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!

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: “the whole world is a garden”

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Three weeks ago, I did the unthinkable and purchased a wedding magazine, drawn to its glossy promises of fairy-tale nuptials while in a weakened shopping-for-groceries state. When you’re planning an elopement with only a handful of close family witnesses in attendance and your idea of “fairy-tale” is more in line with hobbit homes and Arthur Rackham illustrations than elaborate hotel ballrooms, though, mainstream wedding publications – while lovely to look at! – can only help so much.

The pictures inside, however, remained absolutely gorgeous, so I made the best of my $6.99 expenditure and transformed them into wordlessly verdant garden envelopes!

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I considered writing a proper tutorial for my magazine envelopes, but I’ll reveal this arcane secret instead: there’s really no method to my madness. My typical recycled-envelope process goes something like this…

  • I select full-width photo pages – usually intro spreads to an article or advertisements – and literally tear them from the magazine. (I warned you!)
  • Once my desired pages are from their publication untimely ripp’d, I fold over neatly any jagged edges that may have resulted from this violent beginning.
  • I fold the adjusted page roughly in thirds – with the top third slightly smaller – to form a basic envelope shape, and tape the sides shut.

It’s not exactly alchemy, but I can’t think of any other way to do it, as magazine pages aren’t wide enough to accommodate an envelope template (like I use on 12 x 12 craft paper squares).
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The most delightful part, of course, comes when you can match stamps and washi tape to the illustrations! I’m enamored with these “Flowers from the Garden” Forever stamps that I somehow missed last year – but their time with me is only temporary, as the new Bioluminescent Life set came out at the end of February and I might just use only those for the rest of my snail mail days.

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I’m happy that my ill-informed wedding planning purchase did serve a purpose beautifully in its new form, but even with these envelopes complete, we still have a ceremony to plan! If anyone reading this happened to enjoy a very intimate-sized wedding, I’d love to hear about it.

outgoing mail: the golden age

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The most enjoyable aspect of studying eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art last semester was reveling in how downright nerdy many experimental European artists were–in one fascinating example, the German Romantic painters who called themselves the Brotherhood of St. Luke basically cosplayed as medieval monks, and would paint each other dressed up as romantic figures from a seemingly distant past. In Johann Friedrich Overbach’s Portrait of the Painter Franz Pforr, Overbach depicts his buddy in an anachronistic paradise–he even gives him a pious medieval babe for a wife in the background, though Pforr was unmarried!

Perhaps my own romanticized fixation with various aspects of the past — including as the nineteenth-century William Morris designs I transformed into my outgoing Christmas mail — becomes less strange when contextualized within each generation’s endless cycle of “golden age” nostalgia.

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outgoing mail: birds of america

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It’s been a rather fraught fall, folks! The boundaries that once demarcated “work” and “free time” for me have been completely obliterated, and as a result, I’ve fallen woefully behind in the activities that I enjoy the most – including blogging, writing letters, and appreciating autumn leaves. (Seriously! A recent tempest blew them all away before I even had the opportunity to experience at least one of my annual leaf photography marathons.)

Now that the bleak post-Daylight Savings days are upon us, I have found myself even more listless and melancholy. Here’s hoping that a restorative dose of letter-crafting might help me feel more like myself again!

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what’s in my mailbox? pegasus & puddle-jumping

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Everything about this set of incoming letters fills me with childlike joy and whimsy. Winged horses and rainbow hearts? Flowers beyond belief? Beachbound seagulls and puddle-swimming ducks? Just what I needed to escape a week of very grown-up transitions and emotions!

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