High Cost of Lettering

December 17, 2014 § 3 Comments

Every year for the holidays I gather paper and glue and cardboard and ribbons and pens and envelopes and paintbrushes and colored pencils and try to design something beautiful and memorable to send to the people I adore and love most in this world. I raise the bar every year, trying to outdo the design from the Christmas before. This translates into more time designing and writing and an increase in money spent.

For several weeks I’ve been churning out cards — 90 of them so far — without giving a second thought to the expense of sending them. Alas, that should have been my first consideration, for when I went to the post office last week to get an estimate of the cost, I discovered I was waaaaaay off. I thought postage would be $0.60 or $0.70, maybe $0.90, for each card at the most. Nope. $2.32. Times 90-100. Ick.

So for several days I put card making and sending on hold, feeling sorry for myself and my inability to properly calculate postage at the outset of a project.

But as hard as I try to get my Scrooge on, I just can’t do it.

When I got home from work today, I dumped the whole bag of unsigned cards on a chair, stood over the pile, and stared at it in wonder. (And then took a few photos.) All that work. All that color. All that love cut and glued and folded into something that’s meant to bring cheer. I can’t let them sit here unwritten. They must go out. But they will go forth into that snowy night slowly, for I have wasted precious time and they will not all be delivered by Christmas Eve (but perhaps by New Year’s Day).

So take a tip from me, possums. Plan accordingly. Make a budget. Stick to it. Stifle perfectionism. Don’t make your own holiday cards year after year. Buy an iPad (or two) and a bottle (or three) of bubbly instead.


December 16, 2014 § 2 Comments

Piles of silk and chiffon in brilliant and dull hues, all destined to be weaved through paper cards and around gift boxes.



December 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

Card construction continues:



December 2, 2014 § 3 Comments

It takes me a good 45-60 minutes to make one of my annual holiday cards. That includes cutting out the cardboard, paper, and ribbon; gluing the paper to the cardboard; assembling the card; handwriting a personal note; hand-addressing the envelope; and sending it on its way. Because of the thickness of my cards, I also make several trips to the post office to stand in long lines and make sure I have the right amount of postage on each.

Today I laid out all the tools and materials I use to create one card. Below is a picture of everything and a few photos of the finished product, including the two sides. This year’s card is a play on an accordion and Jacob’s Ladder book structure, and will have writing on both sides, as the back cover flips to become the front. When folded, the card is about three-quarters of an inch thick.

Progress (and Reads and Recs)

December 1, 2014 § 3 Comments

The holiday cards are coming along. They’re more like little books, actually. I’ll fill each with happy wishes and personal messages. Thirty constructed to date, 70 (or more) to go, and zero signed or sent. Here’s a photo of a few:

* * *

Some recently read works and pieces you may enjoy:

  • The Best American Short Stories 2014 edited by Jennifer Egan and Heidi Pitlor (2014) — The 20 best short stories from the last year, according to the editors. I liked all the stories, some more than others. Favorites include:
    • “Antarctica” by Laura van den Berg (originally appeared in Glimmer Train) — A woman travels to Antarctica to better understand her estranged brother, who died mysteriously on the icy continent in an explosion at a research station.
    • “Long Tom Lookout” by Nicole Cullen (originally appeared in Idaho Review) — Lauren returns to her hometown in Idaho with her husband’s autistic son, a product of an affair who has no one reliable to look after him. She takes a job as a fire lookout, further isolating her and the boy from the lives they fled in Texas and her indifferent mother in Idaho.
  • Lucky Us by Amy Bloom (2014) — A book that begins, “My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us,” is sure to please. I liked this strange tale of two half sisters who leave their incompetent father in Ohio to journey to Hollywood and New York during the 1940s. Bloom’s fresh prose carries the story forward, and overall I liked it. I can’t pinpoint why I didn’t love it, because I adored Bloom’s collection of short stories, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You. Perhaps the selfishness of the older sister irritated me. However, it’s a terrific romp if you’re looking for a novel with vibrant characters painting a much different picture from the mainstream of what it means to be a family.
  • Mark Strand’s Last Waltz” by Dan Chaisson (The New Yorker, November 30, 2014) — A short remembrance of the poet who died last week, eulogizing not just his gift for words, but also his sensitivity and kindness.
  • My Death” by Mark Strand (The New York Review of Books, October 24, 1968) — A fitting poem to commemorate the poet’s passing.

The Best American Short Stories Lucky Us


November 22, 2014 § 4 Comments

The design for the 2014 holiday card is a go. Rarely am I this far ahead in the process.

In recent years, I’ve hastily designed, created, wrote personal notes in, and mailed 100+ cards only two or three weeks before Christmas. As a result of this poor planning, I was usually quite surly, as each card took a good 30-60 minutes to make depending on the degree of difficulty.

While this year’s design is more challenging, I’m feeling like I’m in good shape. By noon today, I’d completed the appropriate research and created a successful mock sample. By 2 p.m., I’d purchased paper, adhesive, cardboard, ribbon, pens, etc. I’m ecstatic.

My hope is I’ll use the coming weeks wisely to enjoy the process of creating little pieces of art for my family and friends. Expect project updates and photos as Christmas nears.

The picture of the day — a selection of some of the papers I’ll use:


The Art of Architecture and the Handwritten Note

October 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

My evening swirled around two events ideal for aesthetic-loving nuts like me.

A friend invited me to a party celebrating Shelter’s tenth anniversary and its new digs in Northeast Minneapolis. Shelter is a funky architecture firm that has designed such great spaces as Icehouse and Bauhaus Brew Labs. And the party was pretty happenin’ too.

Next I sped back to my own neighborhood to attend a handwriting workshop at Christine Hoffman’s Foxglove Market & Studio. Wendy Brown from Brown Ink and Gina Sekelsky from Gina Sekelsky Studio led us through exercises to prep our imaginations for creative ideas that would help us resurrect the old-fashioned way of staying in touch. After an hour or so of practicing, mingling, snacking, and oohing and aahing over examples of beautiful handwriting, we ended the night penning our own cards and popping them in the mail.

When next in St. Paul, stop by Foxglove on Grand Avenue, and keep an eye open for other events offered at the shop. It’s an original gem that offers vintage and new furnishings and household goods, and it specializes in organic flower arrangements, stationery, and a whole array of eclectic, colorful, and beautiful gifts.

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