Recreating the Past

Washington, D.C. — A client reached out to see if I could mimic a Victorian-era love letter. Since I did not have vintage paper on hand, nor had the time to go look for some, I had to craft my own.

After doing some research on distressing paper and consulting with the ever-knowledgeable gang at the Flourish Forum, I was able to transform my Strathmore ivory stock into vintage-like paper, complete with faux deckle edges, smudges of "dirt", and a whole lot of wrinkles. To enhance the overall look, I mixed Higgins Eternal ink—which is fairly grey in color already—with walnut ink to achieve the faded aesthetic of the letter.

It turned out to be quite the labor of love, and I believe that the end result captured the heartfelt words that lay within.

A Little Walter White for Your School's Auction

Washington, D.C. — Over the spring, I was approached to participate as a donor to the Haycock Elementary School's annual auction fundraiser. It was a good opportunity to promote Handmade Letters' services to a wider community in Falls Church, Virginia, but more importantly, to contribute my time for a good cause.

The auction item included a service package of five letters to be calligraphed on behalf of the auction winner. With the help of my infallible sister Maria Reyes, three color sets were chosen for the winner to select.

The classic, pastel, and vibrant letter sets, deftly chosen by my sister Maria Reyes.

The classic, pastel, and vibrant letter sets, deftly chosen by my sister Maria Reyes.

Along with the envelope and letter sets, I made two sample letters for display at the auction event. I wanted bidders to have a sense of how striking calligraphy can be in person and to understand how sending handmade letters can really make an impression.

Sample letter #1: Congratulations!

Sample letter #1: Congratulations!

A simple, handwritten note of congratulations is much more special than an e-mail or text can ever be. The thought and effort behind it are easy to see.

Sample letter #2: Thank you!

Sample letter #2: Thank you!

Sample letter #2: From the desk of Marie Schrader.

Sample letter #2: From the desk of Marie Schrader.

As a fan of Breaking Bad, I thought it would be fun to include an inside joke for the auction participants. This sample is an imaginary note of thanks from Marie Schrader to Walter and Skyler White for their "support" during her husband Hank's recovery. Participants who were fans of the show would be able to discern the bit of dramatic irony (and Marie's usual obliviousness) in the letter's message.

N.B. The addresses on the Breaking Bad letters are the actual, fictionalized homes of the characters.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me to participate in this auction fundraiser, and my thanks go to Kristen Chandler and the school's auction panel for making the process very easy. I look forward to calligraphing letters for the winner.

The Envelope Color Spectrum

Washington, D.C. — I've been sending my daily letters out in batches of three or four. I decided to take photos of each batch just to see where I am color-wise with my envelope choices. I guess I'm in a mostly blue phase right now. I love using Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White ink on blue envelopes. It really makes the blue pop.

The Raleigh batch: I think this blue envelope to my brother started this whole blue period.

The Raleigh batch: I think this blue envelope to my brother started this whole blue period.

A very spring color batch.

A very spring color batch.

More blues.

More blues.

Will turn my attention to pinks and purples.

Will turn my attention to pinks and purples.

Hoarding Letters

Washington, D.C. — Lately I've been having a difficult time getting myself over to the post office to post my "A Letter a Day" letters, even though it's a mere 7-minute walk away. It must be the lingering winter, the snow, the grey skies that encourage this laziness.

I must say, though, one benefit of hoarding my letters is that I get to see the spectrum of colors in the letters I produce for the week. It's not an intentional thing, but somehow my mind subliminally chooses envelope and paper colors that complement one another. In this particular case, I chose colors that are very "springy". I must be really over the winter. After the snow we got yesterday, who wouldn't be.

Calligraphed envelopes of the blue-green spectrum

Calligraphed envelopes of the blue-green spectrum

Illustrated envelopes with leaf and floral motifs

Illustrated envelopes with leaf and floral motifs

My Favorite Letters of 2014

Washington, D.C. — It's already March (!) and I'm over the 25% marker with my "A Letter A Day" project, a commitment of writing personal letters to family, friends, and Flourish Forum pen pals until the end of 2015. I'm really terrible at keeping resolutions or long-term personal goals, so this has been quite an accomplishment. Truthfully, I have never been so focused on anything like this before, so I'm excited to keep pushing forward, even if it means less leisure time, less sleep, less whatever it was I was doing before this.

In looking back at my previous letters, I thought it would be fun to post my favorite 5 of 2014. In writing letters, I try to "represent" the person that I'm writing to—in other words, do my best to capture his or her character, personality, or interests. It was difficult to choose 5 because each letter reminds me of something special about the people I write to, and I am truly grateful to have that opportunity to share my words with all the wonderful people around me.

The Shining  Halloween card

The Shining Halloween card

October 31, 2014 — My sister is a horror-film aficionado, and we both love watching scary movies whenever we are at our parents' house. One of our all-time favorites is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It was fitting to send her Halloween greetings with the iconic twins on the cover, and Jack Torrance's axe on the envelope. 

 

Knoll-inspired design

Knoll-inspired design

November 8, 2014 — A few years back, I became friends with a lovely architect over our shared interest in mid-century design and architecture. In writing her initials, I immediately thought of the historical Knoll logo and typeface. Not only was it fun to draw out her initials in a Knoll-style, but also to play with the translucence of the vellum envelope. The "KW" is actually on the front of the card, while her address is on the envelope.

 

Star-crossed lovers meeting for the first time: an idea that came to me in a dream.

Star-crossed lovers meeting for the first time: an idea that came to me in a dream.

November 11, 2014 — Nicole is one of the first pen pals from the Flourish Forum that I started doing letter exchanges. This was my first letter to Nicole, and for some reason, I woke up with this image in my head of a moonlight tryst between two people. I love the idea of treating the envelope as a film still, a story captured in one moment. The details are there, but the viewer has to fill in the gaps and figure out what that story is.

 

Kiki's Delivery Service  envelope

Kiki's Delivery Service envelope

November 21, 2014 — The great thing about this project is that it makes me aware of the people that I have lost touch with, and how I can reverse that by reaching out through letters. Instead of texting a happy birthday to my friend, I thought it would be more special to send a birthday letter with a scene from our favorite film, Kiki's Delivery Service, on the envelope. I love the single accent of red in the illustration. 

 

Kimono pattern-inspired envelope

Kimono pattern-inspired envelope

December 3, 2014 — I love looking at patterns and textures in everyday objects. I had recently visited the Freer/Sackler and in their gift shop, there was a kimono with a pattern of undulating white waves against a mauve-ish background. When I started to address this envelope, I immediately thought of the kimono pattern but translated into gold ink on black. This has since become one of my favorite patterns and motifs to do on dark envelopes.

 

Letter Patterns

Letter written on pale pink parchment in the Copperplate style.

Letter written on pale pink parchment in the Copperplate style.

Letter written on creme parchment in a freehand calligraphy style.

Letter written on creme parchment in a freehand calligraphy style.

Washington, D.C. — I love discovering graphic patterns in everyday objects. In the midst of photographing one of my daily letters, I was surprised to see how beautifully the double-sided writing melded into one another when held up to the light. The result is a chaotic but elegant mashup of letter forms. Sometimes, as in the case of the copperplate lettering, there's a serendipitous symmetry in the letters reflected from the back side.

It is the little, simple—and unexpected—things in life that give us pleasure. 

A special thanks to my pen friend Star Lively, whose beautiful and fluid calligraphy inspired me to loosen my grip and go freehand.