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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Postal fetishism

  I ordered stamps today, and it got me excited. I am still a fan of mail. A fan of real mail, snail mail, actual letters. I have boxes and boxes of letters I have received in my life as a dedicated correspondent, adorned with gorgeous stamps and handwritten notes from those dear to me, whether they are near or far.

I'm dabbling in mail art at the moment, which only makes my fondness worse: the mailbox/postal system as a gallery is fun, and I'm a sucker for collaborative art. The member show at Camerawork ( last fall was encouraging, in a dangerous way.

My eyes wandered the net today, looking at postal-themed images. Things I especially enjoyed:

Good Mail ( This is one of those dangerous sites that makes me consider setting up a tumblr account just to have a blog showing other people's images that I like, so I could keep that separate from my own images. As if I should spend any more time on the web. Added bonus: you can follow any of the image links back to even more sites devoted to an even wider range of topics, where these mail-themed images just happened to appear. (The only bummer is Flickr, which still lacks that special something...)

Good Mail Day (, the blog associated with the excellent book of the same name, which I own and enjoy very much, about mail art.

Red Letter Day Zine (, also about mail art. Because people really like their mail.


posted by Arlene (Beth)5:18 PM

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Postal Fetishism

  cyanotype mail art by A.E. Graves
If you've known me for more than a few years, you've probably received mail from me. I am a letter writer. Historically, I have been a SERIOUS letter writer, averaging more than one piece of outgoing social correspondence daily for multi-year stretches. I had pen friends in four countries, and long lists of far-flung friends who could count on me for postcards and longhand letters while they were away at grad school, or medical school, or just plain away. I send postcards while on international trips. I own fountain pens in multiple colors. I have a Strategic Stationery Stockpile that could see me through a decade.

I love receiving mail even more than I enjoy sending it, which poses an obvious problem: most other people are NOT letter writers. Over time, the ratio of letters received to those sent has diminished. I have changed my tactics: the people who write regularly are showered (flooded, deluged) with fancy letters and cards; everyone else who I wish to stay in contact with gets a glossy photo postcard now and then (mostly then). I've also joined a group of artists that does nothing but exchange hand-printed photographs, which has netted me a few lovely pieces, but very few.

There are people who specialize in the art of mail. Actually, they specialize in the art of mail art. You may have seen the people confessing to PostSecret (, or looked at Ruud Janssen's International Union of Mail Arists blog, (, or any of the work of the Fluxus movement... I need to know more people like that.

To tide over my postal desires until I have such friends, I'm hoping for console myself with a book fix. While my current austerity plan does not permit me to purchase art books, I hope to put on my fake pope hat and sell myself an indulgence to buy Make Every Day a Good Mail Day, and perhaps even attend the book release party. The book is about making your mail artsier, and the previews show some adorable illustrations that make me realize I haven't been spending enough of my time having cool, custom rubber stamps made. Which I really ought to do.


As an aside, here is a list of other items forbidden to me under my austerity program beyond books about making even more things than I already make:

-bottled wine for my own consumption (OK to purchase for others when attending parties)
-fancy olives (like at Rainbow's olive bar [swoon])
-cosmetics, or anything else Sephora sells, other than lipstick (sunblock OK)
-Polaroid 600 film, even though the very last batches are up for sale, and this is my last chance...
-art supplies for anything other than photography
-clothes (this is just an excuse: I hate buying clothes)
-anything sold at Paper Source
-take-out or delivered dinners
-concert tickets (I would have made an exception for Frank Black this weekend, if I thought I could have actually acquired the tickets...)
-bubble bath, or any other bath-related indulgence
-more cameras (ha ha ha)
-film (but making my own is okay)
-anything material I've wanted for less than six months, and probably anything I've wanted for more than six months, too.

It has been pretty easy to stick to this plan, as I am spending all of my money on wet collodion supplies, and my all-cash budget won't allow for anything fancy. Apparently, the answer to the musical question 'do I want this or collodion?' is always collodion. Pretend to be surprised.

Did I mention that mail is a simple, inexpensive, thoughtful pleasure? It is.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:41 PM

Sunday, August 12, 2007


There's something new at PostSecret: a short movie!

See it here on YouTube.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:08 PM

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