tutorial tuesday: postcarding

Today’s tutorial comes from Mara Zepeda of Neither Snow. She believes (like me) that mail matters. Mara is a brilliant calligrapher – tomorrow I plan on shining the spotlight on her and her work. But for today, she is here to share her tips and tricks on writing postcards. Welcome, Mara!

Eva Jorgensen already covered the correspondence bases in her great post on the forgotten art of letter writing so I thought I’d create a companion tutorial on postcarding.

This year I am in graduate school. Every day I am faced with an hour and a half commute back and forth, and I’ve been flummoxed about how to spend this time. Recently I’ve taken to writing postcards on the subway. This is because often my days are so busy that I can’t even reply to a friend’s email. So this is my way of reminding them that I’m thinking about them and love them enough to get to a mailbox, even if I can’t manage an electronic missive.

Here are the four obstacles I’ve found to postcard writing:

  1. The Postage
  2. The Postcard
  3. The Message
  4. The System

Tackling these in order:

#1: Right now we have one postcard stamp ($.28) option: the unoriginal and uninspiring (in my humble opinion) polar bear stamp.

I have worked around this problem by creating my own $.28 “stamp” with two $.10 clock stamps and two $.04 Chippendale chair stamps. It’s an imperfect system but at least it isn’t the polar bear.

For people with would like to scour Ebay, visit their local stamp shop or work with me, the postage options are limitless. Here is a sample of my most recent scavenging. These stamps celebrate, in no particular order, mineralogy, the 5th world forestry congress, steam engines, butterflies, city planning, higher education, Emily Dickinson, youth, and wool…yes, a stamp commemorating America’s wool.

While the value of these stamps is small ($.3 – $.18), I think an assemblage of them looks lovely.

Finally, there is the world of vintage postal stationery (and yes, that bottom envelope celebrates the American seafaring tradition):

#2: Too often we think that if we don’t have the perfect card, we shouldn’t write. My solution is to go minimalist. I found these postcards at a tiny convenience store in Cambridge years ago and I try to go through a package of them every month (and stockpile them via friends visiting the UK as often as I can). But the key is to find something basic that comes in quantity. The Paper Source has a dizzying array of options and the A2 size will go through the mail with regular postage.

#3: Keep the message short and simple. Choose a favorite line of a poem, write it on a scrap of paper and then copy and send it to everyone you think would appreciate it. Tell them something you did that day that made you think of them. Recount a memory or reminiscence.  Some phrases to start things out: “Remember that one time when…”, “Today I saw….and it made me think of you.”

#4: The final obstacle is how to pull all of these elements together so that the postcard actually makes it in the mailbox. Here’s what I propose:

  1. Pre-stamp 25 postcards with the correct amount of postage
  2. On Sunday evening (or at another regular interval) once a month, pre-address the cards to their recipients – now is a good opportunity to see who has a birthday or milestone coming up.
  3. Set aside a sturdy, purse sized pouch or envelope to carry the supplies: your cards, a pen, a few extra stamps (if you want to send internationally).

Keep this pouch in your purse at all times, write a card when you have a spare five minutes and the drop it in a post box, which you’ll soon discover are everywhere.


[all images Mara Zepeda]

Thanks, Mara!
website: neithersnow.com
blog: neithersnow.blogspot.com

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3 comments to tutorial tuesday: postcarding

  • (sigh) I’m in love. so beautiful. i sent something in the mail today…it wasn’t as pretty, but it had chocolate inside. that counts for something, right?

  • nice post…I like the use of vintage stamps. But I beg to differ about the polar bear stamp. I love it and was sad to see it go. Did you know it was designed by Nancy Stahl.

    Your calligraphy is fun. It looks so much like a favorite of mine, betsy dunlap. Do you know her work?

  • sarah

    i just looked betsy up! it’s beautiful! i’m so inspired by neither snow calligraphy and her work but i’m like you and really like the polar bear stamp :)

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