There is a revolution afoot. If you want to join, you must understand that the pen truly is mightier than the sword. This is a snail mail revolution.
A growing number of Lakelanders are part of the revolution, and you can see its effects in a variety of ways. You just have to know where to look. Luckily, we’re here to point you in the right direction.
Jack Duncan calls himself a mail artist. He has been a writer of postcards and letters since he was a child in prep school, where he was encouraged to write home weekly. These days, he collects postcards from places he visits, and also makes his own to send to friends and family members.
He owns three small trunks and suitcases filled with stamps, notecards, pens and other ephemora to feed his habit. Postcards are Duncan’s favorite mail to send because they’re quick and easy.
Becky Murphy encouraged her 6-year-old daughter Madeline to write letters as a way of developing her writing skills. Now Madeline routinely writes her cousins to share news about her favorite TV show, or to tell them about her day at school.
“When she started kindergarten, her writing was a little iffy,” Murphy says. “Now I think for a 6 year-old she has beautiful handwriting. Her skills have definitely improved.”
Liz Craven stays stocked up on stationery in “lots of different flavors” because she loves selecting just the right one to send to a friend, loved one or a business contact.
Craven once considered having branded stationery made for work-related correspondence, but opted against it because she wanted her interactions to be more personal.
Ask snail mailers why they hang onto this conventional communication method instead of lightning quick emails and texts, and they have a similar response that always boils down to doing something that shows they’ve taken the time to be thoughtful.
“The response I get from people is amazing,” Craven says. “(Receiving a letter) makes people feel special and appreciated. I know when I get a handwritten note, it just makes me happy.”
Those involved in the snail mail revolution are eager to recruit additional participants, and that shows in the variety of mail art and letter writing classes popping up around Lakeland.
Tammy Wright teaches a variety of snail mail-related classes in Tampa and Lakeland, and she has watched the trend grow in the past three years. She enjoys watching people ignite their love for letter writing.
“I think more people are looking for ways to go offline,” she says. “Not everyone wants to Hike Kilamanjaro, but stepping away from a computer and writing a letter is something everyone can do.”
Whether you’re looking to enhance your penmanship skills through calligraphy, or you want to take your snail mail to the next artistic level, Downtown Lakeland businesses and arts organizations can help you do it.
Scout & Tag on North Kentucky Avenue periodically offers a modern calligraphy workshop taught by Pam Crosby. Their next class is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Students learn calligraphy techniques and receive a pen holder, nibs and a practice pad as part of their class fee. The holidays are fast-approaching, which makes this a great class to take as you prepare to address all those holiday envelopes.
The Polk Museum of Art offers a variety of six-week classes throughout the year. This fall, snail mail enthusiasts can register for a Basics of Calligraphy class taught by artist Rick Olivo. For the first time, the museum also will offer a class called “The Art of Letter Writing” taught by Wright. All supplies – including Japanese writing paper, a fountain pen, wax seal kit and more — are included in the class cost. Topics covered include fountain pen use, envelope embellishing and handwriting tips.
The Lakeland Public Library is in on the revolution, too. Its next free Mail Art workshop taught by Wright is on Nov. 5.
A common thread among many snail mailers is their desire to send unique letters and greeting cards to friends, family members and pen pals around the world. Many like to make their own cards, and they’re always on the lookout for stationery that is off the beaten path (read- Not from a big box store).
Downtown Lakeland’s retail shops accommodate snail mailers in a big way. Lots of unique stationery and card lines are available. Here’s a sampling of what we found:
The Shop at Polk Museum of Art sells blank notecards that accompany current and past exhibitions, and they recently added items from Rifle Paper Co. The Shop also sells a variety of writing utensils and calligraphy supplies.
Two Hens & A Hound carries the Leanin’ Tree and Co-Edikit line of special occasion and just-for-fun cards, as well as blank note cards with Nancy Pollinger’s original photography on the front.
Traditions Unlimited sells packaged stationery and themed note cards. It also carries card lines by Leanin’ Tree, It Takes Two, and handmade cards by local artists. They have racks and racks of cards to choose from.
Brooke Pottery offers a new twist on stationery with cards to color by Kimberly Design, and “Swing Cards,” which are 3-D made by Santoro. Printed Canvas, Curly Girl Design and Positively Green card lines also are available there.
Embroidery Mill & Boutique carries a wide range of items in the Simply Southern line, including beautiful journals that can double as stationery. They carry a line of locally handmade cards, as well as the Blue Mountain Arts line.
Scout & Tag loves all things snail mail. The shop hosts the occasional type-in, where customers can use vintage manual typewriters to type notes to
friends and loved ones. They also carry the hilarious greeting card lines Trash Talk by Annie, and Wit & Whistle. Writing tablets with aged paper, and journals also are available for sale.
Pumpernaks owner Ann Rubin understands snail mailers’ love for unusual stationery, and she picks it up while hunting for items to sell in her store. The nature of her business means that something you see in her shop this week may be sold out the next, never to return. So if you eye some notecards that you love, better grab them fast!
In addition to registering for one of the classes listed above, there are some great websites that can connect you with pen pals from throughout the world if you’d like to join the snail mail revolution.
National Letter Writers Alliance– this organization is dedicated to preserving the art of letter writing through events, postal adventures and pen pals. A lifetime membership is just $5.
International Union of Mail-Artists– members of this group make and exchange mail art.
Post Crossing– a project that allows anyone to receive postcards from random places worldwide.
Send Something– an online database of mail enthusiasts.