mail art diaries: organizing collage bits

Advice, Mail Art Diaries


I finally broke down and organized all of my collage bits, mostly just the images. It was quite the process! I went through every single book I had been hoarding and ripped out the pages and images I thought I would someday use in a collage. I had at least 30 books to go through! It took days, to say the least. I also had some scraps that had been ripped out; they were scattered in those little ikea boxes.

After ripping out page after page, I sorted them into piles that would work well for me. I came up with about 10 categories: anatomy, animals, backgrounds, maps, misc, objects, people, places, plants, and space. I have a small, two-drawer filing cabinet that I picked up at a local thrift store. The first drawer is used for all of my Dactyl Life stationery and business paperwork. I decided to use the second drawer for all my collage bits. I made the tabs for each file and then filled them up with paper!

I originally thought I wanted to store my paper bits in binders, like I’ve seen a few people do. My only concern with that was how frustrating/difficult it would be to get the image you want out of the binder. I saw that people placed multiple images in one sheet protector and that just seemed like such a hassle. That is my favorite thing about storing images in file folders — it’s so easy to sort through them!



This is seriously such an easy a way to keep organized and find things in a flash. I don’t know how I didn’t think of it sooner! I wish I did. I recently became kind of fed up with collage because I couldn’t stand sorting through my books and random scraps of paper to find the things I wanted. Whenever I had an idea in my head or inspiration to collage, the excitement to sit down and create was quickly replaced with the frustration of not being able to find the things I was looking for. Pulling book after book out of my cabinet was exhausting. Now I have this great system and I’ve been collaging a lot more. And I got rid of all of my books, which freed up a ton of space.

One thing that I have found that is key to getting and staying organized is by having set categories or spots for things. That is one of the major reasons why I started organizing all of my washi tape in those wax paper roll boxes. They have a set place to go and I find that I’m not throwing them about my desk, where ever they might fit. The same goes for collage bits!

incoming: steph d

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art



The majority of my pen pals are letter writing pals but Steph fits in a different category: mail art pal. I think she’s the only one (hmph! I need more). I received this amazing package awhile ago but it’s too good not to share. Steph has serious style. Like I-wish-I-could-be-her-style. Ok, maybe not that creepy. Specifically, her use of neon paints and bright colors is fantastic! She pulls everything together flawlessly. I don’t know how she does it! If you’re looking for eye-candy or inspiration, I definitely suggest giving her instagram a peek.



I can only imagine what her collection of images, ephemera, bits and bobs, scraps, and art supplies looks like. The various peeks she shares on instagram look overwhelming in the best way possible. Steph always sends a really great selection of papers and images. It’s always a treat getting mail from her!

missive mission

Mail, Mail Art, Outgoing, Personal

Yesterday I posted a little bit about the missive mission I went on last month. As I mentioned, I was sent on a top secret mission through the post. I thought this was such a cool idea and I was so excited to see what was in store for me. The only thing I found out ahead of time was that the lady, Marissa, who sent me on the mission was going to send me a postcard with the briefing.

The postcard itself was a blurry picture of some buildings. It could’ve been any city, but it was probably Portland since it was from the UFO museum after all. The building’s name and address was listed on the back of the postcard. Marissa wrote that she was more interested in the surrounding neighborhood than she was of the museum itself. That worked out well since the museum is no longer operating! I was kind of stoked to go visit a UFO museum but, you know, you can’t always get what you want.

I completely lucked out on the location — I was instructed to explore my neighborhood! The museum was in an area that is just a few blocks from my apartment, an area I know very well and used to walk by every day on my way to work. It was exciting to think about my neighborhood in a different way, see it in a different light. I was anxious to get working on my reply to Marissa. I decided to send my reply in some sort of zine-y format.


My first order of business was drawing a map of the neighborhood. I love maps! You should know that I drew the goose and soccer ball all by myself.

I wrote a little description of the neighborhood, what the area was like, how it’s like living there, and my thoughts about my home. I also included prints of the photos I took while exploring.


I stole some soil from a near by tree as well as some leaves and flowers to share with Marissa. I felt like the dude from Everything Is Illuminated when I was carrying around the little baggie of soil!

As I’m not one to check in to see if people receive my mail, I have no idea if Marissa received my report; I haven’t heard anything from her since the original postcard she sent. I sure hope she received it! I’m also considering sending out these little missions to anyone who might be interested. I have tons of postcards of places I’ll never visit and need to do something with them.

exploring portland



Last month I agreed to go on a missive mission of sorts. Through Twitter, I connected with a lady who sent me a postcard of an old UFO museum in Portland. She asked that I go check out the area, find out if it’s still there and report back. I need a good excuse to leave my apartment so I was quick to agree. The area is just blocks from my apartment so I took the opportunity to take a walk around Portland with my boyfriend. I think we walked about 5 miles total! It was pretty crazy and my hips hurt so bad by the time we got home. Totally worth it to shoot a roll of film!

This sign is where the UFO museum used to be. It’s now some sort of youth center that I don’t even believe is named Ace Apts. It’s a pretty neat sign though, huh?

The buildings in this city are so good. I have to stop myself from taking a picture of every building I come across.

Downtown! Well, kind of. Part of it! I wish we had cloudy days again.

A dactyl in the wild.

I don’t know if there is anything better than trees blooming. I wish they would look like that all the time!

I absolutely love bay windows! Every detail on this building is so spot on.

I also really love doors that aren’t common colors. Especially when the rest of the building and surrounding area is so drab.

The train station is so photogenic. I will never forget my first visit to Portland, arriving by train at Union Station. Seeing the station always brings back those memories. I had just turned 18; my mom bought me and my ex train tickets to see the city. Ever since that trip, I longed to live in Portland. Now I do and it’s pretty awesome.

what’s in my mailbox: pie post

Incoming, Mail


I get a lot of amazing mail from my dear pen pal, Emilie. Not only does she send me really cool things, she also writes me the best letters. She is one of those people that I totally relate to (which is super hard for me to find these days!). Her letters always cheer me up and her thoughtfulness is just downright amazing.

Emilie and I have also met quite a few times. That seems to be a pretty common occurrence these days with pen pals. I can probably thank social media for that as well as just being an adult and being able to do things. Then again, even when I was a kid my mom drove me to California to meet a pen pal/online friend. Thanks, Mom! Anyway, I first met Emilie when I moved out to Rhode Island and she was living in Massachusetts. I think our first meeting was at an event at a local typewriter store in a suburb of Boston. I think! Correct me if I’m wrong, Emilie đŸ™‚ After that, we met up once more when she hosted a letter writing social at a Boston bookstore. Now THAT was fun; it was just a few of us hanging out, cracking jokes, eating cookies and pretending like we were going to write letters. Emilie also opened up her home to me and my boyfriend when we drove across the country from Rhode Island to Oregon. Simply put, she is the best.



One of my favorite things about receiving mail from Emilie is how creative she is! I feel like she doesn’t use traditional envelopes often. She puts things in boxes, photo sleeves, chocolate wrappers, and bags. This package was no different! In addition to a very awesome letter, she sent me some rubber stamps, tree bark, stamps, washi tape, ephemera, and a pterodactyl! I’m pretty lucky, guys. Maybe one day I’ll convince her to send me one of her pies.


what i’m working on

Mail, Mail Art



What am I working on? Stationery, of course! I’ve been straying a bit away from digital collage these days in favor of physical mixed media pieces. I’ve been buying little blank packs of postcards to make my creations. After I finish the piece, I scan it in and turn it into envelopes and stationery. As much as I love the convenience of digital collage, there is nothing quite like getting your hands dirty!



One thing I’m super into lately is patterns. I dunno what it is but I can’t stop stamping patterns on everything. I think it might be because of the ink pads I recently purchased through Stampin’ Up. Thank goodness for birthday money! I can’t get over the quality of those ink pads though. They are amazing.

I am, however, having trouble coming up with names for these designs! I’m calling the donut pattern “donut you love writing” but that is about as creative as I get with titles. Anywhoo, these guys will be in my shop soon! You know, once I get off my bum and take photos…

mermegs in my mailbox

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art, Personal



Here is a really great incoming missive from one of my best pals, Mermeg. She really knows how to pack an envelope and collage one! I think Megan is my longest-running pal at the moment; we’ve been exchanging mail since 2008. We have kept in touch over several moves (for both of us), different relationships, and other life happenings. It’s really amazing to think about. We’ve also had the pleasure of hanging out at least three times. It could be four but my memory is hazy. Most recently she came to Portland at the beginning of this year and we watched mail art videos on youtube. I’ll make it out to Wisconsin one day to hang out on her turf!




Megan always seems to pick the most perfect items to send my way. I’m not sure if she just knows me really well or that we just have the same style. I don’t care either way because it just means I end up with loads of ephemera. Yes! Also, recognize some of those stamps? They were featured in Monday’s post!

philately love

Mail, Personal


I know I probably say this all the time but, you guys, I love stamps. I received most of these cancelled stamps from various pen pals and before I could use them for anything, I had to take pictures of them. I almost love pictures of stamps more than the actual stamps. So dreamy, right?



I’m not really into trying to salvage cancelled postage from the letters I’ve received. Mostly because I don’t like to rip up the beautiful envelopes I receive; the postage (cancelled or not) really pulls everything together in mail art! If it’s junk mail, I have no problem ripping it up but they don’t typically use actual postage on junk mail.



Of course, I love international postage (and vintage!). Although I’m quite fond of a lot of the new postage designs, you get kind of numb to the designs after awhile. That is especially true for those freakin’ postcard and other low-denominational USPS stamps. Thank goodness they are finally releasing some new designs for them! Anyway, I think I love the international and vintage postage so much more because I hardly ever come in contact with them. It’s like whenever the USPS releases a new stamp, I freak out and spend several minutes inspecting them. Very similar to what happens when I see international and vintage postage.

To celebrate these wonderful stamps, I ended up turning them into stickers. You can check out the Etsy listing here!

Exploring Seattle



Nathan and I headed up to Seattle over the weekend for a quick getaway. We planned to go up there after purchasing tickets to a Mariners game. Sports aren’t really my thing (at all) but I do love traveling and junk food. The game was on Sunday but we decided to hang out from Saturday until Tuesday. Nathan is from the area so we go up there pretty often but never for more than a day or two, and we don’t stay in the city proper. I’ve only been to Seattle once and only for a few hours. Needless to say, I was excited to explore and stay in the city.




We decided to take the Bolt bus into the city which was such a great decision. I don’t think I will ever opt to drive up there again. Naps, wifi, not having to worry about driving, and comfy seats. It was great! The bus stops in the International District which is full of really lovely, brick buildings and lots of things to do. We stayed in a swanky hotel, The Maxwell, near Seattle Center. The hotel had a bag of free popcorn (!!) in the room, super comfy robes, and an even comfier bed.




The game was a lot of fun! I’ve never been to a real baseball game before; Las Vegas doesn’t have Major League team. I had a bit of a panic attack being so high up and the guardrail being so shitty but we were in the second row, thankfully. Every time someone stood up in the first row, I had to close my eyes! There were some foul balls that flew our way. One even landed just a few rows behind us! I was pretty terrified that one was going to slam right into my face. I ate garlic fries, a burger and some cotton candy! It was a good time.

The entire trip was a blast. We walked a TON and it was so hot. I shot 3 rolls of film and did not bust out my digital camera once. The only digital pictures I have are the ones I took on my phone. I’m super happy about that; I’m really trying to get back into film. I’m way more passionate about it. I’ve never shot a photo with my digital camera that I have been proud of. I’m excited to get the film developed!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!