An exciting Mail Art call

Over on the International Union of Mail Artists’ (IUOMA) website, a mail art “call” has recently been posted…

(a call is basically an invitation to mail artists to participate in making and sending mail art to a provided address, for use in a specific exhibition, project, thesis presentation, etcetera. Often there are rules, such as size, or medium, or a theme for the mail art project…)

The call that caught my attention tonight was from one IUOMA member who is “Helping to Start a Permanent exhibition on the most remote and isolated Island on the planet : TRISTAN DA CUNHA”

What a MARVELOUS place to send mail art! Just look at the ADDRESS we all get to use:

Post Office & Philatelic Bureau
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas,
Tristan da Cunha,
TDCU 1ZZ
South Atlantic Ocean 

Have you ever sent mail to a dreamier address than this? Imagine, not even a country but an Ocean for an address! It’s almost as good as sending a letter to Peter Pan (“Second star to the right, and straight on till morning…)

N.B. Tristan da Cunha is part of the group of islands known, collectively, as the “British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascencion, and Tristan da Cunha”

There is a settlement, known as The Settlement, and a Post Office on the island. Although they have internet, the Post and the arrival of the mail is still a very important aspect of everyday life. Look at these recent postage stamps…

“Hitting the gong heralds the news that the long-awaited post is ready for collection by Islanders in the Prince Philip Hall.”
“Post Office staff read out recipients of mail, and a family member comes forward to collect it “)

The Mail Art Project is to send some artwork to a permanent exhibition on the Island for the locals who live there, and for all who visit the Island.

No Limitation on Themes, Size, or Number of works. Just send mail art. It’s very different from penpals, or letter writing clubs—you’re not writing a letter, and the point is not to get to know anyone, although after some time friendships are built on a steady backing-and-forthing of mail art.

Best think of it as an open and inclusive art exchange, made possible by the International Postal network, where art has no price tag or monetary value, and money is not a motivating factor at all. For a feel of what mail art is, you can browse Wikipedia’s Mail Art or IUOMA’s Start Here page.

If you’re curious about the mail art scene, this is a great first call to respond to (unfortunately, you probably won’t get mail art back…unless some local gets it in his/her head to reply…well you never know!) and a fantastic address to write to. Imagine the locals looking through what you have sent, and imagine the few visitors to the island enjoying the fact that somewhere in the tiny Post Office there is this exhibition of postal art from around the world.

Go on, make something and send it to the village of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, you know you want to.

P.S. despite the “badge’ and all this talk of membership, anyone can join IUOMA …all welcome, no experience necessary… IUOMA

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Can’t believe I’m doing this again, so soon…

Letter No. 8
Letter No. 8  http://www.Patreon.com/scarletletterbox

A letter about the sudden compulsion to buy a bus ticket to New York—”What a lark! What a plunge!”— when I (probably) should have been visiting all my relatives in Virginia, listening to the clan gossip, and diplomatically dodging any pointed questions about my family…

This letter’s print run was the same as last month’s. That’s okay, since I can’t add anyone on at this point, I had just enough printed to send to current patrons. As I warm to the idea of doing this full time, and to using Patreon as my homebase, my ideas for future letters are getting bolder, more heavily illustrated, and more experimental in format. http://www.Patreon.com/scarletletterbox

I can’t do back issues, because of Patreon’s system. Print quantities are for current patrons, you must be signed up before the 30th of the month, and the mail goes out on the 5th of the following month. It waits for nobody, comes back for nobody, repeats for nobody…this is not a drill, it’s a rocket to Mars, baby!

If you missed this one and don’t want to miss the next issue, please consider subscribing!

For the price of a coffee break, you get a beautiful letter in the mail, illustrated and (I hope! I try!) well-written, with calligraphy and postage stamps and wax seals and little gifts included, each month. And you don’t have to write back. Sign up for as long as you like, unsubscribe at any time.

You can even ask me to send the letters to someone that you should probably be writing to, but just can’t seem to get around to doing it. It’s not the same as a personal letter that you wrote, but it can still be very exciting to receive a beautifully addressed envelope, knowing that each month’s letter is a present from you.

All right, that’s enough, I know you know the routine. This little piggy has hustled enough for tonight!


vintage register journals

I was given, several years apart and by different people, these two “true vintage” register books. Both date to the 50’s, have been bound by hand, with  laid ivory pages ruled into columns and rows with red and grey ink. They’re massive…the bigger one measures 380mm x 500mm when open (15″ x 20″)! On both, the covers have suffered  water damage, leather deterioration, and just a general rotting away, I guess, due to how they were stored and who-knows-what they were exposed to.

I started using one of the books as a journal, a year ago.

At some point in its life, one of its owners started using it to catalog a reel-to-reel music collection…a whole bunch of songs were listed on half-a-dozen pages, including the counter numbers that marked where each track started and ended.
suitcase with wheels
Someone else—a sailboat owner—started an “address book” in its Index, gluing photos of some 40 yachts and writing down owners’ names and addresses, alongside.
They are the first hand-bound books not made by myself (or by one of my bookbinding students), that I have ever owned.

Mostly I doodle or stick things in. I don’t write in it as often as I’d like/I should. I wonder if it’s the unwieldy size that’s subtly discouraging me?

Going…going…

Cemetery Story

Outgoing mail, in the company of my journal pages from Haiti, the Baron Samedi (His Purple Majesty), a goat’s skull I found on a city sidewalk in Darwin (waaaay more bizarre than if I’d found it in South America somewhere…) and our homemade Elegguá (in some ways, the star of my letter).

The letter “Cemetery Story” will no longer be available by end of day (ACST, UTC +9:30) on October 30, so if you enjoy slightly morbid stories about visits to cemeteries, or are famiiar with the Lucumí, Mayombe, or vodoun religions that traveled with the diaspora from Africa to the Americas via the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, then today is your last chance to sign up to Patreon and receive this issue of The Scarlet Letterbox.

{Become my patron for $9 a month…}

The letter is a little longer than usual, but I’m reluctant to amputate any more of it than I already have, so this letter will have an extra page of writing, so I can finish telling the story! The envelope has been printed by hand, using a homemade rubber stamp, in black and gold inks.  I’ve also slipped a postcard of my interpretation of Baron Samedi’s vevé, a design particular to Haitian vodoun, into the envelope.

On the Patreon site, patrons will have access to my favourite poem on the subject of death…(it’s not what you think—it’s a humorous, wonderful poem that totally celebrates the fact that life and death are yin and yang, each wrapped in the other’s embrace, both natural and desirable) as well as photos of some of the people, places, and things that I mention in my letter.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
something wicked this way comes.

I’m still waiting for my new phone (La la la…’nuff said…so boring) and so text and photos taken with my old DSLR are all I can offer on the Patreon site, for now. It’s coming, though…it’s coming…it’s very close…I can feel its presence…it may even be in Australia by now…

Untitled


¿Why can’t I do ‘back issues’, anymore?

The thing with Patreon’s set-up is that I can’t charge individual patrons for individual letters. These days, when I publish a “paid post”, all of my patrons get charged at one time, for the same letter. It’s too confusing to charge everyone, but for different letters.

“Oh, that way madness lies…”

When November’s postal train pulls away from the station on the 1st, that’s it; you may sign up for Patreon any time in November, but you’ll be waiting for December’s letter car to pull up.

If you want a previous month’s letter, I can make that “back issue” available to you, over in my Etsy shop (provided I have copies left) but you can’t get it as part of your Patreon patronage, anymore, because the only time I’ll publish a “paid post” will be when the next letter is ready for mailing out. Besides, I’m now ordering the minimum quantity of printed copies, just to cover the current month’s number of subscribers…

Serendipity Ink

serendipity ink
An ink-soaked fountain pen made these random ink blots. Ecoline’s “Fir Green” bled from yellow green out to dark turquoise, as it soaked into a wad of tissue.
serendipity ink
Half of the trick is to recognise the happy accident, rather than toss the tightly-wadded tissue into a bin.
serendipity ink
Ecoline inks are very water-soluble and any kind of water-based glue or medium will make them bleed, so I used a quick mist of solvent-based spray adhesive on the journal page, instead. I lay the flattened tissue onto the adhesive, and rolled it down flat with a rubber brayer.

I just like having this bright splash of a page, in the enormous antique Register that I use as a journal these days.

Cemetery story

Here I am, carving a rubber stamp for next letter’s hand-printed envelopes…this is the one and only test video I made for Patreon, before my iPhone went for a swim in the saltwater harbour (*sob*)

The motifs are directly from Ta Makuende Yaya, a key book about Palo Monte, the Congo religion that slaves brought with them to Cuba. It was one of the first books I bought and read while I was in Venezuela, learning Spanish (June-October 2015).

In Venezuela, Palo had been given a bad name because it was linked to a rash of grave robbing. Residents in the capital of Caracas claimed that many of the graves at Caracas’ Southern General Cemetery had been pried open to have their contents removed for use in Palo ceremonies.

The relationship between this juicy snippet, and my letter, is one of very loose association:

I write about my quest to a Colombian cemetery for a specific ingredient, and how a misunderstanding  with the gravedigger results in my coming home with something unexpected…

There’s still time to become my subscriber on Patreon, and be among the people who will receive this crazy story as a beautiful letter in the mail, along with a freshly-printed new postcard design: Voudoun’s Baron Samedi!

Cut-off date for this letter is October 30.

samedi postcard mock