Mail Art Happiness

My mailbox has been very happy lately! Here are a few of the wonders sent by pen pals and Postcrossing friends. First, a marvelous creation by mail artist Sally Wassink. On the outside: “Burn on completion” and “2016” stamped in red, and Sally’s “Wurlitzerworld January 1, 2016” postmark.Sally Wassink

Inside: a handy pocket calendar for 2016 and matches to burn it at year’s end (I won’t!)

Sally Wassink

With the bottom stapled, it folds and tucks just like a matchbook. Ingenious!

Sally Wassink

Judy Staroscik, a mail art pen pal I met through IOUMA (the International Union for Mail-Artists), sends me intricate handmade artist trading cards and other gems. Judy’s latest, a small card and ATC that she made on an art tour to England last year:Judy Staroscik

Carrie, a Postcrosser from Minnesota,made me a gorgeous stamp-art postcard with an inspiring message for the new year. The stalk / flowers on the right are embossed with gold ink.


LadyOla, a Postcrosser from Belarus, was sweet to note from my profile that I adore triangle stamps! She used this one on my postcard — it looks like a fragment of a tapestry, doesn’t it?

Triangle stamp from Belarus

Ceejay, another treasured pen pal I met through Postcrossing, sends me her own beautiful photo cards with wonderful gifts tucked inside, often precious triangle stamps she finds for me!

Triangle stamps

And last but not least – a Postcrosser from the Netherlands made me this extra-special card with sequins, real lace, and a pop-up cuppa tea and flowers!

Handmade card

Curious about Postcrossing? Click this link. And this is my Postcrossing profile

Have you sent or received any mail art lately? I hope your mailbox has many happy days in 2016, both outgoing and incoming!

Letters to Himself

If you love calligraphy and mail, envelope or lettering art, you have until October 11th to see the do-not-miss exhibit “Letters to Myself: The Calligraphic First Day Covers of Alan A. Blackman” at the Jewett Gallery on the lower floor of the San Francisco Public Library.
Alan Blackman

Alan Blackmanmaster calligrapher, letter artist, teacher and font designer, shows us 200 hand-decorated envelopes from his collection of a thousand which over 40 years he sent to himself and to his late son Stephen, to whom the exhibit is dedicated.


In the program Blackman explains that for the “first ten years most of my envelopes bore identical addresses [to myself and Stephen in] my italic & uncial handwriting.” Later he “began to use color more adventurously.” And gradually “the images on the stamps became the inspiration for the design of the lettering.”

Some illustrations are relatively simple – a US stamp honoring painter Mary Cassatt.
imageOthers deceptively simple – an achingly beautiful portrait of a swan rendered with a few deft strokes.


The envelopes, some grouped by theme, include first-day cover postage stamps from the US, Canada, Great Britain, and several other countries.wpid-20150828_124143small.jpg

The colors are glorious.

wpid-20150828_124529small.jpgAnd the artful rendition of the lettering, with such widely varied subjects as inspired by the stamps, is staggering in its creativity.wpid-20150828_163655small.jpg

wpid-20150828_124503small.jpgOn my second visit I was rewarded by a glimpse of the talented Mr. Blackman himself, deep in conversation with several admirers.
Alan Blackman

I’ve shown you just a few of my favorites, please go see them all for yourself. For non-locals, you can see the envelopes online at Mr. Blackman’s website.

And click here to read Sam Whiting’s excellent article and interview with Mr. Blackman in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Upcycling Arts and Crafts

A different kind of Fourth of July parade marched through the El Cerrito Arts & Culture Commission (ACC) booth at the City & worldOne Festival: fair-goers of all ages and types stepped into our booth and walked out with the wondrous artworks and crafts they created from the discarded fabric, sad old messed-up books, and donated ephemera I gathered at the El Cerrito Recycling Center Exchange Zone.

Creative ReUse crafting

Glue sticks swiped, scissors snipped, and our trusty li’l craft machine was busy laminating bookmarks and churning out magnets and stickers.

Creative ReUse crafting

Postcards, envelopes, stickers, magnets, bookmarks, and collage masterpieces transformed by endless imagination rose from what most people would label as junk. Creativity flowed.

Creative ReUse

Smiles and pride in making new treasures from old discards abounded.

Creative ReUse crafting

Some will be gifts.

Creative ReUse crafting

And some will be kept as treasures.

Creative ReUse crafting

Kathleen Glenn, the biggest booster of the arts in El Cerrito and owner of Glenn Custom Framing on Stockton Avenue, created a special bookmark.

Upcycled bookmark

Several generous people crafted postcards that the ACC will mail to Blue Star Moms, a group that puts the cards into care packages going to military service-members. These are some:

Upcycled postcards for Blue Star Moms

What materials are you using in your artwork and crafts that would otherwise go into landfill?
Click here to see last week’s blog post to advertise the event.

Creative ReUse Crafting on July 4th

Headed to the fantabulous City of El Cerrito & worldOne 4th of July Festival? You will not want to miss the El Cerrito Arts & Culture Commission booth on Pomona Avenue, where we’re gonna get seriously hands-on to make a slew of different mail art and other creative reuse projects. image

Using fabric, old discarded books, ephemera and other fun stuff I’ve gathered from the El Cerrito Recycling Center Exchange Zone, we’ll snip, tear, glue, tape, stamp, and collage to create stickers, magnets, bookmarks, collage masterpieces, and all sorts of unique mail art!

Upcycled map envelopes

I’ll show you how easy it is to make upcycled envelopes, postcards and greeting cards at home using old magazines, calendars, maps, fabric, etc.
Upcycled fabric postcard

You can make postcards to take home and keep, mail to a friend, or we’ll cover the postage to send them to Blue Star Moms, a group that puts the cards into care packages going to military service-members. We’ll also have the address so you can mail your postcards to sick children

Declare your independence from buying new art supplies – learn how to give new life to materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill or recycled! And beside saving you money, creative reuse is great for the environment!

BooksI hope to see you on the Fourth!

Pop Goes the Mailbox!

Yesterday: happiest mailbox day ever! Sometimes when I’m owed a lot of Postcrossing postcards they seem to arrive in clusters. Makes me wonder whether some mail art lover along the route is delaying a few of them to admire as a collection? For whatever reason, yesterday I had incoming mail aplenty: three postcards from Postcrossers ’round the world, and from faithful mail art pen pals came a selfmade photo-card and a vintage ephemera collage card.


What in the world is that in the middle, you may be wondering. I’m so glad you asked – that is an amazing handmade 3D postcard!

Popsicle postcard by RoselynRoselyn, a Postcrosser in Florida who was randomly given my name to send a card to, made this wonderfully fun, unique popsicle postcard. She told me she had been thinking about 3D mail art since she saw some on Pinterest,  and that after reading my profile she decided to give it a try! Following this post by Sandra Denneler on SheKnows, Roselyn sculpted blue styrofoam into a popsicle shape, added 2 wooden craft sticks, and attached cardstock to the back.  

Popsicle postcardIt only took two first-class postage stamps, and I bet a bunch of USPS people along its trip from Florida to California were grinning as much as I did when I saw it.

A Postcrosser in Germany sent me this very special wooden postcard – there’s a small sketched owl at the top left, and a punched-out owl figure.

Wooden postcard

Such a fantastic idea! I’ve made postcards by printing on wood veneer, but the delicate wood-cut designs used to create these cards are just exquisite. Click here to see the artist’s website, and here for his Etsy store.

Finally, this gorgeous handmade postcard from a pen pal I met through the San Francisco Correspondence Co-op. If the link doesn’t open for you and you’re interested in joining, let me know and I’ll send you information.

Mail art

I love the combination of ephemera she chose: old trading stamps and a lire note, with some music and asian type thrown in.

I’m constantly awed and inspired by the creativity of my mail art friends, and it’s as much fun to make my own creations to send to them as it is to open my mailbox and find a treasure! Hope you have a Happy Mail Day!

Deconstructing Linda’s Air Mail Letter

I found a very important book from 1964 buried in a box at a book giveaway.

Linda book

“Linda’s Air Mail Letter,” written by Norman Bell and illustrated by Patricia Villeman, is in the “Follett Beginning to Read Book” series at the first to second grade levels. However, even at my grade level I found the book absorbing; in fact I couldn’t put it down and have re-read it several times. The plot is fast-paced, with unexpected twists and turns, and the author utilizes character development to reveal universal Archetypes. Linda awakens with a fever one morning, and her mother (we are not given her name, thus she is “The Mother”) runs into several obstacles when trying to get help. The telephone doesn’t work, the back door is stuck, and a water pipe is dripping  Oh, and Linda’s father is “away on a trip” (“The Absent Father”). To keep Linda busy while over-worked Mother (presumably without the assistance of “Mother’s Little Helper”) attempts to run the household and deal with the above-described communication and infrastructure breakdowns, Mother suggests that Linda read a book or write a letter. Choosing the Active over the Passive, Linda, in her letter to “Anybody”writes about her angst: “I am stuck here. I cannot get out” and describes an archetypal familial dynamic: “My father is away on a trip. My mother needs help.”

Air Mail bookMother is too busy to give Linda clear direction on how to purchase an air mail stamp, so, empowered to use her imagination, Linda sends her letter out the window. Helpful Wind blows it all the way to the Post Office, where a postman picks it up. The back cover offers a concise plot summary.

Linda air mail bookIn the end, all is well (a comforting lesson for the young readers of 1964, which we now perceive as an iconic Year of Upheaval). Spunky, fledgling feminist Linda informs Father that “Everything is all right now. Some things were out of order. But I fixed them.” As all Fathers do, Linda’s requires an explanation, and Linda, emerged as a successful mail artist, states: “Oh, I just wrote an air mail letter. It fixed everything!”

I am troubled that a mere four years later, “Linda’s Air Mail Letter” was branded an “Obsolete Book” by the South San Francisco Unified School District, pursuant to section 9701, 1, (g) of the California Education Code.

Linda book obsolete

Perhaps, though, we can see this as a liberation and Rebirth – the tale of Linda being released from the confines of the School Library and sent out rather into the hands of “children and residents of the district,” much as Linda sent her letter out the window.

Postcard Bonanza!

I’ve been having such a great time sending and receiving postcards through Postcrossing for over a year now. On Postcrossing, the number of cards you can send (and then get one back every time one of yours is received), depends on your total cards sent. I’ve sent 251 cards so I can have 14 cards traveling around the world at a time.

Postcrossing gives great stats! This map on my page shows my postcards, sent and received.

Postcrossing map

Other than receiving beautiful cards with heartfelt messages, my favorite part is trying to choose just the right card (and stamps) for each person. It’s hardest when they don’t say anything in their profiles about their preferences. They say they’d like anything, but … really?

Postcrossing page

I admit it puts me off when a person’s profile says they don’t want self-made cards. What could be more special than receiving a card that someone took the time and effort to make? As a photographer and artist, I pride myself on my card designs. I print on paper that’s thick enough to withstand the rough journey through the mail, and I also have some of my cards printed through Zazzle. But I respect those people’s choice and have fun flipping through my postcard books to find something commercial they’d like. Sometimes I can’t resist, and I’ll put a little plug in by writing that I myself prefer self-made cards, and that I would have loved to send them the exactly perfect card, but alas …

Anyway, a slew of my cards arrived at their destinations last week, so I had the chance to send 5 cards, and, woot! none of the profiles had the dreaded: “No self-made cards.” I got to work poring through their profiles, choosing just the perfect designs, printing, writing, and stamping!


And here’s what went out into the world. Top left: My blended collage of a Ferris wheel and sunflowers, photos I took at the California State Fair, is on its way to a woman in Russia whose wish list included ferris wheels.

Top right: My “Cactus Heart” card went to a guy in Ireland who said he likes … yep, cactus plants. In my message on the back I told him that this was a hybrid by Luther Burbank which was bred to be spineless, but that the spines had obviously returned.

Center right: “Musical Cat” is my photo-painting of our kitty Daisy studying a piece of sheet music. It went to a woman in Poland who said she liked: “funny/creative/vintage things, -black&white, -animals, -just pretty :)”

Bottom right: My photograph of the Space Shuttle Endeavor as it passed over our house in 2012 went to a woman in Belarus. This was hard, because she had so many fun interests that I have good images for, but her interest in “spacecraft” won the day for me.

And bottom left: my penguin photo-painting went to a woman in Finland, well, by now you know why…

What’s going out in your mail today?

This was my first blog post about Postcrossing. 

This one is about meeting mail art pen pals through Postcrossing.

More about Postcrossing and mail art.

In My Out Mailbox

Which do you find more rewarding, sending or receiving mail? The days that my mailbox is full of cards from Postcrossing and other mail art friends are fantastic, but it’s also a big thrill to make or select pre-made cards to send out into the world. Last week I jammed our mailbox with cards and flipped up the flag.


This one went to a Postrossing friend in Singapore, who said that he liked photography and that self-made cards were just fine with him. It’s a photo of the sunset over San Francisco Bay that I took from our deck. I added the “El Cerrito” because there are no commercially-made postcards for my little town – so of course I had to make some!

El Cerrito sunset postcard

When Postrcrossers specifically say they don’t want self-made cards I search through my large collection to find the perfect pre-made card. A person who likes castles is getting the vintage card you can see in the bottom right corner of the photo at the top of this post.

I sent my photo-card of a hummingbird at a fuchsia flower to a young girl in Taiwan who has a really upbeat profile. She said she’d like to see something beautiful or an interesting thing that happened in my life. A visit from a hummingbird to our garden is always so special to me, so it fit the bill.

Hummingbird at flower postcard

This photo-painting I made of an Epipactis orchid grown by George went out to a pen pal who likes flowers. When I make postcards from my photos I print on extra-thick cardstock or Epson velvet-fine art paper, which has a wonderful textured surface and is thicker than normal photo paper.

Epipactis orchid

Finally, I made this postcard from discarded books and ephemera. It’s going to a pen pal I met through the San Francisco Correspondence Co-op.

Upcycled postcard

Anything fun going out your mailbox these days?

More Mail Artistry from Ex Postal Facto

I couldn’t fit all the excitement into my first post about Ex Postal Facto 2014the amazing mail and correspondence art gathering held in San Francisco February 14 to 16. XPF was jam-packed with events and lively happenings, so here’s XPF part II. On Sunday, the  Special Collections Department of the San Francisco Public Library hosted two fascinating and often hilarious panel discussions. “A Brief History of West Coast Mail Art” was moderated by writer and visual artist John Held Jr., and featured visual/conceptual artist Lowell Darling, correspondence artist Leslie Caldera of Los Angeles, artistamp maker Carl Chew of Seattle, and artistamp maker Anna Banana of Canada. XPF organizer Jennie Hinchcliff opened the proceedings and introduced moderator John Held Jr.

Jennie Hinchcliff and John Held, Jr.

Carl Chew generously gave out large posters he created: “An Evolutionary Baobab of Artistamp Correspondents,” a dazzling graphic history of artiststampery from the ’80s to the present.

Carl Chew at XPF 2014

Next up, “Artistamps and Their Makers: Seeing the World in Miniature.”

XPF artistamp panel discussion

Jennie moderated the panel, which featured James Felter of Postes Mraur, Harley of Terra Candella, founding Postmaster of the Black Rock City Post Office (at Burning Man) James Cline, and towering above them all via Skype, Ginny Lloyd of Gina Lotta Artistamp Museum.

While my head was still buzzing with all of the fantastic stories, the milestones and personalities of the history of mail and correspondence art, I finally got to meet in person Correspondence Co-op member Sally Wassink, and swooned over her XPF commemorative issue artistamps.

S. Wurlitzer 2014 XPF artistamps

S. Wurlitzer 2014 XPF artistamps

And last but not least, a glimpse at some pages from my XPF passport, designed by Maureen Forys of Happenstance Type-O-Rama, and assembled by the Correspondence Coop team. It’s full of stickers and original artistamps and rubber stampings, to remind me of the fabulous mail art extravaganza that was XPF 2014!

XPF passport

I’d love to hear – have you had a good mail day lately?

Ex Postal Facto 2014

I’ve been designing artistamps or faux postage stamps for years, and even valid postage as soon as the USPS allowed it, and I also design greeting cards and fabric postcards.

But I only recently dived into the social whirl of mail art: exchanging postcards through Postcrossing, sending and receiving handmade artful mail with like-minded new friends, and joining the Correspondence Co-op, a group based in San Francisco for mail artists, letter writers, and people who love the United States Postal Service.

My timing was great, because this past weekend there was a mind-blowing series of events by, for, and about mail artists! The book that drew me into the mail art world is Good Mail Dayco-written by powerhouse Jennie Hinchcliff, aka Red Letter Day. Jennie dreamed up and organized (with lots of help from Correspondence Co-op members and others) Ex Postal Facto 2014, “A Celebration of Correspondence Art, Faux Philatelics, and Postal Modernism.” The first event I made it to was the Vendor Exposition, where over 25 artistamp makers, mail artists and postal moderns showed, sold, and shared their amazing work.

Ta-daa! The Queen of XPF 2014, Jennie Hinchcliff, holding forth at her crowded booth:

Jennie Hinchcliff

Niko Courtelis of Philatelic Atrocities gave a lecture hosted by Chronicle Books on Thursday in conjunction with XPF. Titled “A New Look at Postage Stamp Design,” Niko discussed postage stamp aesthetics and design fundamentals for stamp graphics. Here at the Vendor Expo he’s putting the commemorative XPF stamp he designed in another mail artist’s souvenir passport.

Niko Courtelis, Philatelic Atrocities

Dame Mailarta, Queen of Poste, down from Victoria, BC, had an amazingly colorful booth.

Dame Mailarta, Queen of Poste

I was thrilled to swap some of my own artistamps for a precious sheet of original commemorative Ex Postal Facto stamps designed by noted mailartist John Held Jr.:

John Held Jr

These are the artistamps I designed to give away and swap at Ex Postal Facto:


There’s much more to tell, so stay tuned for more wonderful mail artistry!

This is a list of my mail-related blog posts:

Passion for Postcards 

Mail Art pen pal

Stamp News

Handmade Fabric Postcards

Printing on Wood Veneer

New greeting cards

Vintage Valentine’s Day Greetings

Happy Halloween vintage postcards

Happy Peeps-Day!

A Token of Love

Happy New Year!

My Christmas Greeting

Happy Thanksgiving: Some Vintage Greetings

Mad Hens

Woman Vacations on Santa Catalina Island

Happy Valentine’s Day!