stamps & sundries: last unicorns

cactus mail (1 of 4)

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! 

cactus mail (4 of 4)

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

cactus mail (2 of 4)

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.

cactus mail (3 of 4)

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!

nautilus mail (4 of 5)

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.

Continue reading

outgoing mail: my gallant star

celestial mail (5 of 8)celestial mail (7 of 8)celestial mail (6 of 8)

The almost-equitorial skies of my childhood dazzle me every time I return home. Thanks to the welcome lack of light pollution intervening between my eyes and the heavens, the sky sparkles with a clarity unmatched in any suburban setting.

I made these envelopes just before I left on my trip – during one fleeting moment of post-semester freedom! – and their stellar sensibility seemed to prefigure the celestial adventures awaiting me here…

Continue reading

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

pastel mail (1 of 7)pastel mail (3 of 7)pastel mail (7 of 7)

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.

Continue reading

outgoing mail: lost worlds

dinosaur mail (5 of 5)dinosaur mail (3 of 5)

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

the lord of the weddings: tolkienesque bridal charm bracelets

Tolkien wedding bracelet (3 of 6)Tolkien wedding bracelet (5 of 6)

With our wedding just over a month away (seriously!), I find myself overwhelmed with strange desires – a bizarre attachment to the notion of programs that double as hand-fans, a craving for customized bubble wands, and a yearning for a stereotypical T-shirt printed with some variation of “Bride.” (Even though I never wear T-shirts: not even Emily Dickinson ones.)

A little while ago, I became fixated on the notion of wearable gifts for the “wedding party” – which consists of me, my mom, and my sister – that would capture the spirit of the event and lend our appearances some small element of cohesion. I spent hours transfixed by the bridal charm bracelets on Etsy, but nothing really won me over: and, to be honest, I became quite convinced that I could make one myself.

Enter these Tolkien-inspired bracelets, which I cobbled together from bulk-bought charms curated by a whimsical eye!

Continue reading