When was the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail? How did that make you feel?
Once upon a time, an artist and filmmaker named Ivan Cash took to the streets asking strangers those very questions, and not surprisingly but somewhat touchingly (is “touchingly” a word?), almost everyone said they were indifferent or even overwhelmed by their emails, but that receiving a handwritten letter made them feel warm, special, happy, and like someone had believed they were worth something special.
Five years ago, he started a month-long art project called “snail mail my email,” during which you could send him an email with a message for somebody else, and Ivan and a handful of friends would hand-write your message and post it to the person you had nominated. They were overwhelmed with requests. Far too many to handle. More than 10,000, in fact.
Since then, Snail Mail My Email has evolved into a hugely collaborative and successful annual, week-long community art event, during which hundreds - even thousands - of volunteers from all over the world write and post letters on behalf of others.
This year, I have signed up to be a volunteer letter-writer. Will you join me? Maybe you could make it a fun event with other people who live near you? Here’s what it takes.
* During the week of 9 to 13 November, you and I and all the other volunteers around the world will each be sent up to 15 emails, which we are to then hand-write, and post to the address given. It could be anywhere in the world * We have to write and post the letters during that week * We’re expected to do something a little bit creative with the letters: a doodle, a lipstick kiss, a hint of washi-tape… * We’re also asked to take photos of our letters (minus any identifying details) and share them on social media
What do you think? I’m fairly confident I could write up to 15 letters in five days, especially since I’m just copying out (and making pretty) somebody else’s words.
A lot of volunteers make a bit of an event of it, planning letter-writing parties and such things. If you sign up and you’re in Melbourne, let me know. Maybe we could have a fun, letter-writing party where we all pool our stationery and art supplies, and bring doughnuts and cupcakes and cheese, and talk and laugh and write and craft and make new friends. That sounds pretty good, don’t you think?
There's more information and a straightforward volunteer form on the Snail Mail My Email website.
ps. Here is a little video of the people Ivan approached, asking about email and snail mail. Just note that it was filmed in 2013, so the dates of the campaign are not correct. If you want to take part this year (either to volunteer or to have a letter written), the dates are 9 to 13 November, 2015.