Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Travelling Mail Art Kit

Because my ideas follow me everywhere, I have a handy little mail art kit that goes with me too. This way, when the opportunity presents itself I can capture my thoughts and turn them into happy mail to send my pals. You never really know when you will have the time to indulge in a little creativity so having my pouch with me makes it easy.

When you think about it, you really just need some essentials. You can always use things you pick up wherever you are but you need to have a few basics to get you started. What's in my kit? I'm not one of those women who carries a big purse, in fact, I prefer not to carry one at all most of the time, but must needs and I compromise with a smallish bag and so my travelling mail art kit must be compact. Basically, I have something to write with x2 in case one doesn't write, which in my case happens often, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Waterproof pens are a good idea to avoid rainy delivery days from smearing the address on my cards and letters. Also in my bag are scissors, glue, labels, washi and that sort of thing and I find these make a good base for creating on the go. Lately I've added a compact little address booklet to help me remember addresses, or sometimes I pre-print labels with addresses to optimize time. The most important thing I carry is postage. When I'm in town, there is a post office, but when that isn't an option, there is always a postbox to drop your mail into.

I tend to pick up ephemera wherever I am and that adds to my "artiness." Postcards in shops I peruse become bases for my brainstorms and I have been known to write letters on napkins.

I also carry a shiny little monogrammed notebook (a gift from a very dear friend) for jotting down bigger ideas to be explored later. I get inspired by the oddest things---shop window displays, something a passing stranger may say or maybe just a handful of colourful leaves glistening in the rain. Everything sends my mind on a tangent so having a notebook can capture an idea and save it for me.

So, here's a look at my kit, see, it's very small and the spareness encourages spontaneity in my efforts, which I like. (Yes, it all fits in that little pouch!)

And for those of you wondering about the scissors and the address book, the scissors are folded inside the head of the crocodile.  The address book is a clever little thing made of two business card sized magnets with an accordion folded address sheet.

My writing kit has become especially important to me over the last few months since my accident. Oftentimes, when I go into town, I need to stop for a cup of tea and a rest and with my writing supplies in my bag I am never without conversation. Since my fall, my bag has transformed from a small zip pouch to one that is a bit larger to accommodate note cards and a small writing pad as well as my small pouch with all  the accouterments for creating mail art. There is a nice little tea shop in town where I often sit by a window watching the world go by, writing notes to my friends while I have a few moments at my disposal.

Here is a my new larger ensemble:

When the muse strikes you have to be prepared.  It so easy to find a little bag and keep a few things in for when you want to make some mail art.  Don't get caught out without your supplies.  

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Stamp People

Our broadband has been practically non-existent for the past few weeks so I haven't been able to post very much.  So, what have I been doing in the meantime?  I've been working on stamp people among other things.  Stamp people, stamp heads or postage stamp people have captured my attention for a while now. I first saw them on Pamela's blog and have wanted to try making some but could never get started. I'd get out my stamps and choose some head shots of potential stamp people and and pictures cut from magazines, but never seemed able to make it work. It always turned out a bit peculiar to me and I would put it aside. Then, a short time ago I began seeing them again, my interest was piqued and I began thinking about trying to make some stamp people again. Ambition is a good thing when you really want to make something, but you oftentimes need a little more than just ambition which I found out when yet again, I came up with nothing. I felt very defeated by it. I'm not an artist, I can draw a little but I was getting so frustrated with my efforts or what I perceived as my lack of thereof.

I did a search on line for stamp people for inspiration and found several places with enthusiastic examples. Limner showed a great stamp person by her pal Debbie Link so I went looking, found her blog, and was enchanted by her post "Stamp people (the siblings)"  After that I did a google search looking for more inspiration. I saw examples which once more made me enthused about making stamp people. When found Jacki Long's stamp people, that lit the spark and I tried once again. 

Armed with all the encouragement from the stamp people artists I found on line, I set my mind to making some stamp people of my own. I met with the same difficulties, but not one to quit I persevered and found myself creating a different kind of “stamp people” I guess, in the end, my own style was what was lacking and once I began doing what flowed easily and not just trying to emulate those whose art I admired I finally got results.

I went back through my stamps and began choosing alternative images and then ideas started coming in and I made three pieces of stamp art rather quickly. I was pleased with my creations (but not my lettering, which took me back to my high school art teacher wincing when looking at something I decided  to letter...) and now have my own groove going on admittedly with some help with electronic lettering. I guess for me it wasn't so much about people as images. I'm happy with my version of stamp people and at the same time admire all the creations others have made.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Today in history is the 200 anniversary of Jane Austen's death. Although she has been gone for so long, Miss Austen continues to touch the lives of many with her unequaled wit and powers of description. Her characters are still relevant two centuries later and their fictitious lives continue to resonate with the public.

Many people are paying tribute to our Dear Miss Austen.   Around the world a minute of silence was observed at 11 am this morning, exhibits centered around Jane Austen's life and work are open to the public including "Which Jane Austen?" at the Bodleian Library in Oxford as well as the unveiling of the new £10 note at Winchester Cathedral which features Jane Austen.  The latter, a fitting tribute, for Jane Austen was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Jane's influence has widespread appeal having been the target of many film and literary adaptations. You probably know Bridget Jone's Diary is based on Pride and Prejudice but did you know the film Clueless was based on Emma? Bollywood's Bride and Prejudice enchanted Jane's fans and a sci-fi offering by author Seth Grahame Smith: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies went on to be made into a film starring Lily James of Downton Abbey fame. A few years ago a mini-series entitled "Lost in Austen" aired here in England portraying a modern day Janeite who trades places with Lizzie Bennet which was very amusing. One of my favourite adaptations is Youtube's "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries"  shown in 100 short segments. If you haven't seen it, do go and have a look. It's a current take on P & P done very well; so well in fact that "Emma Approved," based on the novel Emma and "Welcome to Sanditon" which was based on Jane's unfinished novel Sanditon were also made by Pemberley Digital.

Miss Austen's adoring fans pay tribute in many different ways. With such adulation I'm sure our dear Jane will still have a thriving fan base in 200 years to come. As for me, my tribute is a small one compared to many. I made bookmarks for my Janeite friends to mark the day. A small remembrance of one who has charmed so many.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vintage Saturday

It's Vintage Saturday in case you were wondering. There are all sorts of interesting things out in blogville if you care to look. Vintage Saturday is one of them. This theme recurs each week and many a blogger will paint a pretty picture of something old and treasured in their life. I find the stories behind the vintage items so compelling and hope you find my vintage tale as interesting.

I had been wanting to do a post about something in my daily life that I simply became blind to until last week and thought Vintage Saturday is just the day to do it. It was a bit of a eureka moment and the phrase “What was I thinking to overlook this????” has been uppermost in my thoughts for the past week. It's just been the unassuming box passed down through the  generations that holds our documents, a deed box if you will, and has been for over a century.  My husband doesn't know when it came into his grandfather's care and it may well be older than we believe which makes it an even more fascinating mystery; a family heirloom which has taken on a different existance. Today I thought I would expose its true identity.

This box rests atop a chest in our sitting room. A crocheted doily graces its top and there is a little vase perched there. All very homey. I walk past it every day, and have done since I married. I've seen it opened, indeed I have opened it, but did I notice it? Not once. It was literally just a part of the furniture. I'm sure I must have known what it was in the back of my mind but it simply didn't register.  Then last week, I was walking by, stopped, walked back and turned the little key, then stood wide-eyed gazing at it. How could I not have reckoned this? Me, letter writer extraordinaire and devoted Janeite? Some mysteries will never be solved.

So, today, let me show you our cherished document box. Closed it is just an unassuming little mahogany chest and yet opened it is the stuff of daydreams. Our little document box is in reality a writing slope. There is a pen tray and two compartments for ink as well as storage space under the velvet writing area. It is very much like Jane Austen's writing slope, if I may be so bold. Not quite as old or refined, but still a beautiful writing slope nonetheless. You can still see the design which has been impressed into the velvet writing area.  Evidence that it once was indeed used as a writing slope exists in the pen tray where there are little fingernail marks from someone reaching for their pen. Oh to have the power to see what letters were written on this little desk but I will  just have to rely upon my overactive imagination to supply those details.  Of course, now that its secret is out I so desperately want to use it for its true purpose, but after a century or more of being a document chest, I think it will stay in that office. Now when I walk by I smile, because I know its secret, and it is all the more dear.

You can see the similarities between Jane Austen's  writing slope and our own.
Jane Austens' Writing Slope courtesy of The British Library Board.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Happy Anniversary LWA!

Today is the 10th Anniversary Party of the Letter Writers Alliance, or LWA as most of us refer to it.  Sadly, I cannot be there but I'll be there in spirit. For those of you who don't know what the LWA is, hurry over here and have a look. Kathy and Donovan created the LWA to reinforce the importance of putting pen to paper. Their mission statement says it all:  

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; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission.

Over the past ten years they have given support to all those whose love of writing letters is not just a hobby but a passion. They highlight those who embrace the cause whether they are making stationery, creating artistamps, sending out mail art, featuring new stamps offered by the post office and so many more things. The LWA is an international organization and its membership has surpassed the 11,000 mark and is still growing. Their voice has reached all parts of the world and welcomes everyone who shares their values.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Letter Writers Alliance, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to mark the day than an open letter to two much loved letter proponents.

Dear Kathy and Donovan,

Happy Anniversary to you both and to all the members of the LWA. Thanks to the two of you, champions of letter writers everywhere, letter writing has risen out of the dust like the phoenix and soared to new heights. Your vision to bring letter writers together through socials, on line events, pen pal matches and all the thought provoking posts on your web site has been an incredible gift.

I joined LWA six years ago. Before that I belonged to two pen pal newsletters and even wrote for one of them. That seemed to be winding down and I felt devastated that letter writing which had been a constant all my life was fading away due to the rise of the internet. There didn't seem to be so many like-minded people around and one by one the remaining ones were turning to email. Little did I know that the internet was more of a saviour of letter writing than a deterrent. One day while doing a search I found 16 Sparrows quite by accident. The elation at finding there were still others out there who felt as I did about letter writing was a revelation. I immediately became a member and my journey into the new, media rich world of pen palling began. Since joining I've met so many wonderful people who share my love of letter writing, I've learned new things and I was even inspired to start a blog to share my adventures in the world of correspondence.

Thank you to you both for rescuing all of us whose love of writing letters was left without an outlet to share our passion. You have made an impact on so many.

                                                                                    With all my best wishes and gratitude,

                                                                                                           Anna M
                                                                                                      Member #1631

Friday, 23 June 2017

My quirky little desk planner tells me it is World Typewriter Day today. Although I type on my keyboard a lot, I don't use my typewriter so much these days. I suppose I've been spoiled by the instant edit function and you can see by my ancient typewriter eraser that I have made a few lot of mistakes while using a typewriter. 

 However, once I do get out my powder blue, portable typewriter I'm always glad I did. It's very nostalgic for me, bringing back memories of high school where I learned to type. My class was doomed to use the old manual typewriters while all other classes had the benefit of electric ones. I didn't much care because the dinosaur model we had at home needed a bit of pounding to get the letters on the paper so I didn't have to alter my method of typing as my sister did when we were at school. Pounding the keys of an electric typewriter produced lots of extra characters as well as stern looks from the typing teacher. I remember typing letters on our old relic, mostly typing in red as the ribbon was so worn and the black ink had to be saved for school work. It was something my father brought home from work one day, saved from being trashed.

I have very fond memories of those days and believe it or not that typewriter. It weighed a ton and it was a two-man effort to drag it out of my mother's closet and get it onto the table so we could use it but it was worth it. My sister and I both used it for letters and also typing work for school. It had that distinctive font that only typewriters have and fewer keys than modern keyboards have so things like the exclamation point had to be created by using a period/full stop, back-spacing and using an apostrophe. In time we got more adept at typing these two-part characters.

Some made use of the fact that you could type, back-space and over-type another letter or symbol which lead to the original emoticons. And there were those who took it one step further and created artwork using their typewriters. These images would range from simple little pictures to full blown works of art. One man in particular, Paul Smith, a man with severe cerebral palsy, created masterpieces with his manual typewriter. When email was new and everyone was forwarding everything and anything, I received an email detailing Paul Smith's work and have marveled at his typed images ever since. You can read the amazing story of Paul Smith and see some of his work here. 

Typewriter art by Paul Smith
The typewriter has a long and distinguished career which you can have a look at by going here.  I admit, before I read this article I had no idea just how long the concept of typing had been around.  The writing ball produced by a Danish Pastor looks very interesting and I'd love to see how it actually typed. I googled typewriter images and the weird and wonderful collection of typewriters/contraptions  that ensued was incredible. Through all its manifestations, from archaic to state of the art, I still have a fond affection for our old Royal typewriter. I'm smiling just thinking of those wonderful days.

Today, I thought I would type a letter or two in homage to World Typewriter Day. It will be a nostalgic journey, and I'm looking forward to it. Why don't you type some letters too? Go on, drag out your old typewriter and live the dream! For those of you who don't have the pleasure of owning a typewriter, go here for some fabulous fonts that immortalize our old friend. I've used Travelling Typewriter font for the banner on this post. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Today, June 1st, is International Pen Pal Day.  I hope you will set aside some time to pen a few letters to mark the day.  If you are stretched for time, write notes or postcards, but do send something. It's a beautiful sunny day here and I've been in the garden writing post cards to my pals, and some to family and friends too. It's so nice to be back writing again. See you in the post!

Monday, 22 May 2017

A Little Setback

Well my dears, it's been a while, hasn't it?  About two months ago I had a bad fall and a nasty bang on the head which has made life slow down considerably.  I'm still having a little trouble with motion but on the whole I'm feeling a bit more like my old self.  That being said, I have so much to catch up on.  All the progress I made in a month of letters went by the wayside and I completely missed the Write On Challenge I'm afraid, so I will have to begin again answering all the lovely letters I have received.  I hope to get back to blogging soon too, so watch this space.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Via Brown girl Post

I haven't shared incoming for a while so I thought I would show some of the mail goodness I've received. Limner's distinct style is always a welcome sight in my letter box. Her berds and bugs are favourites but I love the new addition of Brown Girl. To me, she epitomises the fun of getting and sending letters. Inside this lovely envelope was a treasure carefully wrapped in a stunning sheet of embossed tissue/velum and secured with a length of butterscotch satin ribbon. The colours are warm and the book just invites you to take a peek inside. The paper has a gorgeous texture to it and inside there are pockets and pages for me to fill. I adore nature themed stationery and this is among my all-time favourites. I have gone back again and again to admire this beautifully crafted book.

Another book from Limner is this intricately folded little keepsake book. I've been examining it for quite some time now, which is probably why I'm so late in showing it here, but oh, it is lovely. I've tried to make one of these, that is how impressed I was with it but so far my attempts have not been as fluid and eye catching to look at as my little snowflake book from Limner. Little pockets inside hold thoughtful things to discover as you page through and you are compelled to just keep turning the pages to see what the next leaves hold.

 I've always loved books of all kinds but a book made just for me has to be the best of all. These are so personal and pretty and even better, they are from a dear friend and I cherish them. My books are on my desk now, I keep them there so that  I can admire and take inspiration from them. Thank you dear Limner.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Keeping in touch

Things keep blocking my path when I'm on my way to blog, preventing me from posting. So many things to say and never enough time to say them, sigh. I have a list of topics I want to share but must needs, work before pleasure.

That being said, Lettermo has come to an end and I did okay this year. I had a brief period while I was ill that mail did not get written but on the whole, I managed to send out a good deal of post. It's gotten me back in the swing of my daily morning missives and that in turn gets the mind going when I put down my pen and my attention turns back to the daily renovations.

I think while I work: I mentally compose letters, come up with new ideas for crafts and daydream a lot. My mind is always occupied with these thoughts as I toil away. It wanders and things occur to me and as the task I am doing can be monotonous, like sanding or filling in cracks, I drift away mentally and elaborate on those things. Since we live rather rustically while the house gets it's makeover, I often wonder how Jane Austen made time for writing when there were so many more mundane things to do. She and her sister Cassandra had to make their own ink, for example. I don't have to do that, but one of my mind's favourite jaunts is on making different types of ink I've read about. I have made ink from oak gauls or oak apples as some call them. There is also the walnut shell method and even birch bark to be tried. Who knows how many other things are lurking in my garden just begging for a chance to d├ębut on my blog and in my letters? But those are posts for other days, right now they are just errant thoughts while I work.

Today I just wanted to keep in touch, a little postcard if you will, and promise there are posts in the thinking about such subjects. Things I find fascinating and hope you will too, so stay tuned!  

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Little Project

One of the things on my to do list this year was to clear off my desk and reorganize it so that it was a better fit. I use my desk to write and to craft and it isn't as big as I'd like so things have to be stored but also be handy. Not an easy task when you are a hoarder like me. I save everything and that causes a mountain to erupt on my desk. In an effort to make my desk more efficient, everything must have a place, and be put in its place so that order is maintained. This is my weak area and I tend to stack things, not only that I have a habit of jotting notes and clipping them to things on my desk. To try to combat notes getting lost or forgotten until it's too late, I thought it was about time I made a small bulletin board to pin my notes to so they stay in view and I can actually remember the things I make notes about.

I bought some gorgeous postal themed fabric a while ago for just this purpose but, it too, got lost in the shuffle. During my massive clear out, and I mean massive...I have taken bags to the charity shops and sent envelopes of things to unsuspecting people on desk is now emerging from the wreckage it had become and I have the perfect place to put my little notice board.

It wasn't difficult at all to make. Here is a short tutorial for you in case you'd like to make one too.  All you need are a few basic things which you probably have around the house: A bit of corrugated cardboard, a large piece of fabric, a few yards of ribbon, a stapler and a few fancy pins.  If you want you can do like I did and use some acrylic dots to add a little something extra.

First, I layered the cardboard.  You want to make it thick enough so that when you push a pin through it the pin won't poke out the other side. I ended up having three layers, just to give you a guide to work with.  I lined the pieces of cardboard up and glued them all together. Once the glue was dry I decided on the size I wanted and cut the cardboard but you might want to cut the cardboard first and then glue it together.  It wasn't too difficult to cut it with my x-acto knife but cutting first makes more sense.  

Next, I cut the fabric.  Make sure you have enough extra so you can wrap it around to the back of the cardboard and have enough space to staple it in place.  I added eight  inches to the length and width so that I had an extra four inches of fabric to work with on each side. I ironed the fabric before I started so that it would lay flat, then I smoothed it over the cardboard so there were no bulges  or folds and then stapled it onto the board. Next I criss-crossed ribbon on the board, pulling it taut and stapling it on the back.  

I finished it off with the pretty pins on the places where the fabric crossed to hold them in place.  You don't havfe to pin the ribbon or glue it anywhere else, this is so you can slide your notes under it. 

 I used upholstery pins to hold my ribbon in place, but you can use thumb tacks or even glue dots or glue to hold it down.  Once the pins were in position, I added a few acrylic dots just to give it a nice finishing touch. 

I think it turned out very nice and now I can just tuck my notes under the ribbons and don't even have to worry about pins. It's just the right size to sit on my desk and leans up against the mountain of containers which house things like brads, buttons, charms and other bits and bobs for embellishing my crafts.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

It's that Time Again!

February is here already and that means A Month of Letters, or as we veterans say: Lettermo.  It's a fun challenge to get your creative writing juices flowing with goals to aim for and a lot of eager participants to correspond with.  After the holidays, Lettermo helps me get back on course with my letter writing, urging me to write a little every day. I usually have quite a stack of letters right around now that need responses and this year is no different. It's nice to get back into a habit.  The holidays always serve to through me off course and Lettermo is just the tonic to help me get back into the swing of my letter writing.  Why not head over to the Month of Letters home page and sign up for a great month of writing interaction.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Stamp Release
Image from the Royal Mail web site.

One of the things I love most about Great Britain is its history.  The many historic sites scattered throughout this small island are humbling to see and some of the artifacts found are simply stunning, showing that those who came before us had talents to be revered.  

The Ancient Britain stamps, on sale, Tuesday, 17th January are like a visual timeline across the millennia of Great Britain's historic past.  Designed by True North they include: 

Battersea Shield, London, England, c350 - 50 BC 1st Class

Skara Brea Village, Orkney Islands, Scotland c3100-2055 BC  1st Class

Star Carr Headdress, Yorkshire, England c9000 BC £1.05

Maiden Castle Hill Fort, Dorset, England c400 BC £1.05

Avebury Stone Circles, Wiltshire, England c2500 BC  £1.33

Drumbest Horns, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, c800 BC  £1.33

Grimes Graves Flint Mines, Norfolk, England c2500 BC £1.52

Mold Cape, Flintshire, Wales c1900 - 1600 BC £1.52

I've been to the Avebury Stone Circles in Wiltshire a few times and each time is a different experience.  On one occasion a fog rolled in, modern life was obscured and sound muted.  All we could see were the stones looming and for a moment you could almost believe it was a long ago time.  It is truly a place of wonder.  

I am fascinated with history so I will be buying a ton of these stamps when I go into town tomorrow.  I'm sure I'll be using these stamps often.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


January. The first month of the year and much maligned. I was reading an article the other day but before I got to the actual topic the author was discussing, a tirade about the awfulness of January ensued. Even berating T. S. Eliot for claiming April is the cruellest month, when he felt January was the most heinous. He said it like it was a dirty word...January.

I don't feel that way about the first month. To me, January is quiet, reflective and a time for me to re-centre myself after the tumult of the holidays. It's like the stillness following a snow storm, when you pause just to listen to the silence. It's a time when I get back to my writing and reading; my craft supplies are surveyed and updated and I begin the peaceful process of regaining my flow. January is not hectic, its meandering and allows you to go at your own pace. I can sit down and write in a leisurely way and not feel like I have to fit it in.

Those who know me, are aware I have a lot of difficulty with my hands and writing has become a slow process especially when the weather is cold and damp. So I embrace January's calm which enables me to go at my own speed and enjoy my paper conversations. Letters have always been a big part of my life and as a result of my hand problems I have had to cut down, something that still gives me great sadness. It's like telling a friend you never want to speak to them again, the guilt that goes hand and hand with the process of writing a last letter to someone is boundless.

Today I'm revelling in my January state of mind and writing thank you notes, sending a postcard or two and getting my desk in order. Slow and sure wins the race.

Happy January!