Jack at Cascadia Artpost is always sending me incredible things. His latest mailing is a postcard celebrating the work and archive of Michael Bidner. Released as a commemoration for the artist's 70th birthday, the card features a biography, artistamp, cancelation and reproduction of Bidner's original work. Michael Bidner is credited with coining the term "artistamp" and had a collection of over 10,000 stamps at the time of his death in 1989. I thought you, readers and members, would enjoy learning about him and his work; so I've shared the card with you. Enjoy! ~Donovan
We were delighted to receive this letter from Mr. Raj! It is wonderful to hear stories of our members spreading the love of letter writing and also doing really awesome good work as a benefit from it. Here is the link to Mr. Raj's workshop if you are interested. Keep up the good work and keep those kids writing! This is what we like to think the L.W.A. is really all about.
My pen pal and L.W.A. member Joe makes a hobby of sending me postcards with excellent special cancellations. This card and postmark are from the Ben Franklin Post Office in Philadelphia. In addition to everything else he was doing, Ben Franklin was also the first appointed Postmaster General of the United States in 1775. It is fantastic that his original office is still in use today. You can visit it at 316 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106. Take note that because of the large volume of hand-canceling the office does, they stop accepting mail around 3PM. Remember, "Mail Early in the Day"! Depressingly, and despite its obvious benefit to society, the Franklin Post Office is threatened by the cuts to the U.S.P.S. operations budget, but is currently still in operation. Thanks for the card, Joe. I loved learning about the Franklin Post Office because you sent me interesting mail.
I was a happy participant in this artistamp exchange the first time around. Now it's back! Friends and Faux is a way to share and send on artistamps while making an eventual, fully-collaborative art postcard which Sue of TangleCrafts then puts into a zine. There's space on the website to upload images and track the cards while they make their journeys as well. It's really fun. There's a contest too! Everything Sue does is pretty great. I'm constantly impressed by anything she sends me in the mail. Do join in the fun, won't you?
One of my favorite pieces of incoming mail ever is this Cthulhugram I received from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Cthulhu, He Who Sleeps Beneathe the Waves, is sure to be at the forefront of everyone's cerebral cortex or in the dark recesses of their soul this All Hallow's holiday. The H.P.L.H.S. offers a free download of this self-mailing telegram with instructions on folding and a fancy seal to boot. What better way to spread the coming insanity and horror of the Old Ones, right? Their site is chock'o'block full of downloadable goodies, many of a postal persuasion. For example, these Providence postcards are swell.
Letters and Lovecraft go together quite well. Why, there's even an RPG based around the very same. It's called De Profundis and is described as an "epistolary psychodrama." Quite the Halloween party game should you want to practice your gibbering maddness. Thanks to Andrew for the telegram and Michael for the tip about the game!
P.S. Halloween is on the way and expect a fair number of ooky-spooky blog posts from me. You have been warned.
I never knew of the existence of the Sanquhar Post Office until I got this card from L.W.A. member Sam. The Sanquhar Post Office has been in continual operation since 1712. That's over 300 years! Now, mind you, the post office of three centuries ago was more like a private mail service for the gentry of the region and there were many others like it. It wasn't the first one around, but it is the last one that is still serving postal functions today.
There is so much history to it. There have been whole families literally born in the post office. It reminds me of the Terry Pratchett book, Going Postal (I highly recommend that, by the way). You can read more about this storied office at this BBC link (they also have credit for the photo above). I also would like to point you to a blog transcribing letters of Marion Brown between 1865 and 1903 that went through this Scottish post office to her American relatives. It's all fascinating. Thanks for the postcard, Sam. So much history in one little bit of paper!
Jack at the Cascadia Artpost has announced a new project. He's looking for contributions along the theme of "Keep the Post Office Public". Works relating to the issues currently facing the postal delivery system such as the threat of discontinuing Saturday mail, increased mail receipt times, post office closures, etc. are all fair game. Each contributor will recieve a brochure containing all of the submissions. Art is due by September 30th to the address listed in the postcard above. I plan a submission and hope to see many members' work in the brochure. --Donovan
After my post about the second lives of decommissioned post offices, L.W.A. member Rita sent me this brochure about the Frist Center in Nashville. The fantastic Art Deco building was constructed in the 1930s and was added to the historic register in 1984. However, when the main postal facility moved out in 1986, the building was being used as only a branch office. Of the three floors, only one was in use. In the 1990s, the building was transformed into the Frist Center.
"The former post office space is perfect as a visual arts center. The huge, sorting rooms with high ceilings in the center of the original facility were naturally suited to become spacious exhibition galleries. The former skylight in the center of the building, previously closed and built over in the 1950s, had its function resurrected in the new design with the creation of clerestory windows to light the foyer and the new grand staircases. Proud of its historic site, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts celebrates the former function and architecture of its premises with a logo derived from a motif on the buildings original cast aluminum doors."
The website does mention that the "remaining branch post office relocated to renovated space on the lower level of the building in November 1999." Rita didn't mention that there was still a post office on site. I wonder if it's still there... So I just called them and yes, there is still a post office there. It's on the first floor. The receptionist was mightly confused by my inquiry as to wether or not they offered a special postmark. I had to explain what a postmark was. Someone in Nashville go find out for us. This looks like a beautiful place and a great art center. What a nice way to reinvent a postal building.
My good pen pal Dave is a member of the Art Cover Exchange. I've written about Dave and his involvement with ACE on the site before, and in one of his recent letters to me, he asked if we'd be interested in advertising for ACE on our site. I said, "Well, we don't really do advertising, but I'd be happy to have you write a post about it." Dave is a strictly analog member; so he sent me this letter to share with you. Go to this link! Or send a letter to:
I received this curious post-script from my pen pal Alan. If you're having trouble reading it, here is the transcription:
"Thinking of log and log graph paper got me thinking. Have you ever come across 'crossed' letters? In the days before adhesive stamps and the Penny Post in 1841, letters were charged by the sheet rather than by weight. To save money some people developed really tiny handwriting but others used to fit more on the page by 'crossing' their letters, writing across the lines at 90°. I read a few of these while researching for my book on Charles Clark and they are not as impossible to read as they might at first appear. Still, however expensive the mail gets, I do not think the practice will return. At least, I hope not! -Alan"
In truth, it's not that difficult to read, as he says. I think your brain gets used to it after a while. Alan's letter sent me to the Internet to look for more historic examples. I'd seen letters of the tiniest of tiny scripts, but never a crossed letter.Delightedly, in my search, I discovered this write up by Mary Robinette Kowal on the Lettermo site about letter writing in the Regency where she specifically mentions crossed letters. Facsinating! What's the weirdest letter you've ever had to decipher? Tell us about it in the comments.
In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!
May 28th (Thursday)
Chicago, IL Letter Social
Uncle Art Gallery 7-9pm 1359 N Maplewood Ave
Join us and our typewriters to write some letters together. We will have mail art supplies, stationery, and a few of our old-fangled typing machines available for your use. Free!
May 30th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL OBSCURA DAY 2015
L.W.A. Clubhouse Several time slots available
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day. You'll see the inner sanctum of operations for the letter writing organization and have an opportunity to write letters and postcards using vintage typewriters.
Your ticket includes free supplies and typewriter time. Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance typewriter expert, will be on hand to answer questions, troubleshoot cranky machines and make pithy comments. Come join us and type a letter or two!
Tickets: $5 Purchase options available soon!
June 6th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL Postcard Party
606 Opening Celebration, 10am-6pm
Humboldt Blvd between Cortland & Wabansia
Write some postcards and explore the new Bloomingdale Trail with us. Free!
June 7th (Sunday)
Chicago, IL Mix & Mailology
L.W.A. Clubhouse 3:30-5pm
Old Fashions and Wax Seals, two old-timey things we love. Learn the secrets of mixing an excellent Old Fashion and making the perfect wax impression on your envelopes. We will also have other wax-like experiments for your mail art pleasure. Our solutions, both alcoholic and artistic, will surprise you. All materials, including liquid forms, will be provided.
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July 12th (Sunday)
World-Wide L.W.A. Book Club
Join Kathy, Donovan, and a special guest Margaret Haas (of Paper Pastries) via live video while we discuss Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Discussion and further info can be found on the Goodreads book group page. Event Page
The L.W.A. was established in 2007 by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson. These two ladies manage every aspect of the Alliance, from design, to packing orders, to maintaining the website. The L.W.A. is a labor of love and we are happy you have joined us in sharing a love for letters.