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…

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¿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…

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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

The Scarlet Letterbox is moving…

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I’m just a few weeks away from moving The Scarlet Letterbox to Patreon.

I like that artists created Patreon for other artists (Jack Conte is, together with wife Nataly Dawn, one-half of the band Pomplamoose…music that I was somewhat obsessed with, 10 years ago).

As “beautiful monthly letters combining my art and creative writing with postal paraphernalia”, The Scarlet Letterbox is well suited to Patreon’s ‘pay per project’ plan: You can sign up for as little or as long as you want, and pay for each letter, one at a time (rather than several months up front.) It’ll be easier for me to organize each mail-out, because Patreon keeps track of the activity surrounding each letter issue.
letters collagePatreon can help create a better rapport between artists and their supporters.

At the moment, aside from the actual letters, I don’t share much with my subscribers because Etsy is a conventional online marketplace…it wasn’t designed to process recurring payment, or to nurture community. Patreon, on the other hand, is all about community.
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I don’t mean there’s some ready-made crowd of pledge-happy “Patreon community”people waiting for me! Patreon is not a promoter or social media “influencer”; it’s not a team of marketing experts who will selflessly volunteer their time to spread the word about me; it’s not their job to care about what I do, whether I sink or swim. They won’t be getting my work “out there”, or attracting potential patrons to my Patreon page. Patreon is a subscription-based payment processing site. That’s it.

It’s my job to find my own supporters, to spread the word, to advertise, to care and hustle and be passionate about it, and make it grow. In order to make this work properly, I have to dedicate much more time to The Scarlet Letterbox.

an old fashioned letter

As luck would have it, my employers are cutting my work down to 9 hours (about $160) a week. While the pay’s not great, it’s the waste of precious time that really disturbs me. I row, and then cycle, to work: I’ll spend nearly an hour getting there and, before I know it, it’ll be time to cycle and row home again…a two-hour commute in order to work for three. Sometimes the huge tides trap me ashore for half a day, and I have to wait till there’s enough water to float my dinghy. I can’t afford that kind of dead time, sitting on land, waiting for the sea to turn around and come back! It’s not as though I knit!

This is the push I needed to quit my day job and do my own thing, I guess. I can’t fall much lower than the proffered $160 per week, after all…there’s not that much of a distance left to fall! At least, by writing stories, illustrating, painting, embroidering, bookbinding, and creating beautiful letters, I’ll be doing something that I love, full time.

My Patreon page is set to open sometime around the first week of October (which is also my last week at the day job.)

More information on this blog, closer to the date.

Haitian Armada...outgoing mailI hope that if you’ve ever been interested in The Scarlet Letterbox, you’ll consider taking a second look at what I’m doing, now that

fabulous letter = the price of a coffee and croissant, per month

Launched: The Haitian Armada

Haitian Armada...outgoing mail

At last! Some outgoing mail! This is hopelessly late, thanks in part to a cyclone, but also because…guess who’s back in Australia?! So happy, and so busy, catching up on the 16 months we were apart, that I haven’t been able to do anything else!

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A letter about a year on an island, and living by the sea. The Haitian vevé of a ship, rubber linoprint with hand colouring, gold and white inks, artistamps, and a wax seal (not shown…coming on the reverse, when I seal these babies up) adorn the envelopes.
Haitian Armada
You can still start your subscription to my monthly letters of art, calligraphy, postal porn, and stories, with this one…please visit my Etsy shop for more details.