This episode is a discussion about the very big world of mail art with Jennie Hinchcliff, co-author of Good Mail Day and author of the website www.redletterdayzine.com
Good Mail Day
Travelling Mail Art Kit:
Ex Postal Facto
Red Handed Rubber Stamps
What is gleaning?
Could you describe the difference between a hand-carved stamp and an Artistamp?
Are there artists that you think are doing amazing work that stationery lovers need to know about?
Jennie on the Internets:
John on the Internets:
John on FPC
You can also write to me at:
Attn: John West
P.O. Box 621
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/stationeryorbit?fan_landing=true)
SO ep 11 tk 1.sesx_mixdown
[00:00:00] John (2): [00:00:00] Welcome to Episode 11 of stationery orbit. I'm your host John West and today's episode is a discussion about the very big world of mail art with Jenny Hinchcliffe, coauthor of good mail day and author of the website, red letter, daisy.com. Good morning, Jenny. Hi, good
Jennie: [00:00:15] morning, John. Thanks for having me on,
John: [00:00:17] Oh, I really appreciate you coming on.
I'm a big fan of your book and all of the various things, mail art that you've shown the world through your book.
Jennie: [00:00:26] Oh, thanks so much. Yeah, it's it was a real treat to be part of the good mail day project. And then, continue exploring from there.
John: [00:00:34] We're going to go through a lot of the different things that you've covered in the book.
And one of the first ones and the one that's really important to me is how do you get mail?
Jennie: [00:00:44] The first thing you have to know about getting mail is that in order to get good mail, you have to send good mail. And so this is something that we talk about a lot in food mail day, in the world of mail art, it's a pretty [00:01:00] visual medium. And so a lot of times the creation of said mail art is not necessarily, that's not a hindrance or a problem, but you really have to get comfortable with sending your work out into the world.
John: [00:01:14] Absolutely. What do you think is the most important rule for mail art?
Jennie: [00:01:18] The most important rule, I think, and again, this, these are all with caveats. Our mail artists, such a wide open world and everyone really. Does their own thing and has their own way of operating. And so the things that we're talking about today, these are, these are not hard and fast rules.
These are like my working processes and things that I've picked up over the years. But I would say that one of the biggest, or the most important things about mail art is to know that there are no rules about mail art. You can put a stamp on anything, you can stick that thing in a mailbox and if it gets to its destination, that's awesome.
And if it doesn't, [00:02:00] that makes a great story too. So I would say that my number one rule about mail art is that there aren't a rule.
John: [00:02:05] It's almost in line with, Picasa the idea of learning the rules is so that you can break them. Exactly.
Jennie: [00:02:12] Exactly.
John: [00:02:12] But in the book though, you did talk about your 10 commandments of mail art and some of the basic guidelines for how to treat your other mail artists and other folks who you're corresponding with.
Could you talk about some of the commandments?
Jennie: [00:02:27] Absolutely. The 10 commandments of mail art that we talk about in good mail day, those are really guidelines for people who are new to the scene or who are interested in getting to know what mail art is all about. The full title of good mail day is, good mail day, a primary for making eye-popping postal art.
And so we really when we wrote the book, we anticipated that people who knew nothing about mailer would pick it up and use it as their introduction. And we created these 10 [00:03:00] commandments things like Dow shell document diligently that thou shall be, or Reverend things like. It's great to have a sense of humor when you're creating your work.
It's good to keep track of who you're mailing to and who has sent you things in return. That I shall not feel the need for fancy pants, supplies and equipment, which essentially means you don't need to buy a whole lot of tools and materials or supplies. Anything that you see, that you can put a stamp on that you can decorate, that you can drop in a mailbox or hand off to your mail carrier.
Like those are all things that can be created, or used as mail art. So those 10 commandments are really just, basic get you started wind you up and let you go things to think about when you jump into the world of making and sending.
John: [00:03:49] Yeah, it's interesting. When you're talking about a set of supplies for something that people can get wrapped around the axle when it comes to supplies and there's a quote [00:04:00] from a.
Slightly adjacent field with photography and photography. One of the big rules that I learned very early on, and it was very important to me is the camera you have with you is more important than the camera you have sitting at home. So if you went out and bought the big camera, but you're afraid to take it out, it's never going to get used.
And all of a sudden you find yourself, yeah, great. You use your camera phone, but you can still come with great pictures, but it's or you have.
Jennie: [00:04:31] Yeah. Yeah. And I think we'll talk a little bit about notebooks and journals, but. I know that I do that so much. How many times? And I'm certain that some of your listeners can identify with those.
Like how many times have you gone? You've bought a beautiful notebook, beautiful journal. It's got the, like gilding on the edges and a beautiful leather cover and all of these things, but then just too terrified to use it. Like it's too pretty. It's too [00:05:00] beautiful. What if I mess it up?
Yeah. That's why when I have a notebook with me, it's just, it's light, it's portable. It's a little, it's important, but it's not precious and I can use it. And I feel like, yeah, there's no need with mailers to necessarily be going out and buying a raft of art supplies is the more important thing is to be thinking about your style and what your artistic style is like and how you want to give that to other people, share that with other people.
John: [00:05:28] Yeah. And actually I'll jump ahead a little bit in what I was thinking about, but one of the things I really took away from your book is how much mindfulness plays a part in good mail art of being aware of the world around you and your emotions and what's happening in the moment that you're able to capture through.
Just like you said, a very basic level of mail arts.
Jennie: [00:05:58] Yeah. [00:06:00] Yeah. We can do a lot with writing by writing down our words, and reflecting on not only what we're writing, but then who we're sending those words to. Whether it's your best friend, whether it's your aunt, whether it's, a friend who's convalescing, those things are all very important.
They slow you down. There's a lot of research behind the idea that. Taking the time to write a letter slows you down. The hand-eye coordination is really excellent for sort of processing. And I think now more than ever, it's, we're surrounded by anxiety all the time, right? And so if you can do something as simple as just sitting down thinking about the person that you're writing to and what you want to talk to them about, and that's also really crucial, right?
We can't see people in person right now because of the pandemic. A lot of us are in a lockdown shutdown. So if you can have these conversations and get them down on paper that are happening in your head, it's [00:07:00] a reasonable substitute perhaps for sitting down across the table from someone. But I think it can really provide comfort, especially right now, because it just takes a person's mind off of all the craziness that's going on outside your own four walls.
John: [00:07:16] I love the fact that we're talking about mail art and correspondence and writing letters, and we've just made the massive jump bread into psychology and talking about anxiety and mental flexibility and this kind of stuff.
It's perfect because this is why so many people are now turning to analog and getting into analog, or because of those studies that have shown that writing notes from even a meeting. If you're typing those notes on a computer you're done with the meeting and somebody is going to ask you, Hey, do you remember what Bob said?
And Bob said, what? I don't remember anything that Bob said. And because I was too busy typing and versus if you're sitting there with [00:08:00] even a basic pen and a notebook, taking the notes by hand, you retain that memory. And it really does help. And then the other thing I wanted to mention, because you were talking about anxiety and I heard this and I don't remember who to attribute it to, but the idea that regret is in the past anxiety is in the future.
You have to live in the now and that idea that sitting there and thinking about somebody else and taking the time to write your thoughts down in the present helps preventing.
Jennie: [00:08:35] Yeah. Yeah. I love that idea because I think it's really true and I think it, it resonates really strongly, especially right now.
Absolutely people there've been a lot of people doing a lot of different mail art projects throughout the course of the pandemic. People who are, writing letters to themselves, creating art, sending it out there. There are a lot of different mailers shows going on right [00:09:00] now. That are either related to the pandemic or also related to the USBs and helping save the USBs.
But I think it's, I think it's really interesting. Not only to write things down for yourself. Not for your friends, this is what I should say. It's a good idea to correspond with your friends, but it's also a really good idea, I think, to correspond with yourself. And this is something that I do consistently.
I do it a lot. When I travel actually ahead of time, I'll put together a series of different postcards, one for every day that I'm going to be traveling. I'll put the stamp on them ahead of time. I'll address them to myself ahead of time. And then, Oh, while I'm in my hotel room at night, or, if I'm at a cafe or something in a different place or town, I'll write down my thoughts for the day.
What I saw, maybe what I ate was a subway crowded. Was it too cold? Did I like the class? I was teaching those kinds of things. And then. I stick it in a mailbox and mail it to myself when it gets back to me here in San [00:10:00] Francisco, because that's where I live. I'm always surprised by how much I've forgotten, but then also how much of a memory jog it is.
And I can remember the, the noise in the cafe, or I can remember how crowded the subway was. I can remember what kind of mood I was in that day when I got done, teaching or, doing whatever it was I was doing. I think things like letter writing and creating mailers are really important archives and documents of how we pass our time and how we live our days.
And so it's important to be communicating with our friends and loved ones right now, but it's also really important to be writing things down for ourselves. We're just going through this incredibly strange, weird I don't even know what to say about it time, that. In a few years, we'll be like, that was horrible.
I don't remember any of it. And so if we can look back and reflect on it, I think that's super
John: [00:10:57] important. Even in times where the [00:11:00] world seems to be up on its wheels and shiny side up your world can still have some real challenges. And having that self-awareness just helps people's mental health so much.
And I think out of anything with this, some of the events that have led up to 2020, and then 2020 itself, I think mental health has really become a subject that we can talk about. And I'm so glad that we can, because it's such an important thing. And there's something out of project management that you can't adjust, what you don't measure.
And if you don't write stuff down, you have no way of gauging how you're feeling. And adjusting that for later. And I think that self-awareness is
Jennie: [00:11:47] yeah. Yeah. I agree. Absolutely.
John: [00:11:51] We were talking about you don't need, you don't need fancy stuff, but I've got to ask do you own fountain patents now? Of course I do.
[00:12:00] Jennie: [00:12:01] Of course I do. Yeah, I do. I am not a huge collector of fountain pens, but I have fountain patents. So I have my everyday pen that I love. I love the co Waco sports. I use those all the time. I've got, Oh man, they're great. Just like you take them out of the box and they're good to go. I just love that about them.
John: [00:12:21] Forget taking them out of the box and they're good to go. I had one sitting in a briefcase for two months with platinum, permanent blue in it. I pulled the thing out of my briefcase going, Oh, there's no way pull it out. It wrote beautifully right off the bat. So Coco sport for the win and
Jennie: [00:12:41] would totally for the win.
I love those pants. I have a little cocoa Lilliput too. I like those guys. I use that guy at work. My favorite vintage pen that I use all the time. It's a Parker, 51 with a gray body. That's
John: [00:12:54] something I still need to pick up. Oh
Jennie: [00:12:55] man, I am here to tell you. So that was my first fountain pen. I found it [00:13:00] at a garage sale and I, I bought it with a handful of other stuff.
Not knowing if it would work, but I was like, Oh, I just love the color. It's gray, like the fog of San Francisco. And I put ink in it and it was good to go. It was so great. Yeah. It just writes really smooth, super delicious. I would suggest one. And you can pick them up for not a million dollars online.
So that's cool.
John: [00:13:23] It's amazing how that first experience that. That experience, especially if you find a really good pen right out of the gate and you ink it up and you put it on paper and you're just thinking to yourself, what have I been writing with all these years?
Jennie: [00:13:39] Totally. No, I know. I know. And I, I don't like fussy fountain pens.
I'm a medium nib girl. I don't really like the fine nibs. So I do not want to have to struggle with it. And that's part of why I love the Quakers and the Parker 51, because yeah, it was just like easy street from the minute I eat it up. So that was cool. And then [00:14:00] my, I have my center, my pen of sentimentality is a couple of years ago.
My mom actually gave me my grandmother's red and black Schaffer fountain pen from the twenties and it has her name. Yeah. So those are my go-to fountain pens.
John: [00:14:14] Yeah. I've been asking friends and family about potential. Fountain pen finds within the family. Just try to look for that one.
And haven't struggled yet on that, but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.
Jennie: [00:14:29] I know. I love John's story about being handed his grandfather's fountain pen. That was just amazing because I was like, Hey, wait, that happened to me too. And I think those family stories really do happen if people know that you're into this kind of stuff that you're into stationary or into fountain pens, and you never know what's going to turn up and an auntie's attic
John: [00:14:50] and it's something where fountain pens have been around for so long.
And for such a long time, they were a status [00:15:00] symbol, especially for professionals. That was how you created your work. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, it was an intensely personal thing for people that you take a look back at. The advertisements from the forties and fifties, and architect nibs, and bookkeeping, nibs and accountant nibs and all of these different nibs and all these different pens, because they were so
Jennie: [00:15:24] personal.
Yeah. And even, I still, so one of my colleagues at work is super into fountain pens and she is just educated me so much about them in different inks and things. And, she's the kind of fountain pen collector who she will go to the pen show and, get the nibs specially ground.
You mentioned him actually in John's podcast,
John: [00:15:47] Mike . Yeah,
Jennie: [00:15:47] Yeah. Like the guru of, nib grinding and, absolutely. So specific and so personal, I think to the person,
John: [00:15:55] to the Mike is such a great guy that it's just so much [00:16:00] fun to sit there. And watch a master work like that.
And then to be able to have that for the rest of the time you have that pin of remembering the time with Mike and just how good his work is.
Jennie: [00:16:14] Yeah. He sounds amazing someday. I'll see him in action.
John: [00:16:20] You're you've got it right in your backyard. The San Francisco pen show got canceled this year, but hopefully next year we'll be back up and running.
Jennie: [00:16:29] I hope so.
John: [00:16:31] It's true. One of the things that I took away from the book good mail day is how much rubber stamps tend to play a part in that art form. And I just wanted to pick your brain about what kinds of things you've done with rubber stamps.
Jennie: [00:16:47] I love rubber stamps, and I guess what I would say is that I use rubber stamps a lot in the things that I make and send other people may not, or don't, again, mail art is really it really is [00:17:00] what you make it.
So some people really like collage. Some people really like cutting up. I'm trying to think of what they're called. Like some people like sending a femora out into the world. I find that, yeah, I do use a lot of rubber stamps. And part of the reason for that is because I don't draw very well. If a rubber stamp image of a cat or like a person's face really resonates with me, I'm going to get it and I'm going to use it a lot.
The kinds of imagery that I like, I'm definitely a weird, instead of cute person, longtime rubber stamp folks will know what I mean. When I say that I like things that look old, look vintage. I love. Hans. I love arrows that point. I love, like vintage printer set alphabets. I love abstract patterns and backgrounds and that kind of thing.
And for about five years, I actually had my own rubber stamp company. It was called red handed, rubber stamps. [00:18:00] And so I was designing the kinds of stamps that I really wished I could go out into the world and buy. And so there were a lot of mailer and postal related rubber stamps that I would do things like vintage, postage, cancels, things like a rubber stamp address, labels, images of mail, postal carriers, and mail men.
But I also, I really loved doing different holiday theme stamps. So I would do, like Halloween and Christmas, the holidays were really big. So I would always do I would roll out, seven different designs for Halloween. And
John: [00:18:34] then just, some people who would be totally on board with that.
Jennie: [00:18:37] It was I had for a long time, I wanted to figure out that process of designing and executing rubber stamps. And so in 2014, right after an event that I organized called X postal facto, which was a three-day mail art conference here in San Francisco. I said, you know what, the time is now, I'm going to make red handed rubber [00:19:00] stamps happen.
And so yeah, that project ran until 2019 and then I closed down the business. So I don't do the rubber stamps anymore, but. But it was great fun while I was doing
John: [00:19:10] it. Yeah. That reminds me of actually let writers Alliance also just recently closed their doors. And I was so happy with the fact that I was probably one of the last ones to get one of their custom seals of their custom stamps.
So I actually have a letter writers Alliance stamp with my my
Jennie: [00:19:37] nice, what I'm member number 13. That's how long I've been a mom.
John: [00:19:44] Isn't that crazy? That's super cool. So happy that you were able to get into the S the letter writing and the stamps and making your own making stamps until the point of creating your own [00:20:00] company to do that.
That, that level of creativity being able to step up to the plate is huge.
Jennie: [00:20:06] Thank you. Yeah. Yeah. I loved that project and I met amazing people while I was doing it. And yeah, it was super fantastic and it was one of those things that the rubber stamps were awesome. I wanted to know how to make them, I met amazing people and they what's cool is seeing people who are still using red handed, rubber stamps, they stamp things on their outgoing mail art, or I get mail or to my inbox that incorporates red handed, rubber stamps.
It's always a big treat to see that. Yeah.
John: [00:20:37] And you can correct me if I'm wrong on this, but it seems especially with the big manufacturers that a lot of them are going to more of the clear acrylic sets rather than the hand-carved like speedball stuff.
Jennie: [00:20:50] Yeah. So that when I was envisioning what red headed rubber would look like and the products, it was super important to me that it be.
[00:21:00] Red rubber with a wooden block. And that's the way I sold them a hundred percent get people all the time who were like, Hey, can you just sell me some unmounted rubber stamps? And I'm like, yeah, no, I don't. Nope. Sorry. It just doesn't make me as happy. Like it, it made me happy to send people the wooden blocks the stamps as a package.
John: [00:21:26] I've got a, I've got a couple of different styles of stamps and some of my favorites are the really big stamps. I'm like, you are where my drawing skills are rudimentary at best, mostly engineering scale stuff. But I love being able to stamp something and then sit down with coloring markers and color, the stamps
Jennie: [00:21:47] like watercolor pencil is your friend.
I just love it.
John: [00:21:50] Yeah. Yeah. And also I've been finding, and you can. Forgive me for using acrylic stamps on this, but I found some acrylic [00:22:00] stamps here recently that you can Mount to the clearer acrylic blocks. And they're actually a three color stamps. So you have one stamp, you lay down one color of the next stamp, lays down another color.
The other sample has done the last color and it's phenomenal to me that I'm actually able to have my own little printing process. Yeah, that's cool.
Jennie: [00:22:20] That's what that's I do love acrylic stamps for that. Like you can see through and you can get the registration just so tight and so good that, yeah, that's definitely a benefit of them.
John: [00:22:33] We had talked about earlier of just trying to get stuff into the mail and just trying to find whatever you can put a stamp on and getting that into the mail and it, to me, it begged the question. What are the most attempts you've had to make to get a piece of mail art through the postal service?
Jennie: [00:22:51] It's a good question.
I would say really only, ever two times, like I'll get things kicked back to me. So first of all, I have a [00:23:00] post office box. I have a PO box and where you live. I know, no I realized pretty early on that my volume of mail was going to be like large. So that's part of the reason why I got a PO box.
It was just easier for me. So I have a really good relationship with the employees at that particular branch. And also, I will say that other mail artists have PO boxes at this particular branch, which is the Haight street post office. So shout out to my pals at Haight St. James and crystal and duty, the employees they're really used to getting in, seen weird incoming and outgoing mail.
Coconuts with postage stamps attached to them and like cans of soup that have a return address label. And then, like collage postcards and letterpress printed, like thingamajigs. And so they're used to that and they're very [00:24:00] forgiving, which I just love them for until the end of time.
A lot of times I can walk up to the counter at the PO and I can say, Hey, first of all, how much can you weigh this? Can you let me know how much it would cost to send it? And so she'll, give me a price and I'll stick a bunch of stamps on there. And a lot of times I'll put on more postage than I know I will need.
That's one way to get it, get your mail through. If you're sending super wacky things, the first step is to cultivate a relationships, your envelope, your postal employees will work with you and not just I'll get in the back somewhere. The other thing I will sometimes do this is, like inch glyphs, mailer tips, extraordinary.
If I'm sending something super weird, maybe. Oh, so for example, I have one correspondent that he and I, it's almost like a challenge between the two of us to send the weirdest things ever. One time he sent me a giant stuffed [00:25:00] Teddy bears through the mail that had its address labeled tied around its neck.
The bear came through fine. So I actually sent him back like an equally weird stuffed animal, but I just put a ton of postage on it. Probably like 10 or $12. It wasn't heavy and it was not a sheet. It was maybe the size of a, it was bigger than a beanie baby, but it was like not.
Like a animal throw pillow or anything, it was kind
John: [00:25:31] of your prayer to the postal guards.
Jennie: [00:25:33] It was. And so I just stuck a bunch of postage on it. I put his address on it, but I left off my return address. And then I shoved it in a blue box. The postal carriers will do their best to deliver the mail to the address that exists if there is appropriate and sufficient postage on it.
That being said, yeah, maybe two times at the most I do, I get a [00:26:00] lot more stuff kicked back right now, even with the correct mailing address, even with a return address on it, things are really difficult for USBs right now. They don't have the sorting machine capabilities that they did even as recently as last month, staff is overtaxed and underserved.
Even if with the correct address, the correct zip code, the proper postage. I find in, my other correspondence of well, people that I correspond with find that yeah. A lot more stuff gets tossed back where it's just, I think a result of what's going on. It's not anybody. It's somebody's fault, but it's not the USBs as well
John: [00:26:40] back to even though you've had some stuff kicked back, but I think he gets back to 20 or your commandments. And I think that it's an important one that in this day and age where things have gotten so costly that don't be stingy with postage because these people have a hard enough job as it is.
And there's no reason to fight over them over a [00:27:00] 15 second. Yeah.
Jennie: [00:27:01] Surcharge. Yeah. Honestly, I, yeah, I a hundred percent agree. Just put more postage on than you think you'll need. And that's why when I take stuff up to the counter, if it's like an odd shape or not size, or it's a tiny little box or something like that, and they say, Oh, it's going to be like, Four 50.
It's just give me that $5 stamp. It's fine.
John: [00:27:19] So where we've talked a lot about getting stuff into the mail, but the most important part of getting stuff into the mail is creating stuff to put in the mouth. So I'd like to have you talk a little bit about what you would recommend for a traveling man.
Jennie: [00:27:33] Oh yeah. Sure, absolutely. When I was commuting a lot more, I would usually take a little stack of things with me. And so yeah, I have a few things you can buy really easily, at a dollar store or something, like a little pencil pouch. You may even have one that you're, that your child has cast off from school.
So I would always have a little pencil pouch that I would tuck into my purse, my [00:28:00] tote bag. And usually that pouch would have a pen pencil. An eraser, a Glouster, some postage, both postcard and regular first-class mail stamps. And that would be my super basic, like everyday commuting kit. Usually I would have all of my postcards and things addressed and ready to go so that I can just literally get on the bus or train, sit down and start filling, like writing a message to my mom or writing a message to my best friend or, whoever I had already addressed this postcard to.
So that was my basic commuter kit. But when I travel things, are there are other things I take in addition to that basic kids. So because when I'm traveling and I'm out in the world, I'm always trying to look and find and see what kinds of things can I pick up? What kinds of things can I use?
Can I incorporate, [00:29:00] can I turn into a postcard? Can I put it on the outside of an envelope? What do I see that I can like quickly or abstractly draw on the outside of an envelope, things like that. My traveling kit usually would have like double stick tape in it, as I find that sticks a little bit better, better than glue sticks.
Sometimes for certain things I would have. I like to carry those kind of waxy crayons that you can use for rubbings, because you can do like interesting textures on the side of a wall, or sometimes, you can find not necessarily I used to do a lot more like on the sidewalks and stuff, but now the sidewalks kind of gross me out.
So I I find that I'm doing stuff much more like on walls or windows or tree bar or, things like that, things that are like arm height, but I would also have tiny little ink pad. In my traveling kit and one or two of my favorite rubber stamps. A little more variety, a little more stuff I [00:30:00] can incorporate and add to as I'm on the move, moving through different city and town, looking for those mailboxes and post offices where I can mail things to my family and my friends.
John: [00:30:10] are two things that popped out when you were talking one was the idea of before you had mentioned vintage style stamps, and one of them I've seen coming back here recently. And I think they're just hilarious are like pre-made form stamps where it just says, here's something you need to remember and then leaves you a blank spot and then you'd leave it, like check boxes below that for what you need to check in where it almost looks like an old memo form.
And I think that'd be a fun thing to carry. Yeah. And then the other thing was that was actually one of my favorite things out of the book was keeping something to do rubbings with for a manhole covers or postal box Wars or those kinds of things. And it led me to asking the question, what kind of paper do you like using for that?
Jennie: [00:30:58] Oh [00:31:00] yes. So my, my favorite paper that I love to use for doing any sort of rubbings or also just like notebooks and journals, I love Mohawk super fine. So Mohawk is the company name and super fine is paper name. You can buy that paper and regimes really easily. So it's not, it's not super difficult to obtain.
And one of the things they have it doesn't come in colors, but what it does come in is. Various shades of white from to bright white. And you can, it comes in text weight, which is what I use. Usually like a 60 pound and it's really nice for fountain pens. So there's no bleed through there's no strike-through, which is part of why I love using it for my notebooks and journals, but you can also pick up a really good rubbing off of it, which is nice.
John: [00:31:51] I'm super excited about that one because the Mohawk brand, isn't something you hear tossed around in fountain pen circles. So I'm [00:32:00] really hoping I've got a scoop here.
Jennie: [00:32:05] I am happy to share with you.
John: [00:32:09] We're talking about before of capturing things in, like you said, even like an abstract drawing of somebody or something that you see. What would you consider you be your favorite tip or capturing those small moments in your life? Oh,
Jennie: [00:32:23] I would say always have a notebook with you because again, the words are really important.
I think we all have these tiny computers in our back pocket, so it's super easy to take a photo. So between the photos and then the notebook, I think those two things are the things that really, that I use all the time, all the
John: [00:32:44] time. Yep. And I completely agree on both counts. Having that little camera phone in my pocket has saved my butt so many times where you just take it out, take a picture of something and it acts as a reminder for you for later, [00:33:00] and then having a notebook where you can sit there and jot down a note for yourself and how much more those handwritten notes are effective for me.
Jennie: [00:33:12] Yeah, absolutely. And it's not like you need to be. Writing your entire life story while you're standing in the bus stop. I'll see like crazy wording on a sign or I'll think of, Oh man, I need to pick those up at the grocery store or, Oh yeah. I need to do that thing at work or write down the title of that book.
Like all of that stuff is just important daily information, it's taking the temperature of the water at any given time. And so when you refer back to those notes, it provides a really interesting snapshot of what you were thinking and how you were just like feeling that particular day.
I, the, I forgot to mention this, but the other thing I carry in my traveling kit is a date stamper. Because you can buy super small ones, just like little office Depot ones. And so I'm always just [00:34:00] date stamping the day that I'm writing down notes in my book or the day that I'm sending a postcard from the road or anything like that.
I date all of my mail, all of my outgoing correspondence I always have, but I think it's more important now than ever because things are running slow. So with the moving together, you they're running yeah. From a personal standpoint, running together from an USBs standpoint, running slow.
So like I received a piece of mail this week that was mailed on August 11th. And there's no reason in a usual time, it wouldn't have taken that long to get here from the East coast. There's just no way. I date everything because again, I think it's, I just think it's important for keeping track
John: [00:34:48] for sure.
Absolutely. And I've seen that even in the pen addict, Slack of where they're talking about snail mail and some snail mail is more snail paced than others. [00:35:00] Yeah. Yeah. I've seen those stories where somebody sends something out and two months later it
Jennie: [00:35:04] arrives. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. I received something that came to me a year and a half later, actually.
So yeah, this is a great story. So my correspondent, who I referred to earlier, who sent me the Teddy bear, he sent me a piece of mail and this was, probably three years ago now. And I go to the post office one morning, crystal comes to the front counter and she says, Oh Jenny, we found this for you.
We're really sorry. And I was like, how come? I'm really sorry, really? Sorry. So she hands me this thing. And it's literally a styrofoam brick. It's like a little brick of styrofoam. Like you would find in, like any electronics box where you pulled the thing out and there's all that like packaging and wrapping.
So does that count
John: [00:35:55] as recycling?
Jennie: [00:35:56] Here's the thing they thought it did. And so they, it [00:36:00] was addressed to me. It had postage on it and everything, but in the back room, it had been flipped over in such a way and set on the floor that they couldn't see that it was a piece of mail addressed to me. And so it sat there for a year and a
John: [00:36:14] half.
Yeah. Tell somebody who went to sweep up the corner and realized that was a piece of it. Yeah.
Jennie: [00:36:19] A piece of mail art. Yes. So that was my mail from James
John: [00:36:27] you've provided me an absolutely wonderful segue for this, that a particular form of mail art. As I understand it comes from a practice I believe it's referred to as gleaming.
So could you explain what bleeding
Jennie: [00:36:40] For me, gleaning has more to do with the collecting of materials and supplies for the kind of work that I do. The kinds of things that I do a lot of collage. Like I mentioned, I do a lot of rubber stamps. I make a lot of additions of things to send out to people.
So I am always on the hunt. I am always gleaning and like [00:37:00] sifting and like picking things up and, thinking to myself, could I put a stamp on this? Is it interesting? Would someone like to get this? Do I know anyone who would like to get this? And so for me, yeah, gleaning is more about the process of collecting materials and supplies and thinking about how these things would go together in an interesting way so that I could then send it out to someone in the world.
John: [00:37:24] You haven't another screening item, which is, does this look like recycling?
Jennie: [00:37:27] I was just going to say, there are a lot of people who will only like as mail, they will only work with materials that have been upcycled. Whether that's like a beer coaster, whether that's a cereal box that they've cut apart, whether it's.
A dictionary or an encyclopedia that they're repurposing. A lot of folks, there are a lot of people working in this way that will only use things that they can recycle or have been recycled.
John: [00:37:55] Oh, you said something in there that struck a chord for me, that [00:38:00] one of the things I end up tending to collect when I'm out traveling are beer coasters.
That's one of my favorite things to collect on trips. I've
Jennie: [00:38:09] received many beer coasters from many people from all around the world.
John: [00:38:14] That's a sign of a healthy society.
Jennie: [00:38:19] It is absolutely.
John: [00:38:22] One question I had for you is with all of the different things that you do in terms of mail art. When we're just talking about normal snail mail, what is your favorite image?
Jennie: [00:38:34] Oh, if I'm sending a letter in setting an envelope. Yeah. Rubber stamps, hands down.
John: [00:38:40] There you go. Absolutely. Yeah. I'm on board with you on that one mentioning rubber stamps. And this I'm going to ask this because this is a matter of confusion for myself is you've got all the hand carved rubber stamps, but then there are also, there's the, there's this other [00:39:00] genre of stamps called artists stamps.
And it seems like there could be some overlap there, but then there's not. Could you describe the difference between hand carved stamps and artists stamps? Oh,
Jennie: [00:39:10] absolutely. So hand-carved rubber stamps often are carved either with an Exacto knife or with linoleum cutting tools. Usually people will carve in a racer or what's known as a soft block.
Sometimes hand-carved rubber stamps are it's also that process is also called soft block carving. And the idea behind that is that you would carve yourself like a rubber stamp, but it often looks more like. Oh, a little woodcut print or a Leno. And then you would ink that up and print it in the same way that you would a rubber stamp.
So that's what we mean. When we talk about hand-carved rubber stamps or soft block, carving artists stamps are an entirely different creature. So artists stamps are something that often time, oftentimes mail artists or people who are interested in [00:40:00] stamps stamp collectors, or are interested in design will design.
And they are artists stamps often take their inspiration from postage stamps, whether current or vintage, and they are postage. And I say that using air quotes that are unique in specific and individual to the person who designed them to the artist or the creator. So artists stamps, you cannot use them for postage.
You cannot use them to send mail through the mail. They are purely decorative, they're purely artistic. And a lot of times people will issue again in your air quotes, commemorative artists stamps to reflect a, like an important day or to celebrate something wacky or, they just love good design and want to design something interesting in the shape of a postage stamp.
There's some amazing artists stamp makers out there [00:41:00] working in this particular format right now. I would say that some of my favorite inspiration folks, Carl Chu is one of the greats and a banana. Also one of the greats Cracker Jack kid, Chuck Welch, phenomenal, just. Awesome work. Michael Thompson, who doesn't do as many artists stamps anymore, but his work just, I love and adore super political, super great in.
So I would say that artists stamps are like philately adjacent and that's where they draw a lot of their inspiration. It is not uncommon that stamp collectors are often artists stamp makers and vice versa.
John: [00:41:45] And again, correct me if I'm wrong on this, but it was my understanding that as artists stamps, most of the time, they actually do put some kind of a denomination on there.
Just so that it looks like postage, even though it's it's
Jennie: [00:41:58] individual to every artist I [00:42:00] would say. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I like, I know plenty of people who do, and I know plenty of people who don't.
John: [00:42:05] The one comment that I, that came to mind when you were talking about Michael Thompson is there are only so many orange stamps you can make.
So maybe that's why he's not doing it so much. Now
Jennie: [00:42:14] there's only so many orange. Oh my gosh. Yeah. I know. Have you seen his work? Do you know his word? I got, so he was working primarily during the Reagan and Bush areas and he and his partner at the time, his artistic partner at the time who was also a Michael, they actually had a show in Chicago that got shut down by the secret service because their stamps were so political and so controversial.
Yeah. Nice. Yeah. You can find there's a great monograph of their work. The exhibit was called access of evil and you can find that book. You can still find it online. Yeah, there were is great, but yeah, there's plenty of artists stamp makers that I just. I [00:43:00] just love and they're doing amazing work, there's lots of really great support the U S artists stamps that are happening right now.
So it's a very active community for sure.
John: [00:43:10] Oh, that's awesome. That's definitely something that within the letter writing community, it will be of interest for sure. Yeah. In your book, you were talking about mail art and one of the big statements that you had in there is no rejections, no returns documentation for all.
And this is again, just for clarification for me, just because I don't feel like I have my head completely wrapped around the concept, but with the mail art, is it in your opinion, an art exhibit?
Jennie: [00:43:41] It's a great question. Actually. I think when we talk about this idea of no rejections, no returns and documentation, for all, that is a statement that you would put in a call for entries.
If you are putting together a mail art show, or for example, you're doing a mail [00:44:00] art scene, or you're doing some sort of big Miller project where you are asking people to send work into you. A good example of this would be, when I first got started for real and mail art again in air quotes, I said, you know what, I'm going to do a scene and it's going to be called red letter day, and I'm going to do this thing.
And I'm going to do a call for entries. And every piece of work that I receive in my mailbox related to the scene, I'm going to put a picture of it in the Xen. And every participant will get a copy of the scene. So all work was accepted for the scene. None of the work was returned to the artist, which means it all.
I have it all. It's for my mail art archive and then documentation for all is. Is the thank you. You're going to get a copy of the Xen in exchange for sending me a piece of your amazing work. Nowadays what you'll see if people are having Miller chose, [00:45:00] a lot of times you don't get physical documentation anymore.
You don't get a mailing list of everyone who participated. You don't receive ezine or, a photo CD or anything like that. A lot of documentation these days is online. I'll post a picture of your thing on my blog, or, I'm creating a Facebook group and everything is going to be housed there or whatever.
So I have opinions about that, but documentation has changed and evolved over the last 15 to 20 years. That's really what that no rejections, no returns documentation for all means that phrase applies mostly to Miller exhibits or projects again, where there's a large group of people. You're asking them to give you something.
You should give them something in return.
John: [00:45:46] Very good. Is it safe to say that good mail day was a mail art project or exhibit of sorts? Yes.
Jennie: [00:45:54] Yeah. I would say that. And we we did do documentation for everyone who helped us or [00:46:00] participated in the books. Many people said, Hey, can I get a free copy of the book?
And alas, that is not possible or realistic. But what we did do was we created a Xen of photos, seen in color for participants, and then we made a special merit badge for everybody who had contributed or participated in the good mail day project. And we sent those out all of our participants.
John: [00:46:24] That's super cool. That's, it's so neat to have somebody willing to put the time and effort into creating a keepsake or something like that.
Jennie: [00:46:34] That's it's really, it's a big part of the mail art ethos. We're having an exchange here. And so if you send me something, I will send you something back.
And that is part of the relationship that's being built over time. It's always been that way, mailer, it was originally started as this idea of circumventing the gallery system because, a handful of artists working all across the globe were like, Hey, we're getting shut out in the cold here and [00:47:00] we want to do something that's more democratic.
It's more equal opportunity that we can send to each other that we can do for ourselves. And I think you really see that still today, which is one of the great things about, participating in this network of people who are making incenting things globally, all across the world. It's incredible.
It's incredible because you realize, how generous, how smart, how caring. How funny, knowledgeable, insightful people are. And so it's good to be, I don't know about anyone else, but I like being reminded of that these days, because sometimes everyone that I correspond with I'm so thankful and I'm so grateful to them.
Absolutely. A hundred percent.
John: [00:47:45] Yeah. And gratitude is something that really can help us get through the darkest times. And it's nice. Like I said, it's definitely nice to have a reminder of that your faith in humanity has a baby. [00:48:00] Absolutely.
Jennie: [00:48:02] Absolutely. Because it's just like a non-stop barrage of, they said these other people said, and it's people, aren't, I'm an optimist.
I like to believe that people are in here in Lincoln. My mailbox shows me that all the time.
John: [00:48:16] That's it? Yeah. Feel it, people be people, then people are good if you. Tell people that they need to be part of an organization organizations are where things stand, fall off the blocks. Yeah.
Jennie: [00:48:28] Yeah,
John: [00:48:28] exactly. One of the things I took away from good mail day is the fact that I'm not really, I don't consider myself to be that much of an artist, but there are an awful lot of things about good mail day that I really want to incorporate into my letter writing. And I've started doing things like taking pictures and then printing little four by sixes so that it'll fit in the envelope to go along.
And what kind of recommendations or advice would you give to people that aren't necessarily wanting to get [00:49:00] like fully into the mail art scene, but at the same time, need some of these fun ideas to help kickstart their corresponds habits?
Jennie: [00:49:08] Oh yeah. I would say start small and start with a group of people or friends that, Want to actually exchange mail because I think what happens is sometimes folks are like, I want to get into this Miller thing.
And so they start writing to, their family or friends who receive these amazing things, but then the family or friends don't really know how to reciprocate or like what it means or the reason why. And so I hear it consistently where people are like I wrote to people, but people, they just don't run me back.
And so I think it's important to initially if you're like, I want to make interesting visual mail or I want to, write letters or a I'm interested in having a pen pal it's, it's interesting to stack the deck in your favorite. You should definitely do that because if you spend time writing a three or four page letter to someone and you mail it off [00:50:00] and you never hear anything back, it's pretty discouraging, pretty fast.
I would suggest start small and go from there. I think
John: [00:50:09] that's a great piece of advice. And to me, it sounds an awful lot, like folks that want to get into this, you really need to find a tribe to help you out with, and this is going to be a shout out to Brad Dowdy and the pen addict, because he has been so good at tribal building and building that community.
And he actually has a pan-ethnic Slack that you can join. If you go onto Brad's pen addict website, you'll look up his contact email. You can actually request access into the Penn attic Slack, and there is a snail mail community in that Slack that is highly active, highly creative. And you can just go in and take a look.
And there are always people saying, Hey I'm new to the group. Who should I mail something to? And the answer is going to be [00:51:00] inevitably, look at the people who are posting a lot in here. These are the people who get back to you. And admittedly, there are going to be people in there that are going to say, yes, I've had this one fermenting for a while.
And I finally gotten back around to it. But these are folks that are genuinely invested in snail mail and really want to be part of that community, find a tribe. And hopefully that's a nice starting point for you, but yeah, I agree with you find a tribe.
Jennie: [00:51:28] Yeah, absolutely. And I I'm so glad you said that because it is, you can build that tribe really easily.
I think sometimes, you mentioned previous, sometimes people get wrapped up in. Oh, my gosh. I need to, like I have to have this many people, we have to have this like super specific meeting spot or time or whatever. And it's really, you really don't you just need to talk to some people that, you like and love and who might be interested in writing to you or sending cool mail to you.
And so [00:52:00] in 2011, actually here in San Francisco, I founded the San Francisco correspondence co-op and that kind of evolved out of people, contacting me and saying, Hey, look like by that time, good mail. They had already been out for two years, but people were like, we would love to have some sort of monthly meeting or something where we could get together where we could hang out with like-minded folks.
We can talk about what we're doing, or even just what's inspiring us. What we're up to again now? We're about a group that's we're about 40 people strong. We started in a tiny little rental space at a local library with about 10 people. But those 10 people were so excited at that first meeting.
It was like how verbal the energy in the room, because, it's you ha you, you meet those 10 other people or those three other people. And it's, there's so much that you just don't even have to explain. It's like you already speak [00:53:00] a common language. You can just jump straight to the stuff that inspires you so much that you're excited about.
You can start thinking about projects, about stuff you want to do. Like mail, you want to create stuff you want to send those initial sparks, have now evolved into something that is a good solid group. Next year will be our 10th year throughout pandemic and everything we've taken our meetings online, which was a new thing for a lot of people.
We realized that it was crucial to keep in touch and to keep not only the momentum of the group, but also keep connecting with each other. And, we still connect with each other through the mailbox. That's one of the really important parts of our monthly meetings is that we have a sign up sheet, everyone who attends the meeting, if they want, they can sign their name and address.
And then that mailing list gets sent out to everyone who signs the list. So you can keep in touch and create mailer with the people that you know, that way, so many times [00:54:00] co-op members have told me, these are my people, these are my friends. Now. I thought there wasn't anyone like me doing this thing.
I thought I was like the one person in my neighborhood or workshop or whatever, doing this, but. I've just met 30 other people who do this now, and it's amazing. And to be able to have that kind of community and have that kind of connection is so great. Super great. But then it also has grown into other correspondents co-ops in other cities, we have a sister co-op in Portland, other letter writing and mail art groups, and co-ops have popped up in places like Bridget sound and Boulder on the East coast.
New York had a letter writing societies. Seattle has one. So it's interesting to see like how things are popping up, moving forward and then evolving and growing.
John: [00:54:50] Yeah. And I completely agree with that, that you've got to get out and you got to talk to folks and it's so much easier to have that [00:55:00] conversation when you're not stopping every two minutes to explain what that meant when you're talking to somebody.
I think just because I live here in golden, Colorado, and it's a group that I need to get more involved with, but the Colorado correspondence coalition has been going. I'd love to put some more steam behind those folks and then what they're doing, the basic part of it. And what I'm hearing from you with the tribal building and stuff is an adage that I heard a long time ago.
And it's funny how much it sticks is. Just if you want mail, you have to send mail. If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.
Jennie: [00:55:41] Yeah, it's true. It's so simple. And yet, it's a two way street. Absolutely a hundred percent. And no, if you keep sending and you keep not receiving anything back, keep searching because those people are out there, they exist.
And there are plenty of, there are places [00:56:00] online that you can connect with other people to make and send mail Ari. There's the , which is the international union of mail artists. It's I jokingly refer to it as the Facebook for mail artists. Like you said, a profile, you can talk about what you're interested in.
You can join a bunch of groups, that's one great place to start letter writers Alliance. They just closed their doors at the end of last month, but I believe they are still going to have their pen pal part of the site active. There's lots of ways to connect with people outside of your own, friend group
John: [00:56:35] really.
Yeah. So with a letter writers Alliance, I can actually speak to this one pretty clearly that they've actually they've shut everything down. Now. There are no new membership and their store sadly also shut down. Cause there were some really fun stamps in there. It's definitely sad about that. That was one thing I try to give folks a heads up about during my primer episodes is [00:57:00] letting them know that store was shutting down.
But sadly, and once that one's gone,
Jennie: [00:57:05] I wasn't sure if they were still keeping the pen pal active or not.
John: [00:57:09] Yeah. I don't know how much activity they're going to have in. And I know that all of the pen pal connections that were generated all of that still up and going, but I don't know if there's anything left on the website and I know all them new memberships were closed.
Couple of last questions for you. Just questions I ask everybody, what is one thing you wish people knew about mail art?
Jennie: [00:57:35] That it can be anything you want it to be
John: [00:57:39] and sometimes anything you needed to be
Jennie: [00:57:41] as, right? Yes, exactly.
John: [00:57:46] Are there any artists out there that are doing just amazing work that the stationary lovers that are listening to, to know
Jennie: [00:57:52] about?
Oh yeah, I have sure. I'm happy to share. So first of all, I want to give a giant shout out to my [00:58:00] two current favorite artists, stamp makers, Sally Wurlitzer. She's here in San Francisco, a really beautiful stuff. A lot of times abstract, or she loves to use old popular science magazines. She also does amazing collage work.
And then also a Maureen stories. She has this awesome series of artists stamps called her Storico women of Oakland, California. And she's doing commemorative artists, stamp sheets of women who are from Oakland. So an a cool breath. She did Gertrude Stein really beautifully designed stamps.
Gina is another one of my favorite mailer folks right now. She does a lot of political and activist, mail art, a lot of sending and receiving. She also one of her projects that she's taken under her wing, she works with the smiles for seniors project, which operates out of Florida. And I believe Michigan, that organization collects cards, handwritten cards and letters [00:59:00] for seniors and laces them in care facilities.
So Gina runs, she manages that for our co-op. So we're always collecting cards for seniors in that way. I also love the work of RF coat he's in Montreal. He's up in Canada and he does this amazing assembling scene. Hold circular one 32. So mail artists can send, in addition, he has parameters around size and shape, but you can send an addition of 25 little things to him.
And then he collects everything from everybody, all these different people who mail them into him and assembles them all together into a Xen and then sends that Xen out to contributing participants. So those are a few folks whose work that I just love. And they've been around working in this genre and this medium for awhile, but I would also, I also want to thank my mentors as well.
People who inspire me still [01:00:00] and who really just welcomed me into this scene in with open arms. When I first started out as a super newbie, Anna banana was a big one. She's in Canada. And for a long time, she did a newsletter called the banana rag. Some people. Many people have seen her work because she's the person who did the perforations for the Griffin and Sabine books for Chronicle.
I would also say that Catherine Bennett in Ohio, she's really wonderful Fluxus artist, artist stamp maker, and mail artist. So knowledgeable about the history of mailers and also very generous with her knowledge and sharing that Chuck Welch very much the same check has the eternal mailer archive that he recently it's been acquired by the archives of American art.
And Chuck wrote this excellent book that people can download as a PDF called the eternal network. And I would recommend that book heartedly to anybody who's interested in learning more about the [01:01:00] history of mail art, because Chuck wrote one of the original books on it and is also just incredibly generous soul with his knowledge.
Carl chew the same. Carl is in Seattle. He organized an event a few years ago, an artist stamp event that was based on your Philatelic listeners will know PEX is he organized this thing in Seattle, it was a tongue in cheek thing called RPX, which he touted as the a R P of artists stamp makers, meeting Carl in person for the first time.
He'd been my heroes for a long time, and then meeting him just, he was so full of, such a generous person, very generous of spirit and time in his work is just, it will totally knock your socks off. So triangle press, that's his artist stamp, press name. So those are some of the folks that I love that I admire that have [01:02:00] mentored me and that I'm eternally grateful to because, without them, and without their work, I.
Be floundering and,
My, my work would look far different if I didn't know these people, if I didn't call them my friends, if I didn't correspond with them.
John: [01:02:14] Oh, that is outstanding. That is so nice to know that community is active. And like you said, has a level of mentorship beforehand, and now they've got mentors in place like you, and that the movement is moving forward, even though we're seeing things changing towards more, more digital.
I think we're starting to see that backlash of trying to get more analog again. So it's always nice to see that there's a group of mentors there waiting for are enthusiastic to come into this role. Yeah,
Jennie: [01:02:48] absolutely. I agree. It's really inspiring for me. And it's fantastic. Ready to welcome all the new kids onto the field.
Cause it's a big wide world and we [01:03:00] can we can all play together. That's for sure.
John: [01:03:02] Mentioning mentorship and finding you out on the internets. As I understand it, the website is red letter day xen.com. And if I remember right, that is also your handle on Instagram.
Jennie: [01:03:15] Yeah. So I'm way more active on Instagram these days.
I don't write the blogs so much anymore, so yeah. People can find me on Instagram, a red letter, Daisy. That's the best place for now, but yeah, my post office box is always open. That address is find-able online through the blog, through the website.