Feature Monday: Mailartist Michelle
As promised here is our very first feature! Meet Michelle, the fantastic lady behind Busyweekends.
Hello Michelle, tell us a bit about yourself!
The hardest question of them all! I have lived in the vicinity of Washington, DC, most of my life, so we’ll call that my hometown. Currently I’m in Virginia, right at the tippy top; I can see Maryland on the other side of the river and DC a little to my left. I’m turning 30 this year and I don’t feel anything about that, no panic or worry or whatever else it is people feel when they turn 30. I will probably panic when I turn 35. I’ve yet to ‘get my shit together’ but I’m doing pretty well, living with the guy I love, creating lots, and surviving relatively okay otherwise.
At the moment I’m unemployed, but my job applications are all in the education field, whether it’s web development or training, file clerk or content writer. I don’t want to be a teacher but I am pursuing a career in online education. Baby steps. I studied Mythology and Folklore in Literature and Psychology and got a Bachelor of Arts, but that was almost ten years ago. I currently take free online classes whenever something interesting comes up, but otherwise I don’t have immediate plans to continue my studies. I was a bookseller in a previous life.
I spend most of my free time creating… whether it’s mail art or not, it all goes up on busyweekends.com
. Busy Weekends is still forming its purpose, but I hope it’ll some day become a source for inspiration and creative challenges. I make zines and sell creative kits on various topics. I also keep a writing/life blog at The Reshaping of Everyday Life
, which despite its title I only update every so often, and I post my photography at Hey
When did your interest in written correspondence begin? What grabbed your attention?
In grade school we had a Postal Service system inside the building, where you could write to classmates in different rooms and grade levels. You just had to address with the name, teacher or room number, and level, put on a stamp (which you earned by completing homework assignments and doing extra credit), and off it went! My best friends were in the same class as I was, but the system still worked the same, and it was a joy to send and receive mail, even if it was fake. That’s where my interest began initially, and although I have been keeping pen pals sporadically throughout my life since I could write my letters, my longest pen friendship is still only three years!
Maybe this answers the next question a little bit but I find that the Internet has brought on the opportunity to connect with more people who are dedicated to keeping long-term correspondence. Sure, there are a lot who start writing and then suddenly you’ll never hear from them again, but there are just as many who keep at it and with whom you’re able to develop special relationships. The mail art and letter-writing community is so involved both on Tumblr and elsewhere on the web that even if you don’t find a good match right away, you can pretty much count on eventually finding a person who’s totally willing to commit as much as you are. It’s because of communities like Postal Society, IGGPPC, League of Extraordinary Penpals, blog features/themed swaps, and personal mail art blogs that I am constantly inspired to create prettier mail and keep writing.
What are your thoughts on today’s type of written correspondence? Is it the same as it was 100 years ago?
1914… No, I wouldn’t say it’s the same as it was 100 years ago, but I also wouldn’t say it’s “dead” like some people want to claim… (I also think it depends on where you live.)
We’re all caught up in instant gratification— well, not all of us, but those of us able to frequently get online and connect to strangers and friends in an instant. There’s no effort there. You type faster than you write and if someone sends you a gift, it’s a lot easier to quickly send off a thank-you email than it is to sit down to a Thanks! card. It’s not bad or wrong, but it’s where we communicate the majority of the time. I don’t want to get too off topic but this is still relevant: I was listening to a news story the other day that reported that even texting is now “so lame” to young people. They prefer chat programs and instant messaging that isn’t tied to a cell phone; now they can contact their friends using any device, even if it’s not theirs! With all that availability, why write a letter, right?
100 years ago that wasn’t so much of an option, so you’ve changed the nature of letter correspondence, as well as the meaning and reasons for doing it. 100 years ago, everyone was writing anything they wanted to be recorded by hand on paper. The words you write by hand on paper are different from the words you write in a word processor or email. You’re thinking slower because your words are coming out slower. To some degree, I guess it’s like traveling back in time because you’re not allowing yourself to think at 96 words per minute, but your brain is still trained to move that quickly and be that careless with your thoughts. The form/format, what you write about— if you were transported back in time and had to rely on written forms of communication, I still think these things would differ than if you were born then and only lived in those times.
The meaning/reasoning for keeping correspondence thus also changes; 100 years ago, written correspondence was the only way to keep in touch with those who lived farther than you could go on your own (especially as a woman). I think it’s fantastic how much we can connect online and then turn that into paper and pen, but I find it baffling how much people complain about not getting replies immediately. It’s like they expect you to receive a letter and reply to it that same hour and make sure it’s out the next day. I know that people in the early 1900s wrote daily letters but I also think that most probably paused to think and live before replying. My best correspondence are in letters I have to wait longer than a month to receive. It shows in their words how much time they took to soak in their lives before responding, and I treasure that.
Do you need to be in an certain environment or mood in order to write a letter or is it something that comes to you naturally?
I think of letter writing as an artform and as with all artforms, I do need a certain amount of inspiration. Environmentally, it doesn’t matter as much. I can write a letter waiting for my car at the mechanic, at work, or in my writing space. It is very difficult to start correspondence in any environment, but if I’m replying to a letter from a pen pal, my inspiration is already there :) As far as mood goes… I suppose I do need to be in the mood, but that’s easily fixable by planning it (and therefore getting really excited about it).
What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve ever received in your mail box? Is there a story behind it?
I’ve gotten a lot of interesting and weird mail since joining Send Something, but my favorite quirky thing has to be this: A few years ago, my friend Mary sent me the side of a shipping box from ModCloth.com. I still have it and I keep it on my wall. Their packaging is really nice, and she sent me the section that says “This part of my journey is complete,” naked, like a giant cardboard postcard.
If you could be penpals with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
Bruce Wayne, where I know he’s Batman (somehow) but he doesn’t know I know he’s Batman. Our correspondence is kept totally secret from the people in his life, not for any particular reason, we’ve just been writing for a long time and it’s one of his routine activities… but it’s not like a super important thing in his life that gets in the way of his duties or that he needs to advertise. He mostly talks to me about where he’s traveled and the things he’s doing for Gotham City’s improvement, people he’s met (he’s a very good judge of character and has full, flowering descriptions of everyone so I don’t even have to look them up online for a good view), and every so often he’ll mention a woman he’s seeing, if she’s special. He never tells me how his relationships end or any details like that. Our correspondence is fluid and we’ve been writing close to six times a year for the past eight years. He’s always very interested to hear about my future goals because it fascinates him that I won’t accept monetary gifts or help for what I’d like to achieve. He doesn’t know if I’m male or female because I sign all my letters M and write on plain stationery in the chicken scratch I inherited from my father. I keep writing him because he’s not real and so I have no idea who I’m actually writing letters with, and that’s sort of romantic.
Any questions you’d like to ask Michelle? Send your questions and fanmail to email@example.com (they will be forwarded to Michelle).
liked to be featured? Contact me here
or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
On another note, I very much plan on keeping this tumblr alive. I haven’t been a very good blogger, but what can I say, life happened. People have been very kind and supporting despite my absence and in order to repay all that support I’d very much like to keep this going. So I will - slowly - start to keep this tumblr moving again and throw in a few changes. I was thinking of making some kind of “Feature Monday" where people with Snail Mail related blogs & tumblrs, shops or projects could appear here. Of course that is not much for now, but it is a start.
I will not immidiatly start this week, but I’m planning on publishing the first feature on the 17th February. So if you’re a fellow blogger dedicated to letter writing, a calligrapher, mail artist, shop owner or just a person who is crazy about snail mail and would like to be featured on the 17th or in the near future please contact me through email@example.com or send me a private message here!
And any other suggestions on how I could revive the blog, layout change, etc, feel free to contact me anytime!