Post Script: Women of Letters’ Marieke Hardy

Meet Marieke Hardy, co-founder of the live series Women of Letters. Along with fellow Aussie writer Michaela McGuire, the duo created an intimate show that has placed everyone from notable actresses to what Marieke likes to call “dark horses” on stage with their missives. Here, the self-proclaimed writer to “anybody and everybody” shares about a special postcard project, legendary Australian feminists and why you won’t be able to download the show’s podcast (and why that’s a good thing).

Michaela and Marieke

Michaela and Marieke

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I was a voracious letter writer in my 20s. I would write to anybody and everybody: Politicians, passerby, the company who made my favourite lipstick. I liked to write thank you cards; I felt there were too many complaint letters in the world. (To everybody who received a weird ‘I really love your muesli!’ card from me in the 90’s, you’re welcome!) These days I have lots of secret postcard projects, and obviously Women of Letters means we have to keep the flame alive!

How did Women of Letters come to be and why do you think so many high profile women are jazzed about participating?
Michaela and I met in 2009 at a young writers festival in Australia. There were a lot of incredible women speaking on panels and we became inspired to put together an event that showcased female voices—mixing more high-profile women with what we called the ‘dark horses’… brilliant poets, singers, writers, artists, who may not have a huge commercial profile.

We threw a few different ideas around, but as writers ourselves we kept coming back to the notion of ‘letters’. There’s something intensely personal about the act of writing a letter, and we’ve found a huge intimacy that has developed between reader and audience at our events.

We held our first show in Melbourne in March 2010 and have toured consistently since then. Along with our regular monthly events in Melbourne and New York City, we’ve toured Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Indonesia and all around Australia. We never dreamed it would get so big. We just released our fifth book (a collection of pieces from live shows) through Penguin. Wild!

airmail book

What do you enjoy most about the show?
The thing I’m proudest of is that we never, ever record, video or podcast our events. We were firm about this from the show’s beginning, and while there has been pressure from outside sources to make recordings of our events available (particularly when they sell out and people can’t get tickets!), we are fiercely protective of our readers.

Audiences worldwide have been very supportive of the ‘safe space’ we’ve created, and I honestly think (and know from people telling us) that women have stood on our stages and shared some very deep and raw thoughts for the sole reason that the show is not recorded. Edie Falco’s piece at our NYC show in March 2014 was an incredibly stirring work. She told us the only reason she did it was because she knew it existed only in that room, for those people, at that moment. In a society where people can’t have a meal without taking a photo of it and uploading it, we think we’ve created something very special. The chance to hear a story you may never hear again.

What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
Oh well there are two. One is the moment of placing the correspondence in the postbox. I always kiss my mail before it goes in, to help it on its way. And obviously when you’re sifting through your mail and see that amongst the dour-looking bills there’s a colourful piece of handwritten love for you!

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
I’d say my hero Aline Kominsky Crumb, though I recently received an email from her (asking after her to do WoL) and my life was totally made. As a pen pal it’s hard to go past Dorothy Parker. Can you imagine getting a letter from her? The only bad thing would be the pressure of trying to come up with your wittiest one-liners when it came time to reply.

To whom do you most often write?
My boyfriend and I have a postcard project that we started the year we got together, 2011. Every June we write a postcard to each other, every day for the whole month. The postcards go to a PO Box and we collect them. We’re entering our fifth year of doing it and we’ve still never read them! I think one day we’ll wallpaper a whole room with them and track the giddying roller coaster of our love affair.

Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
I wrote David Sedaris fan mail back in the 90’s and he sent a personalised letter back. Typewritten, before he got a computer. I was so taken by his kindness.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Colour and craft! I like to draw and paint and stick stuff all over my correspondence. People who receive my mail know they’re getting something from me. It’s like a ticker tape parade in an envelope.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
In Australia there are a lot of weird series to do with rural development and sporting heroes. The 2011 Australian Legends series for feminists Advancing Equality of Women was a favourite, though.

australian-legends-stampsWhat do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
God, this is a depressing question. I feel like I’m shouting myself hoarse trying to make people remember the romanticism of sending things in the post. It’s such a generous act, a patient one. Think of all the letters in a shoebox we’ve kept for years…stained with wine, tears, alive with the fragrance of a teenage love. You don’t get that in an email. I can’t think yet of what classic correspondence will look like in twenty years’ time—I just hope there’ll BE some.

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Personalized Profile: A New York Lettra Love Story

We love receiving pictures of our customers’ personalized stationery—it’s the reason we created the Personalized Profile feature—and so it was a visual delight to open Steve Ono’s email recently. Steve works for family-owned print shop Japan Printing and Graphics in New York City, and, like many print shops, they love our Lettra paper.

If you’re not familiar with Lettra, it’s our signature letterpress stock. We like to say Lettra and letterpress printing go together like Fred and Ginger. It’s 100% cotton, and the soft-yet-sturdy, textured composition is positively divine to the touch. When the letterpress machine makes its impression, we’re pretty sure fireworks explode.

Below are a few of the lovely business card designs Steve shared with us as well as his thoughts on Lettra and the importance of one’s business card choice.

olivia-business-cardsPearl White Lettra letterpress printed in black ink.

“The delicate texture and feel of the Lettra stock is incredibly unique and unmistakable. People absolutely love the paper because it feels so soft and textured, almost as if it were textile. Secondly, the Lettra stock allows for deep indentations when the using letterpress printing. The softness of the paper allows the indentations from the letterpress to be considerably deeper than any other paper that we use. This amplifies the effect of letterpress printing and also adds a more visible dimension to the business cards. This paper is indispensable for the type of work that we do.”
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Post Script: Publetters’ Michael McGettigan and Nestor Torres

Meet Michael McGettigan and Nestor Torres, founders of Publetters. The name suggests exactly what one might think: letter writing while enjoying a pint (or two). Here, the two share their thoughts on a certain cherished letter to a Philadelphia policeman, bi-lingual correspondence and the wonderful moment that is “the turn.”

pub letters nestor and michael

Organizers Michael and Nestor. Photo courtesy of Maria Pouchnikova.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
Michael: Oh, we’ve written letters since grade school in my family—not a lot, but regularly. In the past ten years, as email has become just like another task, letters have become special again for me and for the people I write to. Continue reading

Post Script: Snail Mail Cafe’s Sarah Bentley

Meet Sarah Bentley, founder of pop-up coffee and correspondence spot Snail Mail Café. The Brooklyn resident’s goal is to one day open a permanent space where letter writers can take pen to paper—and indulge in an ice cream cone (or two). Here, Sarah talks to us about blank cards, commemorative stamps and how letters are a lot like (good) food.

sarah bentley  Continue reading

Personalized Profile: A Dallas Darling

We may be biased, but we like to think our customers have impeccable taste. So, it’s only natural that we would want to showcase the exquisite personalized stationery they create for their epistolary wardrobe. Dallas resident Beverly Hicks (and mother of our very own financial director) chose an engraved hand-drawn monogram in medium gold ink on an ecru correspondence card. She paired it with our lively and elegant Golden Swirl envelope lining.

“I have adored Crane stationery forever,” said Mrs. Hicks. “Their gold engraving hits the top of my list.”

engraved monogram personalized stationery

We’d love to feature your Crane stationery in our Personalized Profile series! Please email submissions@crane.com to be considered.

Post Script: Designer John Segal

His sketching table in the New York City Crane office wasn’t even warm before our new head designer, John Segal, was tasked with bringing four new collections for our boxed line to life. Flights of Fancy features two-pass engraved motifs inspired by all things that reach for the stars; Explorers, engraved in gold on ecru stock, pays homage to the 450th birthday of Galileo; the engraved and embossed Vintage Lace is presented in a palette of vibrant hues; and Tools of the Trade is letterpress printed on our coveted Lettra paper.

Here, the avid cyclist and 4 p.m. chocolate fiend talks to us about inspiration, the joy of being delighted and why he’s particularly excited about a recent delivery from China.

john segal

Describe the person who would love these collections.
The Crane customer, in my mind, is someone who loves to be delighted. It could be by an exquisitely engraved hummingbird or a lovely gold lined envelope.
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Post Script: Modern Day Snail Mail’s Cristina Vanko

cristina vankoAccording to her bio, Cristina Vanko is a “designer, idea person, visual storyteller, printer, letterer, illustrator, data visualizer and an aspiring art director.” For one week, she was the girl “texting” using ink. After discovering her father’s old calligraphy pen, Vanko fell in love with writing words that glided across the paper in lovely flourishes. So, she decided that for seven days she would only “text” her friends with hand-written messages. The result was visually and socially extraordinary. Here, Vanko talks about her snail mail experiment, correspondence as an artform and her father’s delightfully creative envelope addressing.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
My dad would always send snail mail to me when I went off to college and decorate the envelope with silly stickers and interesting type, but it wasn’t until I was taking classes in all the different art areas at school until I got really interested in the epistolary world.

Although I had been interested in art at a very young age, at the beginning of my undergraduate career my understanding of art had not yet been developed to think that art could be more than a painting or drawing. But when I was at Indiana University—Bloomington, I came across some really inspiring printmaking graduate students who helped me fully understand what the definition of art is and what it could be.

Kristin Carlson’s MFA thesis, Large Letters, Small Signs, was when I truly fell in love with mail and mail art. It was then when I discovered how you could really push the boundary of surface, type and technique. I remember speaking with her when she was screen-printing this piece and she explained to me that in art school you spend so much time with your work that you miss out on relationships with people.

Not only did I see her thesis as an interesting way to send mail but also I saw her thesis as a good way to share her talent with people she cared about. After being introduced to mail art in such an extraordinary and beautiful way, I became more aware what I sent through the mail.

Tell me about your Modern Day Snail Mail project.
I resurrected my dad’s old calligraphy pen and I was immediately stunned with the range of line thickness that the pen could achieve. After texting some doodles to friends, I decided to send handwritten messages to people for that next week. I wanted to create my own modern day version of “snail mail.”

My rules for this type of experiment were simple: Create handwritten text messages for seven days, i.e. no using the keyboard on my phone to send a message. I wrote out my message on paper and then I snapped a photo to send as a text message. What started as an experiment to improve and learn more calligraphy quickly became an interesting social experiment all together. Not only did I learn a lot about calligraphy, I learned a lot about myself, my friends and technology.

modern day snail mail

modern day snail mail text messages

Why do you enjoy writing letters and/or correspondence?
I appreciate how it’s a more genuine and personal way of creating and/or maintaining conversation with a person. The physical pieces are elements to add to your shared story with a specific person, so it’s interesting to see how your relationship unfolds in a tangible way. Also, I’ve been working on more digital projects as a designer so it’s a nice way to revisit and maintain my analog roots.

What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
I enjoy the final step of the process—constructing and embellishing what contains the message whether it be an envelope, box, etc. Since it’s the first thing you see, I want the recipient to know that this isn’t an ordinary piece of mail.

envelope mail art

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
I’d love to start conversations with my ancestors to ask about their stories and to see their handwriting. I have noticed similarities in handwriting among my family members and it’d be interesting to see if there was an evolution involving handwriting style.

To whom do you most often write?
I mostly write to my friends and family, and by write, I mean that I mostly send mail art. After graduating college, my friends are sprawled out all over the country, so I like to send mail art and postcards to friends every chance I have some free time.

Unfortunately, I have noticed it becomes a one-way street. Luckily, I have a couple of good friends from undergraduate with which we consistently send mail art back and forth. My one friend and I give each other challenges to push ourselves, so we try to master a new skill or learn something new when relaying our message.

mail art

Can you describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received?
Besides from visually intriguing letters, simple handwritten letters that reveal your most genuine thoughts and feelings about someone make for some of the best letters I’ve ever received. There’s nothing more personal than handwriting when truly expressing yourself.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Knowing that someone wanted to fill a blank page with their a message versus picking out something reconstructed and/or only requires a signature. The extra effort of a physical letter is refreshing.

What makes your correspondence distinct?
My dad literally pushes the envelope with the address alone. Wherever I’ve lived, he’s always figured out a new way to construct an address by using city nicknames, spelling things out phonetically, etc. It surprises me every time I receive a letter that the post office figured out a way to decode the address. Naturally, I picked up the habit of crafting creative addresses and have been applying it to my mail.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think classic correspondence will continue to become rare, but I can only hope that it will evolve into something new—even if that means digitally. While today people are more connected than ever, receiving a personal email could seem like a rarity. Sometimes I know that I get tricked into thinking that liking, commenting or re-tweeting means that someone cares when really it takes little effort to do such things. I could only hope there will be a way to digitally differentiate correspondence and make it more personal.

Have a question for Cristina or know someone who should be featured in Post Script? Contact our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

Post Script: Stationery Trends Founder Sarah Schwartz

Next year, Stationery Trends magazine will celebrate its fifth anniversary, a statement to the perseverance of the people who cherish the art of handwritten correspondence. For the magazine’s founding editor, Sarah Schwartz, stationery and letters were a natural extension of a feisty, book-fueled imagination. Here, the former summer camp letter writer extraordinaire talks about pen pals, lunch box notes and why we should think of Abraham Lincoln the next time we’re angry with someone.

stationery trends founder sarah schwartz

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
To me, writing letters and corresponding is a natural extension to the world of reading. From the time I learned to read at age four, I have loved entering and creating imaginary or past worlds. A great letter is just that, really — a little glimpse into another very personal world.

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Post Script: Nancy Sharon Collins, Author of “The Complete Engraver”

Next month, graphic designer and engraving expert extraordinaire Nancy Sharon Collins will publish The Complete Engraver, an informative and elegant homage to the classic art. Seeing as how said classic art and our paper go together like Fred and Ginger, we thought Collins a perfect addition to our Post Script Q&A series. Here, the former New Yorker (and current Louisianan) shares stories of her parents’ notes, a New Orleans estate filled with paper and a small stack of treasured love letters.

When did your interest in social stationery engraving begin?
1976 during graduate school at the Hartford Art School. I was introduced to Lehman Brothers in New Haven and I fell in love with commercial engraving: going on press knocks my socks off; I love the smell of ink and paper and the sound of small presses (metal against metal, fly wheels, iron and steel.)

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Post Script: Calligrapher Ashantai Yungai

When it comes to projects of the epistolary variety, calligrapher Ashantai Yungai, founder of Distinctive Inscriptions, isn’t one to back down from a challenge. So, when a bride asked him to pen 1,000 envelopes for her Hawaiian wedding, he not only agreed, he blogged about the two-week-long endeavor. With a good nib, a little Joni Mitchell and a bag of flour, he proved victorious. Perhaps it’s Yungai’s science background (he’s a chemist by trade), but it seems as though he has found the formula for the perfect flourish.

distinctive inscriptions calligraphy founder ashantai yungai

Ashantai Yungai, born to flourish.

Of course, we would never ask him to share his ‘secret sauce,’ be he does share with us missives pertaining to pens, sisters and the future of the handwritten word.

When did your interest in calligraphy begin?
June 2008. I am a chemist by trade. A friend saw my handwriting in my lab notebook and asked, “Did you write that? Wow man, that’s pretty cool! You should do calligraphy. People do wedding invitations and envelopes using calligraphy.” I thought little of it at the time. I bought a calligraphy pen on a whim one day while shopping for art supplies for my son. I began writing with it. From there I was off to the races. 

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