letterbox

Summer mail-art

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset The past month was ridiculously busy, as December usually is for most of us. In the midst of it all, I found just a little bit of time for mail-art, including a stack of envelopes made out of Christmas carol sheet-music, and one book with an address and stamps on the front cover. There will be more coming soon! 

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with 5 preset Processed with VSCO with 5 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with 5 preset

ps. Do you know about my Snail Mail Toolkit e-newsletter? I have been busy creating templates that you can personalise into your own mail-art, which I send out in a monthly email. The next email will go out this Wednesday night, so if this sounds like something you'd like to try, you can sign up to receive the emails here. I'm currently also sending a free copy of my e-book Making Mail to everyone who joins up. 

Thousand Postcard Project: 1-25/1000

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last week a box of a thousand vintage postcards arrived for me in the mail. They are all between 40 and 110 years old, and most of them Americana - old postcards advertising hotels and stores, landmarks and movies. 

I decided they'd spent enough time tucked away gathering dust in boxes and drawers, and that it was time to give them life at last, so I launched the Thousand Postcard Project, with the goal of posting each and every one of them before the year is out. 

I've just popped the first 25 postcards into the post, to finally make their way out into the world. I'm numbering each of them, so that I can keep track of where I'm up to in this project.

Here are some of my favourites from that first batch: 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ΔΔ A good 50 or so years have passed since this photograph was taken. I like to imagine what all these people at the swimming pool are doing now, if they are still alive. I wonder what they remember about that day in the sun. (It's Camp Kanesatake at Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania. Did you happen to be there at some point in the 1960s or 70s? Is that YOU I see?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ΔΔ Ghost towns of America. I've visited one like this, and it was fascinating! I call this guy "dude with donkey" and he makes me smile. The caption on the back of the postcard is deliciously kitsch: "The Old Prospector // Accompanied by his faithful burros, the grizzled Old Prospector stands in front of the entrance to the Gold Mine tunnel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ΔΔ Hand-drawn postcards are always sweet. But look at that car! It dates the card so perfectly. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ΔΔ The back of this postcard tells us that this is the general store at the Deserted Village of Allaire in New Jersey. "Entering this store is like walking into the past," it says. Holding this postcard is ALSO like walking into the past. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ΔΔ I love this because it is so fabulously dull. The good people of the Travel Lodge, Mt Vernon, Illinois, chose this photograph as the best way to advertise their hotel. On the back, it boasts all the latest amenities. "Direct Dial Telephones. Electric Heat." Take me there! 

Only 975 to go... 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Would you like to receive one of these postcards in the mail? I'd love to send you one. There's a form on this page for you to give me your mailing address (I'll never share it). 

Mail art - a lot of cat stamps and other lessons in mail-art

PC256872.jpg
PC256874.jpg

A lesson I learned over the New Year* was that when making mail, measure each package up before wrapping it in kraft paper... because if it is even a just couple of millimetres over the standard size, the price goes up. A LOT. Thankfully I had several sheets of 70c cat stamps left over from when I purchased stamps for my father's birthday invitation mail-art (because I am not the brightest and purchased enough for every person invited rather than every household. Duh).

You can't see them in these pictures, but the backs of these parcels are literally covered in cat stamps. Here is a picture that Elaine shared on her Instagram, of all the cat stamps on the back.

roxanne.jpg
PC256871.jpg
PC256868.jpg

For only the second time ever, I had a couple of the parcels in this set returned. The castle above came back, with notes from the postie written on the left to the tune of "ADDRESS UNCLEAR. WHAT COUNTRY?" This made me groan slightly, since, if you live in Australia, an address in North Gosford, NSW, is quite evidently also in Australia. But then to be fair, I had run out of Airmail stickers when I photographed these, and later put all the stickers on at the post office. Because this was the only local letter, I also accidentally put an Airmail sticker on it too, so I guess that could have caused some confusion.

Look how pretty and clean the letter looked (above) when I first sent it to Melina! And this is what it looked like when I popped it back into the mail last week...

Then a few days later the letter to Ashley also came back. There were no marks on the envelope and the stamps hadn't been cancelled, so I don't know what was going on there. I thought maybe they didn't see the country so I drew a box around "United States" to draw attention to it, and slipped it back into the box. Time will tell if Ashley gets her mail!

Meanwhile, when I ran out of cat stamps, I busted out all the other leftover stamps I could find and made the "building blocks" mail-art below, which I think is one of my favourites, ever.

PC256876.jpg
PC256873.jpg
PC256867.jpg
PC256869.jpg
PC256865.jpg

*Actually I think I might have "learned" that lesson before, and even shared it on here, but clearly nothing much sinks in. Is there a moratorium on how long you can blame "baby brain" for just being really absent-minded?


ps. have you heard about my new letter-writing and mail-art e-course? 

Over four weeks, I will guide you through multiple methods of making beautiful mail-art and creative, handmade stationery; teach you the art of writing and storytelling; help you forge personal connections in your letters and find pen-pals if you want them; and share time-management tips so even the busiest people can enjoy sending and receiving letters. Register your place or find out more information right here

Why I write letters to strangers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It is an odd thing to do, I know. But in case you're thinking I'm a bit strange (you wouldn't be alone) and you wonder why I spend so much of my time writing letters to people I've never met, here's a tiny sample of what greets me in my own letterbox, on a regular basis...

"Hello Naomi, You couldn't have timed your aerogramme more perfectly! My 90 year old dad went into hospital the day before and we found he would need surgery - at 90! I was feeling so blue but then arrived home to find your aerogramme! It was such a bright spot on such a tough day."

"Your beautiful letter was such a lovely surprise in my mail box this week! Thank you for taking the time to write to me!"

"Your package that arrived a few days ago just MADE my day!... I've been so inspired by your beautiful letters that I'd like to start a snail mail project of some kind here for the students."

"I want to thank you for your beautiful letter. Was a wonderful surprise!!! Really made so happy my day."

"Thank you so much for the beautiful letter you sent me! I was blown away by the care and attention you gave to it, opening it was such a joy!"

"I just wanted to say a huge thank-you for the beautiful snail-mail package that you sent me in the post. It arrived on a Monday and was so perfectly timed to brighten up my week."

"I was beyond excited when I saw a deliciously decorated brown parcel in my mailbox"

"Just wanted to tell you how excited our children were when they got your fantastic letters. My daughter is going to show her teacher..."

"Naomi! Oh your beautiful, beautiful letter. It arrived today! And what perfect timing..."

"Dear Naomi, I was trying to hide in the garden and weed the wild shady patches out of the blistering sun. My son was yelling with much excitement at clearing the letterbox. Time stopped! We gathered and sat on the porch, I held your magnificent letter in my hand. We studied the tangerine pigeon and slowly opened the letter. My Mum sat with me and my son, all sharing the moment. THANK YOU. It captured our hearts and was so filled with surprise and treasure. I have shared your letter with friends and I have begun to remember a time when I wrote letters often... Your envelope of joy reminds me of the simple power of human kindness. I think it's contagious (ain't that a wonderful thing!)."

 

Mysterious letters

strangers-1strangers-2 strangers-3 strangers-4

The “mysterious letters” project is as quirky as it is lovely, and probably impossible, but nevertheless delightful.

Artists and writers Lenka Clayton and Michael Crowe have set themselves the task of writing a letter to every household in the world.

Yes, EVERY household.

Don’t think too hard about it, because once you do you’ll be running statistics in your head: population numbers versus the time you estimate it takes them to learn a name and address, write a letter, scan it, stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and post it. Proving Lenka and Michael can complete this job is like proving Father Christmas is real. Stop trying and just believe.

They are working towards their goal one town at a time, delivering the letters en masse on one day. As they arrive, the letters create confusion, consternation and a lot of joy in the residents, first as they read their letters, and then once they begin to discover that all their neighbours received mysterious letters from strangers that day as well.

When they dropped the letters on an unsuspecting little town in Ireland, it caused such a stir that the BBC picked up the story.

So far, they have dropped letters on towns in France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and the USA. All of the letters are scanned before they are sent, and you can read them on the Mysterious Letters blog.

Mail art + mild regrets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are things in life that you live to regret and in my case, those things include having that second glass of cheap semillon sauv blanc last night, losing two hours of my life watching The Heat on TV while folding mountains of washing, and saying to myself at the end of said wine/watching/washing that just this once, I’d leave the dishes until morning. So this morning when I got up at my usual 5am it was harder than usual, my head hurt (I know, I’m a lightweight), and when I came downstairs the first thing I saw was a pile of dirty dishes. Regrets, my friends!

However, I plan to salvage the day by enjoying the sunshine out and about with my darling children, who hopefully will not be too loud or high pitched ;-). Here are some more envelopes I’ve been painting this week. Only five today. I hope you enjoy your Thursday, friends. And for all you Victorian folks who work for The Man, enjoy your day off tomorrow, you lucky things!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ps. If you're worrying about the fact that I've left the full name and address on the first envelope on this page, don't fret. That mail is for Amber, who makes and sends the most phenomenal mail-art you've ever seen and regularly publishes her address on the Internet, so I know this is not a concern for her. I left it on because I thought that for a change it would be nice for you to see exactly what the people receiving my mail see, rather than big chunks of blanked out space.

#postcardsforposties + free adult colouring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Postcards-For-PostiesYou guys. What a fantastic response you gave to the "postcards for posties" idea that I shared last week. Thank you! I've been inundated with emails and messages saying "I'm in." So let's do this!

Will you join me in saying thank you to the posties of the world? I was thinking we could start a bit of a hashtag movement - #postcardsforposties - and pop some handmade postcards in the mail for as many posties as possible. They are the women and men who deliver our mail: rain, hail, snow or 40+-degree shine (and the thousands of men and women who sort and manage our mail to get it there). They deserve a bit of recognition and gratitude, don't you think?

Don't worry if you never visit the post office, or if you don't know the name of your postie. This movement is simply about spreading the gratitude. You can sign your name to the postcards or keep them completely anonymous. It's up to you. Here are some ideas...

* Have you recently sent someone a heavy parcel? Write a postcard to "The Postie at [your friend's] post office" and thank them for carrying your heavy mail

* Is the weather really horrible this week? Pouring rain? Heatwave? Massive winds? Write a couple of anonymous postcards addressed "To the Postie" and drop them in any mailboxes you pass on your way to work, thanking the posties for braving the elements to deliver your mail

* Did a postal staff-member go above and beyond to help you out? Write him or her a postcard and mail it to that post office (or slide it under the door after hours). If you don't know their name, just describe the person and/or the scenario in your message

I'm sure you have a lot more - and a lot better - ideas than me. Let's start thanking our posties!

Free postcard printables

What with with the massive interest in adult colouring at the moment, I thought I'd create some printable colouring-in designs for you to make your #postcardsforposties. (If you want to. Of course, feel free to make your own instead. Go to town!). There are four designs to choose from:

>> "Thank you" pigeon post >> "I hope it doesn't rain on you today" >> "You're bloomin' marvellous" >> "May all the dogs you meet be friendly"

Step 1: Click on the design that you want to download, then hit print (they make a standard 4 x 6" postcard, allowing for a bit of a white border, which keeps postage costs to a minimum). If you have a printer that can take cardstock, print onto that. If not, just print onto normal paper, then paste your picture onto some cardboard to make it stronger to survive the post.

Step 2: Colour, paint, collage or do whatever you like to the picture. (Be aware that water-soluble paints and inks etc may run if you end up posting your postcard on a rainy day - that said, I always use water-soluble gouache or watercolours, and so far no problems)

Step 3: Write your message on the back. If you are actually going to post your postcard (rather than just drop it into a letterbox), lay it out roughly the same way as a normal postcard. In other words, lay it it horizontally then write your message on the left and put the address and stamp on the right. (Here's how I did this for Jenny's postcard, if you're not sure)

Step 4: Post or drop off your postcard! Now do another. Let's get thanking the posties of the world!

ps. If you do this, don't forget to let me know, and use the hashtag #postcardsforposties if you are sharing on social media, so we can try to build up a bit of momentum. Imagine if people all over the world started spreading gratitude to their hardworking posties! We could be proud of that. 

Hey letter-writers: do you want to be in my book?

winter-mail I think I might have mentioned but I haven’t really explained… I’m writing a new book! It's about snail-mail.

It’s been a long time between books for me - Airmail came out in 2011 and I wrote it a couple of years before that. I started and didn’t finish another novel in the interim, and I haven’t entirely given up on that but then I moved internationally, then I moved states six times, I got married, I had two babies within 18 months of each other, and, you know, LIFE got in the way.

In my naivety about life with kids I kept thinking “when the dust settles I’ll get back onto this or that creative project,” but now that my oldest daughter has reached the ripe old age of three, and my step-daughter is 17, I have realised that when it comes to parenting the dust NEVER settles and if you wait until life begins to resemble the way it was BC (Before Children), you will a) be doomed to creative-project purgatory and b) be wishing your children’s childhoods away.

So… I’m writing a new book. Busy life, work, children and all. AND… I want YOU to be in it!

My book is about snail-mail. I like to think of it as a companion to the growing number of snail-mail books that are beautifying our shelves. You know, the books that talk about how snail-mail is a dying movement; and the books that talk about the revival of snail-mail; the books that celebrate the history of snail-mail and its impact on human communication and connection; the books that talk about how snail-mail feeds the souls of both the senders and the recipients; and the books tell those of us who want to know WHY we should pick up a pen and write a letter, and HOW to go about making it extra special.

My book is the next logical step to those books. It doesn’t pit snail mail against email, or fast against slow. It celebrates the way the two can work together, to promote connection, creativity, purposeful communication, genuine thoughtfulness, and a sense of play, celebration, surprise and joy. In my book I celebrate the “mail heroes,” folks who are doing amazing, creative, surprising things with the post that inspire the rest of us. I introduce you to mail communities you can join (both online and offline); clever and creative projects you can be part of; and quirky resources and playful toys and activities that all put the joy back into writing and sending a letter.

It’s a little bit like the book version of my zine 19 ways to make snail mail (even more) fun, except at last count I had more than 100 snail-mail-esque goodies to write about in the book, every one of them with a “call to action,” a way you can get involved or create something or in some way enhance your own experience of and joy in writing letters.

Do you want to be in this book? I really hope so! Following are two ways you can be part of it (there may be more invitations to follow, but I’m not sure):

1. Tell me in one or two sentences, who should you write a letter to today, and why?

2. Did you participate in the write_on “30 letters in 30 days” challenge this year or last year? Please share in one or two sentences: “What I learned / gained from writing 30 letters in 30 days”

Email your answer(s) to me at nabulger (at) gmail (dot) com, and use the subject-heading “write_on" so I don’t lose you in the chaos that is my inbox.

I will quote you using your first and last name, unless you advise otherwise (I’ll follow any requests for pseudonyms etc you desire). If you’d like a bit of a plug, I’m happy to include ONE blog URL or social media link per person, so include that if you’d like to see it in the book.

I look forward to hearing from you, and please share this with your friends. It would be fabulous to get as many different responses as possible.

Yours truly, Naomi xo

(Image is from the Smithsonian Institution, on Flickr. No known copyright restrictions)

Beautiful, creative, generous, heartwarming incoming mail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It's time - long overdue - to do a bit of show-and-tell with some of the SERIOUSLY GENEROUS snail-mail that has been filling my letterbox of late. Each and every one of these letters and postcards completely made my day. Every time (every single time!) I find a personal letter or card in the letterbox, it puts a big smile on my face, and a very special tingle of anticipation as I wait to open it. That's one of the main reasons why I love snail mail so much: it's so personal, you can see the person's handwriting, their drawings, paintings, pastings, and gain so much insight into their lives and thoughts than words alone could share. A big, heartfelt thank-you to everyone here (and to the other gorgeous letter-writers, whose beautiful mail I haven't yet had time to photograph).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Zoya sent me a wonderful, heartwarming letter about her world, and made these amazing gifts for me and the kids. I have been admiring the watercolour paintings on her blog Step, Skip, Pause and on Instagram for a long time, and can't believe I'm now the owner of something so beautiful! Take a look at those seriously adorable crocheted veggies! They were presents for my children, who absolutely LOVE them. Ralph carries them around in his mouth (good one, kid), and Scout has found them perfect for the little play kitchen she got for her birthday. Zoya, I owe you a proper, hand-written, heart-felt thank you in the mail. It's coming soon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ This rainy-day envelope from Ally is about as pretty as it gets, and it brought genuine sunshine to my day when it arrived in my letterbox. And then when I opened the letter, it literally rained beautiful, thoughtful paper ephemera. It was a bonanza of beautiful, thoughtful things. In her letter Ally said she wasn't particularly artistic but, looking at this collection and at the amazing mail art, I beg to differ! Don't you? You can see beautiful images from Ally's world on her Instagram feed, and I highly recommend her blog Everyday Miracles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ This hand-coloured springtime field of flowers postcard from Jen was exactly what the doctor ordered on a rainy, icy Melbourne winter's afternoon. I was so touched at the time Jen had taken not only to write to me all the way from Oregon, USA, but also to so beautifully colour this piece of mail-art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ I loved the rainbow drawn across this envelope from Bek of Just For Daisy and, after I opened it, the rainbow contents brightened my day. How sweet is Bek's idea of drawing on little paint cards? I am definitely going to try that myself! Her letter was so sweet, and she even hand-made a little envelope filled with old stamps!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Eileen's postcard from Arizona came on just the right afternoon, when I was feeling a bit flat and a bit of a failure in a number of ways. Her kind, friendly words cheered me up no end, and (I must remember to write and tell Eileen this), Arizona is one of my favourite places: so much space, so much history, so much sky! I can't wait to go back there one day, and Eileen's postcard brought back so many memories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Jaimie and I share the same "library card" stationery, so clearly she is a woman of excellent style and taste! Her letter, written on several of these precious cards (a true gift I can tell you, because each card is unique and relates to a classic text, and it's hard to say goodbye to them), was chatty and friendly and, just, lovely! She really made me smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ So many beautiful paper things filled this beautifully-addressed letter from Sandra: little handmade envelopes, tiny pictures and stickers from the children, and a fascinating clipping about Australia from almost 100 years ago. I say "fascinating" but it was also embarrassing, containing some shamefully racist comments. I'm sorry you had to read that Sandra. Our country has a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I promise that does not describe our attitudes at all any more!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Scout instantly coveted the glitter cupcake on this lovely card from Julia. She even took it to bed and cuddled it during her nap that afternoon! I loved Julia's letter. I felt like it was a little window into friendship, and Julia if you're reading this, I promise to write back to you PROPERLY, soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Scout was also MOST enamoured of the star-spangled, pink-topped, double-cupcake balloon card in this mail from Sandra and, come on: who WOULDN'T be? It was adorable, as was Sandra's friendly letter about her Aunty Margaret. I like to hold the delicately-painted mandala pebble in my hand sometimes. It is cool, and smooth (not to mention beautiful), and somehow calming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Karen from Leaf and Petal Vintage (on Instagram here and on her blog here) said she saw this vintage postcard and thought of me. I love it so much, and the gorgeous vintage sewing-pattern card! It was all so thoughtful of her! The postcard contains a birthday message for Mr A.J. Simons from "Nell," sent in August of 1909. Isn't that wonderful to ponder? I wonder who those two were. Friends? Relatives? Colleagues? Lovers? Ah, snail mail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Emily's postcard from her family weekend in Port Fairy was so sweet, and arrived the day before I got to meet Emily in person at a bloggers' meet-up in Melbourne. She blogs at Squiggle and Swirl, and this is her beautiful Instagram feed. I was able to ask Emily about her trip, just as if we were old friends, which I wish we were because Emily is LOVELY.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ This letter from Pippa was a proper, long, newsy letter. The kind you read after first making a cup of tea and raiding the biscuit tin, then sitting down in comfort for a true snail mail indulgence. Our lives on opposite sides of the world, and one in the city and the other in the country, are so different. And yet I felt like we had so much in common, and loved the insights Pippa shared of her world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ Just look at the hand-painted and pasted Valentine's Day card I received (blank so I could give it to someone I love) from correspondence artist Lefty Smudges! The card made it all the way from Canada to Australia and arrived after Valentine's Day, but I'm pleased about that because now I get to enjoy it for a whole year before passing on the clever, artsy goodness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

∧∧ This letter brightened my day when it arrived all the way from Germany. Anke also participated in the 30 letters in 30 days April challenge, and I was one of the lucky recipients of her colourful, cheerful words and paper. I hope she enjoyed the challenge as much as I did!

Once upon a time, snail mail

Riding-Hood Pinoccio

Rapunzel

Puss-In-Boots

Snow-White

Little-Pigs

Wolf

Princess-Pea

Golden-GooseA sample of some of the outgoing mail I've been sending lately. Making their way through the Deep, Dark Forest (aka the international postal system) are:

Little Red Riding Hood // Pinocchio // Rapunzel // Puss in Boots // Snow White // the Three Little Pigs (actually just one of them) // the Big Bad Wolf // the Princess and the Pea // the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs