up there on my “impractical anachronistic novelties to buy one day” list, perhaps just a step below a flower press and a spinning wheel!) I found a wonderful seller on Etsy* who offered elegant seals with adjustable backings that fit our needs perfectly.

*This is not a sponsored post, I promise! The quality of her service and the impeccably fast shipping inspired me to share my sources.

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We ordered the elven fern design in green and gold–naturally–but the seller added in a few extra freebies: this stunning pink rose seal may never leave my clutches.

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Together, they make a fairly complementary set, don’t you think? I added the piece of gold card as a barrier to keep the otter-filled contents a surprise to the recipients.

Now if only I could master the art of perfect Hobbit-inspired calligraphy…