Mail Art Diaries – Carving Rubber Stamps

Advice, Mail Art Diaries

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Rubber stamps are amazing. They have quite the history within mail art! They are fun to use and even more fun to make. Some mail artists create their mail art exclusively with rubber stamps. I don’t know how they do it but they do, and they make it look amazing. I’ve never had a huge collection of rubber stamps due to cost. If you have the same problem, you should definitely consider making your own!

To start carving stamps, you just need a few supplies.
Rubber carving block
Linoleum Cutter
► Pencil (or pen)
► Rubber stamp ink
► Tracing paper (optional)

I had carved this shape before and used it so much that it started to fall apart! I decided I wanted to make another. My pen pal actually drew the shape (and all the other drawings you can see on that paper). We had a huge stamp-carving sesh when she was in town awhile back. I absolutely love carving stamps but I’m not the best at drawing so it was super awesome she could draw!

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We drew everything on tracing paper and then rubbed it onto the carving block to start carving. You can totally draw straight on the rubber and avoid that step. I find it a bit difficult to draw directly on the block, especially with a pencil. The white carving blocks are very soft and a pencil ends up digging into it. I imagine you could avoid that with a nice ballpoint or gel pen. If you draw directly on the block, be sure to flip any lettering!

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Carve out your image! You should have an idea of where you want your negative and positive space. My entire shape is positive space so I just had to carve all around the shape. If you have a more detailed stamp, I would suggest shading the areas that you don’t want to carve out, or something similar. There have been times I get my image on to the carving block and then end up cutting out a space that I shouldn’t have. Oops! It’s nice to have a little reminder once you get into the flow of carving.

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After a bit of carving, I like to put some ink on the stamp and test it out. This is very helpful if you have a more detailed stamp, as you can plainly see what areas might need a bit more carving. Keep doing this until your stamp is how you want!

See? It’s pretty simple, especially if you just want to make a bunch of shapes. Which I totally recommend because it looks awesome on a collage, especially when you make a nice pattern out of it! I also highly recommend using tracing paper as it is an easy way to store your designs. It really comes in handy if you ever need to make a duplicate stamp!

Here is an example of lettering. I traced over a printed image, put the tracing paper pencil-mark side down on the carving block, and rubbed the paper until it transferred on to the rubber. This is the only way I can carve out letters. Free-handing that is way too complicated for my brain!

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Snail Mail Resource: Spreadsheets

Advice, Freebies, Snail Mail Tips

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In addition to my post on logging mail, I thought I would share my spreadsheets with you!

So, download away! Please do not redistribute these without permission, and they are only for personal use. You are welcome to alter these in any way! Add columns, delete columns, whatever you need. I was just thinking that adding a “Replied To?” column for incoming mail would be pretty helpful!

Click on the below link to download the files. Shoot me an email if you have any questions!
http://www.mediafire.com/download/4grf336zkw8yif5/Spreadsheets.zip

Snail Mail Tips: Logging Mail

Advice, Snail Mail Tips

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For an active snail mailer, one of the most important things to keep track of is all incoming and outgoing mail. Keeping track of your mail is the easiest way to make sure you’re replying to letters promptly and not forgetting to do so! If you love making lists, you should definitely be logging your mail. It just takes a few minutes to do!

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to keeping track of their mail. I know a lot of people keep paper logs or journals. I used to do that but I found that I didn’t have a very uniform system and I was often forgetting some information for every entry I made. I quickly switched to logging everything in a spreadsheet. I could have a header of all the information I was looking to log and I wouldn’t be able to forget that information.

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I created four spreadsheets; two for incoming and two for outgoing. Each set, incoming and outgoing, is separated into domestic and international mail. As I don’t receive a lot of international mail, I add countries to the spreadsheet as I receive them. No way am I going to look up every country in the world and add them to my spreadsheet! Although I don’t receive mail from every state in the US, I do list every state in my domestic spreadsheets.

For my logs, I like to track what was sent or received in a letter. This is helpful so I don’t end up sending the same stuff to the same people. I also write a brief description of a postcard’s image. I also love noting how I “met” the snail mailer. It’s nothing crucial but it’s fun to track!

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One thing I recently started doing is keeping a space where I can put incoming mail during the different stages of receiving it. I have a “To Reply” spot for all letters that I have received and logged but still need to reply to (obviously). Once a letter has been replied to, I place it in the “To Photograph” spot. In addition to logging mail on my spreadsheets, I also photograph all incoming and outgoing mail. It’s a bit excessive but I like doing it! After everything is said and done, the piece of mail goes to the “To File” spot. Right now, filing my mail means putting it in a reusable shopping bag. One day I will have a more official mail storing system!

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Here are a few tips to get you started logging your mail!

Figure out what you want to log

If you’re looking for something super simple, I suggest logging a name, date, and what was sent. If you’re looking for something a bit more, log a name, date, what was sent, postmark (incoming), when it was sent (outgoing), when you wrote it (outgoing), when you received it (incoming), when it was written (incoming), and how you know the person.

Use a system that works for you

If you know you love writing things down and keeping journals, opt for a paper log. If you’re looking for convenience and something that is easily searchable, create your log on the computer.

Log ’em as you get ’em

I should probably take this advice! If you don’t log your mail as soon as you send it, or receive it, it’s likely you’ll forget to do so. Plus, if you log the date of when you send or receive something, you’ll end up forgetting those dates if you don’t log it right away!

Let’s Talk About Stationery: Lettra

Advice, Let's Talk About Stationery

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Let’s talk about stationery! I’ve been on the hunt for the best paper for the stationery I sell. I recently ordered some paper samples from a company called Neenah Paper. I’ve been trying to find paper samples for ages and somehow came across their website. I saw that you could order samples of the paper they carry, and went a bit overboard. The catalog itself is completely free, you just have to pay for shipping.

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I was so anxious to receive the package full of samples. I love stationery; love it. I love finding the perfect paper to write on even more. I felt like it took forever for the samples to arrive but it really only took a few days. It was totally worth the wait though, the sample catalogs are gorgeous. They have a selection of every color that is offered for the specific paper type, the different weights they come in, and they just look awesome.

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Choosing the weight of paper is so important! I decided to write on the weight I thought would be best, with four different pens: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and a fountain pen. I wanted to see how each pen felt writing on the paper, how much bleed there would be, and smudge-factor.

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Lettra is just a nice, heavy paper. It would make a great paper for envelopes! Lettra is smooth but it still has a bit of texture to it. Kind of like cardboard; a rough but smooth texture. I’m sure it would be amazing to use when doing letterpress, as that is what it’s advertised for. It’s not so great to write on with fountain pens but it’s nice and sturdy so there isn’t much of a bleed-through. The smudge-factor was low, the only pen that smudged was the fountain pen. I take that with a grain of salt, since I intentionally swiped my finger on the ink immediately after I wrote it. There is no smudging if you wait a few seconds before touching the ink!


Lettra

Pens used: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and fountain pen.
Bleed-through: Low
Smudge-factor: Low.
Writability: Excellent for everything but fountain pens.

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Let’s Talk About Stationery: Crest

Advice, Let's Talk About Stationery

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Let’s talk about stationery! I’ve been on the hunt for the best paper for the stationery I sell. I recently ordered some paper samples from a company called Neenah Paper. I’ve been trying to find paper samples for ages and somehow came across their website. I saw that you could order samples of the paper they carry, and went a bit overboard. The catalog itself is completely free, you just have to pay for shipping.

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I was so anxious to receive the package full of samples. I love stationery; love it. I love finding the perfect paper to write on even more. I felt like it took forever for the samples to arrive but it really only took a few days. It was totally worth the wait though, the sample catalogs are gorgeous. They have a selection of every color that is offered for the specific paper type, the different weights they come in, and they just look awesome.

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Choosing the weight of paper is so important! I decided to write on the weight I thought would be best, with four different pens: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and a fountain pen. I wanted to see how each pen felt writing on the paper, how much bleed there would be, and smudge-factor.

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Crest is similar in texture to regular copy paper you would buy. It’s smooth like butter and super nice to write on. There is no texture to speak of for this paper but maybe that is part of its appeal! It would be a great paper to use for printing envelopes. It can be pretty smeary to write on although it’s not so bad if you let the ink settle a bit. There isn’t much bleed-through, which is really nice!


Crest

► Pens used: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and fountain pen.
► Bleed-through: Low
► Smudge-factor: High.
► Writability: Excellent.

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Snail Mail Tips: How To Find Pen Pals

Advice, Snail Mail Tips

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I recently received a comment that asked, “How do you find pen pals?” so I thought I would address that here!

The internet is kind of a funny tool for people who love to write letters. Some like to blame it for the decline in letter writing, and I would argue that it is probably the easiest thing to use to find people to write to. All of my pen pal relationships have started because of the internet. My first pals were people that I would talk to on a daily basis online! I don’t know how we found things to write about in letters but we sure did; we would send each other 5+ page letters. Then I found mail friends through various websites. Here are a few that I have used or still use!


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Sendsomething

→ This website is my go-to for finding strangers to send mail to. Sendsomething has a great search feature, which I use whenever I have something random to mail out (like, a postcard for the band Aqua). I love searching for people’s interests to better find a way to make their day through the mail! Plus, they have a “random address” button that takes the thought out of who you should mail to. The majority of my pen pals have started through Sendsomething.

 

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Swap-bot

→ I’ve been a member on Swap-bot since 2007 although I’m not too active there anymore. They have great swaps specifically for finding pen pals but they are also a bit hit or miss. I really enjoy swaps that are more art-focused, zines, mail art, ATCs, etc. Those types of swaps seem to be in decline these days. This is a really great website for starting out in the snail mail world, I think! You see a variety of styles when participating in swaps, which is awesome.

 

postcrossing

Postcrossing

→ Although I really wouldn’t suggest this website for finding pen pals, it is a great resource for sending, and receiving, postcards. I’ve heard tales of people finding great pen pals through Postcrossing but, in the 6 years that I’ve been using it, I’ve only found 1 person that I exchanged mail with on a semi-regular basis. This is a great website to get your toes wet in the snail mail world.


Of course, there are so many places on the internet to find like-minded folks. There are so many blogs that offer mail swaps, little organizations specifically for people who write letters, and plenty of people on Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr that are interested in finding new pen pals.

I think the most important advice I can give to anyone looking for new mail friends is, don’t get discouraged! Try not to expect a reply from every letter your send out. There will be plenty of occasions where you will send a letter to someone and never get a response, or it will take, what feels like, ages for them to get back to you. The most important part of being a letter writer is sending mail, but the best thing about sending mail is receiving it!

Let’s Talk About Stationery: Linen

Advice, Let's Talk About Stationery

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Let’s talk about stationery! I’ve been on the hunt for the best paper for the stationery I sell. I recently ordered some paper samples from a company called Neenah Paper. I’ve been trying to find paper samples for ages and somehow came across their website. I saw that you could order samples of the paper they carry, and went a bit overboard. The catalog itself is completely free, you just have to pay for shipping.

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I was so anxious to receive the package full of samples. I love stationery; love it. I love finding the perfect paper to write on even more. I felt like it took forever for the samples to arrive but it really only took a few days. It was totally worth the wait though, the sample catalogs are gorgeous. They have a selection of every color that is offered for the specific paper type, the different weights they come in, and they just look awesome.

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Choosing the weight of paper is so important! I decided to write on the weight I thought would be best, with four different pens: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7 Sharpie, and a fountain pen. I wanted to see how each pen felt writing on the paper, how much bleed there would be, and smudge-factor.

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I really enjoyed the linen paper. It has a texture similar to the laid paper but it is a subtle texture and it is way smoother to write on. The laid paper is a bit smeary to the touch but I think the quality of it makes up for that. This paper seems to be a bit more thin feeling than others. I typically prefer a 120 gsm paper but, with the linen, I chose 148 gsm sample to write on. All the other weights were very see-through. All in all, this is really lovely stationery!


Linen

Pens used: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and fountain pen.
Bleed-through: Heavy.
Smudge-factor: Moderate. Not a great paper to use if you are in a rush!
Writability: Excellent. Linen has a really lovely, subtle texture.

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Let’s Talk About Stationery: Laid

Advice, Let's Talk About Stationery

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Let’s talk about stationery! I’ve been on the hunt for the best paper to print my stationery on. I recently ordered some paper samples from a company called Neenah Paper. I’ve been trying to find paper samples for ages and somehow came across their website. I saw that you could order samples of the paper they carry, and went a bit overboard. The catalog itself is completely free, you just have to pay for shipping.

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I was so anxious to receive the package full of samples. I love stationery; love it. I love finding the perfect paper to write on even more. I felt like it took forever for the samples to arrive but it really only took a few days. It was totally worth the wait though, the sample catalogs are gorgeous. They have a selection of every color that is offered for the specific paper type, the different weights they come in, and they just look awesome.

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Choosing the weight of paper is so important! I decided to write on the weight I thought would be best, with four different pens: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and a fountain pen. I wanted to see how each pen felt writing on the paper, how much bleed there would be, and smudge-factor.

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I’ve read a few positive things on different blogs about laid paper but it turned out to be really disappointing! I was expecting to really like this paper, especially for fountain pens.  The smudge-factor was pretty high for all of the pens, and the texture of the paper makes it difficult and uncomfortable to write on. The paper has very small lines that run horizontally. I love the feel of it but the pens don’t! The bleed-through is pretty low, which is probably the only redeeming factor of this paper!


Laid

Pens used: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and fountain pen.
Bleed-through: Low.
Smudge-factor: High.
Writability: Poor. Too much texture!

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Let’s Talk About Stationery: Columns

Advice, Let's Talk About Stationery

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Let’s talk about stationery! I’ve been on the hunt for the best paper to print my stationery on. I recently ordered some paper samples from a company called Neenah Paper. I’ve been trying to find paper samples for ages and somehow came across their website. I saw that you could order samples of the paper they carry, and went a bit overboard. The catalog itself is completely free, you just have to pay for shipping.

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I was so anxious to receive the package full of samples. I love stationery; love it. I love finding the perfect paper to write on even more. I felt like it took forever for the samples to arrive but it really only took a few days. It was totally worth the wait though, the sample catalogs are gorgeous. They have a selection of every color that is offered for the specific paper type, the different weights they come in, and they just look awesome.

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Choosing the weight of paper is so important! I decided to write on the weight I thought would be best, with four different pens: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and a fountain pen. I wanted to see how each pen felt writing on the paper, how much bleed there would be, and smudge-factor.

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Columns is such a lovely paper. It might be my favorite but it’s so hard to choose. There are, quite literally, little columns that run vertically on the paper. It adds such a beautiful texture to it. I was concerned that it would feel weird to write on, especially with a fountain pen. I was wrong! It was wonderful to write on with all the pens. The smudge-factor was low, the only pen that smudged was the fountain pen. I take that with a grain of salt, since I intentionally swiped my finger on the ink immediately after I wrote it. There is no smudging if you wait a few seconds before touching the ink! There is, however, a bit of bleed-through. You can’t win them all!


Columns

Pens used: Pentax EnerGel, Pilot Precise V7, Sharpie, and fountain pen.
Bleed-through: Moderate, with Sharpie being the worst offender.
Smudge-factor: Low.
Writability: Excellent, smooth with the right amount of texture.

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Finding Myself

Advice, Personal

TARAdactyl

I often lose sight of who I am and put my passions on the back-burner. I don’t know what causes me to do it. It’s just so easy to not have to worry about anything. It is hard to keep up with everything I love. My passions take a lot of work and time, but that doesn’t mean I should constantly ignore them. Are they passions if you do?

Speaking from personal experience, I think they are. I’ve gone through the majority of my early twenties with significant credit card debt. That has always been my main reason for not pursuing the things I love; these things cost money.

When I younger, living at home and working full time, I could afford to spend paychecks on new albums, postage, things I like to collect, zines and chemicals to develop film and photos. I had the space to have my own (temporary) darkroom and all the room in the world for mail art supplies. Then I moved out and everything changed!

So, how do you stay inspired and keep doing the things you love?

► If you can’t afford to do something right away, save up for it! Admittedly, I’m very awful at doing this but you should definitely save up for the things that make you happy in the long run, rather than those things that give you instant gratification.

► Find other people who are passionate about the same things you are. The internet is the easy way to do this! I love following blogs about mail art because it gives me a look into the processes of other people. It inspires me, even if I’m not directly doing it.

► Don’t procrastinate! Set aside time to do these things. I used to study programming and German in the beginning of this year because I had a schedule to do each daily, and made sure I set a timer to remind me.

► Recognize when you need a break. When I find myself putting things off for another day, I know that is when I need a break. Schedules are easily tossed aside, especially when life throws curve balls at you (like getting sick for a month!). Just make sure to come back to your schedule!

► Do something inspiring every day. I participated in the Month of Letters challenge and wrote 1 letter every day for the entire month. It was definitely a challenge but it was so inspiring. I love writing letters so why don’t I write them every day?

► Make it easy to do the things that inspire you. I’ve always loved photography but I don’t often take pictures. Whenever I’m out and about with my analog camera, I can’t stop taking pictures. It just feels natural!

► Do it. The strongest advice I have for being, or getting, inspired is to do whatever it is that you love. I find that when I start collaging an envelope, I don’t want to stop. It’s just a matter of just going for it. Once you start, you will not stop!