mermegs in my mailbox

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art, Personal

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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!

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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!

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Mail, Personal

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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mail art diaries: how i make digital collages

Mail Art Diaries, Personal

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I started making digital collages when I started designing stationery. Although I have been making “real” collages for over 10 years now, I have only been doing things digitally for over a year. I always wanted to sell my mail art but it would be so time consuming to create each unique piece by hand; I wouldn’t have time to actually write letters! To make things easier on myself, I scanned in my collection of images, ephemera and whatever paper bits I had, and started creating collages through Photoshop. Well, Photoshop Elements, because I’m cheap.

Watching people create things is seriously one of my favorite things to do. I think that is probably my favorite thing about the internet. I love watching people do things I can’t (or am too lazy to learn). I love watching people paint, draw, write calligraphy, you name it. I even like watching people do things I can do (like mail art!). I think I’ve watched almost every YouTube video there is of people making mail art. I finally found a free program to capture my computer screen by video so now I get to contribute to the world of creative process videos. Check it out below!

To celebrate my first computer-screen video, I am sharing the file for the envelope I created in the video. Check it out! It is a PDF file, you can print it on a regular 8.5×11 piece of paper. You will have to cut it out and fold it!

what i’m working on: ephemera packs

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Over the weekend I put together a few ephemera packs to list in my shop! I really enjoy putting these together. I love searching through my stash of papers, stickers, and images. All of the items I put into these packs are stuff that I would use in my own collages. And, if you’re my pen pal, you’ve probably received some of these items in my letters!

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In addition to putting together these packs, I am also (slowly but surely) going through my hoard of books. I have A LOT of books just hanging out for possible use. I’m going through each one and tearing out the images that I would use. I hope to become a bit more organized with my collage images because, right now, I’m just not. I saw Esther’s collage binders and thought that was amazing. I hope to pick up some binders soon to stick my images in. For now, I’m just going to keep them in my filed away by image type. I’m thinking categories like people, floral, objects, anatomy, animals, landscapes, backgrounds, and “I don’t even”. How do you store your paper bits?

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You can check out the ephemera packs in my shop! Just click on over to Dactyl Life. ❤

returning to the fold

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I’m baaaaaack. I’m feeling super refreshed after over a month (yikes!) off. I took a crap-ton of photos over the weekend of all my incoming mail to show off. I haven’t taken the time to actually make the posts yet though so don’t hold your breath.

During my “time off” I thought a lot about the direction of this blog and what I want to get out of it. I feel like I never really let my personality shine in most of my posts and I think that is a big part of why I got overwhelmed with everything. Posting should be fun for me! I want to post about the things I love, not the things I think people will enjoy. It’s been rather strange to look back on my posts and realize there is not much of ME in them. I’m pretty awful at sharing myself with other people (except through mail) and I would really like to change that. I found that I ended up comparing myself to other bloggers and feeling pretty shitty about the things I don’t accomplish, the fashionable outfits I don’t have, the perfectly decorated apartment I’m not living in, or the adventures I don’t go on. But that isn’t me. I don’t leave my house except to go to work, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes or furniture, most of my money is spent on postage, and I spend my time inside making mail art and writing letters. And that’s okay because I love my life.

To kick off my return to blogging, here are some fun facts about me!

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► I only take silly photos of myself.

► I don’t have any tattoos but I would really love to get a pterodactyl tattoo at some point.

► I lift weights! I started lifting about 3 years ago and work out 3x a week. I can deadlift 210lbs, squat 165lbs, bench 100lbs, and press 80lbs. My favorite thing about lifting weights is eating all of the food. Being strong doesn’t hurt either 😉

► I haven’t had a haircut in over 2 years and I have rocked the same hairstyle since high school. I really want to do something drastic when I finally break down and get a hair cut. Any suggestions?

► I sold my car within a month of moving to Portland. I grew up in Vegas, where having a car is an absolute necessity (if nothing else for the A/C!). I have always wanted to live somewhere that didn’t require a car to get around because I really hate driving and I’m terrible at parallel parking. I’ve been biking everywhere for the past year and walked/rode the bus before that! I absolutely love it.

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► I’m awful at exploring/wandering around. I get pretty anxious being out in public if I’m by myself and I have no set destination. I need a reason to leave my apartment.

► I have 0 friends in Portland. I have plenty of acquaintances from work but I do not hang out with anyone except for my boyfriend (but we live together so that doesn’t count). I don’t really care to hang out with people so that’s probably why. I’d rather be at home writing a letter or watching something stupid on Netflix.

And, for your viewing pleasure…

What I’m Working On: ATCs

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Last month, I won a little Instagram giveaway the talented Stephanie hosted. I barely ever win anything like this so I was super excited. She was sending out little packs of ephemera to make ATCs. I was even more excited because I was just getting into ATCs at that time!

I love receiving mail from Stephanie because she is so creative and always send really awesome things. She happened to use my favorite stamps on her envelope, too! Hooray.

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As you can see, she sent me a ton of paper elements! I was looking forward to using all these up by making some really cool ATCs. I’ve been really diggin’ bright, loud colors lately so this selection was right up my alley. I love all the dots and fun colors.

Here are some of the ATCs I made with the bits Stephanie sent. I’m pretty happy with them!

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Vintage Postage Collection

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I’ve been rummaging through my vintage postage collection. Some days I feel like I would have no problem just using it all up, putting stamps on each and every envelope I send out; other days, not so much. The collection is actually my father’s. While I do not have any connection to my father in any way, I feel like this collection was the first thing to spark my interest in mail as a child. These stamps don’t hold any special meaning to him. He was the type of person who bought collectibles and random things with the thought that they would be worth money some day. I have never intended on making money off of these stamps so why can’t I just use them? I think it’s because I just like looking through them.

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There are so many different designs and themes. I love each and every stamp. I’ve actually added to the collection, over the years, with recent USPS issues that I absolutely love. Nothing beats a vintage design though. There are so many factors that go into the old stamps that make them much more special. I love the colors, the gummed backs, the fact that they aren’t glossy, the perforations, the texture; everything.

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One of my favorite things about vintage stamps are the markings on a sheet of stamps. I don’t think I’ve seen any newer stamps with these kinds of markings (but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!). With the ones pictured, you can see the Mr. Zip character, which the USPS needs to bring back, the dinosaur, and some general information about the stamp. It almost seems like a lost cause to do this because most people will probably never see the markings. They are there until you rip the sheet apart and throw it away. I’m happy to have several sets of full sheet stamps. I don’t think I could ever part with them!

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I remember being a kid and always begging my mom to bring out the box of stamps for me to look through. There was nothing better in the world to me than to look through all of these beauties! I don’t know if my mom ever official gave me the collection. I’m pretty sure I just claimed ownership of it, even before I started sending mail. I have no idea what attracted me so much to them, or to mail. Even as a child, I was adamant about being the only one to check the mailbox every day. If a letter from my grandparents arrived, I would have to be the one to open it.

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Writing With A Quill Pen

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A really long time ago I bought this stationery set. I was really intrigued by it when I bought it, and thought I would use it right away. When I brought it home, I had no desire to use it. Probably because it wasn’t 100% ready out of the box; it required some “work” by mixing the ink. I was also intimidated by the quill pen. I have never, and haven’t since, used a quill pen. Fountain pens? Sure! Quill pens are on a whole different level.

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Finally I decided to throw caution to the wind and mixed that ink with some water. Which happened to be my favorite part of this experience. I loved watching the ink! I feel like I used entirely way too much water but, from what I recall, the package called for way too little water. I don’t know anything about mixing ink.

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The quill pen itself was a chore to use and the paper was awful to write on. I felt like I had to get more ink after every letter I wrote. When I got too much ink, it would just pile out in a puddle where I was writing. That’s annoying. The only thing I enjoyed about the pen was the broad tip. It made my handwriting look fabulous. I love thick, bold letters.

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Eventually I got bored and just doodled all over the place. I tried using this blue fountain pen ink I had to see if I could get a better feel for writing with the quill pen but I don’t think it worked. It looked pretty though! I especially love the way the fountain pen ink seeped into the paper.

I thought I would use the remaining paper for writing letters but it was truly the worst paper I have ever used. I tried to write one letter with it and wanted to throw it out the window. Regular pens just did not work on it! It was super scratchy and also had a waxy texture to it.

Let’s Talk About Postage

Mail, Personal

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I’m down to my last 5 first-class postage stamps. Don’t get me wrong, I have a TON of low-denominational stamps but it’s annoying to stick five 10 cent stamps on an envelope. Who has room for that nonsense?! Plus, I love using a variety of stamps on envelopes so that is basically out of the question. If we’re being honest, I pretty much use the low-denominational stamps as envelope decoration.

Luckily, it’s almost February. Which means I have $100 at my disposal to use on whatever I want; and that usually means postage. You see, I budget every cent of my money. It’s almost necessary but it’s also just super helpful. I don’t have a lot of money left over once the bills are paid (one day I’ll pay off that credit card!) but that’s okay! I really dislike shopping anyway.

I went online and ordered a selection of stamps that looked the prettiest, to me. The stamps in the image above are on pre-order and I am so excited to get them. Aren’t they beautiful? I think these will be my favorite for 2015. Can I just say, though, that the designs for anything other than first-class rate are seriously lacking. They are just boring. I’m really hoping 2015 throws some cool postcard rate stamps in our face. Or even some new designs for the 1, 5, and 10-centers. How do we just have one design for postcard rate? What is this? I have a lot of feelings about the USPS.

Have you ordered any of the new designs? The other new one I’m aware of is the “Forever Hearts” design. It’s pretty enough but it doesn’t tickle my fancy like these vintage flowers.