Monday, December 31, 2012


once a year, i think i can skip the envelope and post something different. this was a letter that i found in one of the envelopes to ellen. i cropped the top off, because...just because....i like a little mystery. this was from the time when i did designs for Scrapbooks, Etc. I do not recall having to redo this alphabet 4 times. i do not recall ever having to redo anything for them. maybe i was just making up a story. it was very strange reading a bunch of letters and notes that i had written a decade ago to my daughter when she was in college. anyhow, i always liked this kind of writing and think it is very versatile. i should use it more often.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

guest artist - susan

isn't this pretty? i can't find the envelope it came in, so i will have two posts on dec 30th. scroll down to see an envelope.

every year susan makes a very pretty card. this one was folded flat and her addressing was tiny monoline italic in red and green.

thanks, susan. i should have taken a photo of the whole tree...this is the only ornament other than the silver balls.  an ornament with its very own tree.

guest artist jeri - wilson

i am deducing that this is an envelope jeri sent to her mother who might have been M.M.Wilson. i know jeri was a born wilson. again...the postmark is very nice. jeri has really good luck with the cancels fitting into the design. and, this is a very fun stylized MM. i do have my suspicions about that big gold dot. me thinks it might be a cover-up. if the two Ms were dancing, then why did only one of them get a head?
or maybe she just doesn't like pairs. there are 5 dots in the counters, an odd number. am i over analyzing this? yes i am. and what about that grouping of dots on the far left. why are they in a flying Y?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

ellen - film strip

there is at least one other envelope in the archive that shows the film strip lettering. it is a variation on neuland with white gel pen squares.

the black was done with a huge marker. probably prisma color with a wedge shaped nib. they are so much fun and great for making posters or signs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

guest artist - carol dubosch

over the next few weeks, i am going to share some envelopes done by carol dubosch. she gave me permission to post them and mentioned that she liked to promote the graceful envelope contest. she has had several envelopes accepted and apparently, a few were not accepted. but, the point of posting them is not to talk about winning or not winning, the point is to spot ideas that even a beginner can adopt. i used to call them stealworthy ideas. maybe adoption sounds better. or inspire.

i love the way the candles are in black (see the black on the stamp) and the other lines of copy are in color. while i have used this stamp many times for birthday envelopes, i do not recall ever making black candles. even though i frequently suggest using a minor color in the stamp for the major lettering. so, i think my oft-used tip is a good one. black candles ---sounds a little dark and ominous. but the slenderness and height of the candles make them very graceful and light.

very pretty.
thank you carol.
stay tuned for more fabulous envelopes by carol.

after i wrote the comments above, i received this email from carol and i'm sure you'll enjoy hearing the story behind this envelope.

"I waited until the day before the entries were due and just sat down and made myself come up with an idea. The theme that year was the Fifth Anniversary of the Postal Museum. So, I opened my hand (five fingers), and decided to emboss my hand behind whatever else I would do. I then found 5 ascenders in "the graceful envelope" and made them extra tall and put flames on them. I decided not to use capitals, so the ascenders would have all the attention. Then (blessings abound!) I opened my box of stamps and VOILA the Hanukkah candle stamp…so I echoed the primary colors of the candles in the address details on the envelope."

back to jean's comments:
i have to point out the part where she says she waited until the last day and then sat down and made herself come up with an idea. there are so many artists who describe that process. there is something about last minute pressure that makes a lightbulb go off over your head. procrastination can make for so much stress. but, that last minute pressure seems to be magical. so, if you are up to the last minute to do something, don't give up...just sit down and make the idea spill out on the page. i guess the sitting down part is important. if you are pacing around looking for an idea, it doesn't work. you need to be sitting there with paper and pencil.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ellen - reindeer

there might be one similar to this in the archives. i loved these stamps and did a ton of envelopes the year they came out. the non-traditional green and addition of yellow and purple was really fun. and i like any stamp that has snowflakes shaped like asterisks.

i really like the way the ll in ellen pops up rather high. i also like the way the lestters are touching, but not always touching at the bottom.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

guest artist - ray ritchie

these were done by ray ritchie. he addresses envelopes and uses the greeting card inside for inspiration. he has cropped them to keep the addresses private.
here is part of what he says about decorated envelopes:

"These envelopes are almost always done with brush markers and/ or fine Zig Micron pens. I enjoy doing them because they give me a chance to experiment with lots of different styles and ideas. The color and decoration scheme usually take their cue from the card design, and the letterforms are sometimes related to the forms used on the card, if I like the style."

you may read more at his blog and also scroll through his posts and see some more artwork.

thank you ray for permission to run this image on my blog.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

elllen - gift tags

i like this idea and would use it again. i would make the gifts larger. i would also make the last name and the address lines come out exactly the same width as the row of gifts.

Monday, December 24, 2012

chuck - holiday 2012

this was my holiday envelope to chuck. nothing holiday about it...i wanted to do something with a million little lines, but was running out of time, so, i did this. the R in myrick is cringeworthy.

i loved that little drawing that i found somewhere. i was hoping to redraw it and make it look like chuck and me....but that didn't get done either.

today's critique will point out that the ck in chuck is too large -or- the u is too small. but, ribbon writing is pretty loose, so, i won't be too hard on this one.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

ann-margret - holiday

the stamp is from england. it came on a letter to my husband and i was able to peel it off. i love the artwork and if i had time i would make a huge holly bush. and i love the bird and the star. i need to find out if there are more adorable english stamps.

ann-margret is in canada, that is a fake address. i think she watches the blog. last year i did some holiday ideas for her and i saw one name *Dana* that she wrote in a style like this. so i am just guessing how to do the other letters. my example doesn't thrill me yet, but i am going to keep working on it. and maybe Ann-Margret will tell us if there is an exemplar somewhere.

the r is too wide. see the big hunk of white space inside the r. it's not wretched, but it is a little off. anyone interested in making their lettering consistent in spacing should watch those r's.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

ellen - birthday

another old one that isn't very exciting. although stacking smaller letters on larger letters and adding confetti is something you could do very quickly. in this case, it looks like the marker was getting pretty dry and i don't think i have mentioned for a while that dry markers should be saved....they usually have enough ink to write one name, add an outline, and some confetti and it's good to go.

Friday, December 21, 2012

barb - flowers

 i do not have an exemplar, so it is an extrapolation. ann-margret had an example of it that i admired about a year ago. i wrote the black first and then used a red tombo brush marker. i will add the actual address above the city state. i might use all caps, block printing, just to mix it up a little.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

guest artist jeri - letters mingle

the series of stamps that celebrate *letters mingle souls* is such a nice series. i have a few of these stamps and i have trouble using them, because i don't want to run out of them. i guess i should make myself a little packet of one each of my favorites and then start using up the remainders.

as always, jeri does a great job with the centered layout. and the dots are very nice touch.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

kathy - ornament nib

i mentioned earlier that i needed to come up with ideas for these ornaments going in different directions. i like this one a lot and i think i will add more pale blue spirals and her real address and actually send it. people who send me cards get one in return...i can't decide if i should show what my cards look like this year. they are outrageous on a couple different levels. i guess if you are curious, you will have to send me a card, eh?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

elllen - year of the ram

once again, i like to pick up a minor color from the stamp for the base color of the name. these stamps were a 12 year series, i think. they were always lots of fun. the way the colors are blended on the stamp, it was pretty easy to find colors that looked nice with the stamp.

i'll label this one confetti, and eventually, go through all the envelopes and label more that have confetti, one of my go-to decorations.

Monday, December 17, 2012

guest artist linda - J&T

it took me a second to find the J and the T. this is a very fun idea. i am not seeing those colors in the stamp, but, the stamp is not colorful so it is just fine to add some colors to the envelope. and of course, coloring in the counters in the O shaped letters is always a very nice touch.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

ellen - snowman

this is an old one from the days when i was sending a lot of mail and was not too concerned with quality. just cranking them out really fast. i can't think of any other time that i did this kind of double outline. i could see spending more time on the concept. loved those snowmen stamps.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

jack moore

there are 135 people who have signed up to be *followers* of this blog. one of them, jack moore, used a photo off my blog for the photo of himself. i was tickled that he chose that photo. it is a photo of lee steen, one of the 3 artists who are my *molders.* there is probably a better word than molder. but they did more than influence, so i;ll go with mold, unless someone can offer a better word. i'll try to find the link to the post about him. anyhow, i always wanted to post an envelope to jack so he knew i noticed that he had taken on the photo as his identity. i have also been thinking of doing one envelope for each blog follower. that would be fun. i might do it. or maybe i should just start with the phone book and do everyone in des moines....decisions decisions.

anyhow, it would be fun to do envelopes using lots of these ornament stamps. i didn't actually use stamps, i just ran off some color copies of the stamps. that's my curly casual penmanship with a nikko g and mcCaffery indigo ink. the envelope is a nice leftover from a william arthur job. sadly, crane's bought william arthur so this might be the end of nice paper. i try to not think about it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

jeri - twirl

a while back i had some experimental envelopes that i cranked out during the penmanship conference in august. i found this one in a stack and i don't think it has been on the blog. i am going to use it as the insert in the envelope i actually mail to her. i did not have any stamp in mind, but liked the shape of the flowers with that doodad on the end of the last hobart.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

guest artist linda - gershwin

on this one, linda seems to have pulled the colors from the stamps and as far as i can tell she was inspired by the shapes on the stamp. i think there are two figures behind gershwin's head. they are probably porgy and bess? anyhow, i like the way she just took the shapes and did not do anything literal. and it is all arranged very orderly. simple is very nice.

on dec 7th, i asked readers to research and find the name for that space that is surrounded by the letter c, not to be confused with a counter, which is the space surrounded by the letter o. jackie found the word, and it is aperture. now we would like to know if there is a website that has all the anatomical names of the parts of letters. thank you, jackie, for leading the research department here at the alphabetic institute.

also, kris, i responded to your question about whether or not the post office ever has issues with unconventional mail, especially when the entire address is written in one line. short answer, no, they just want it legible and level with the landscape orientation. longer answer is posted in the comment section right after your question on the catherine envelope on dec 10.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

foreign guest artist- sitoshi kitamura

sitoshi kitamura
love this one
makes me want to quilt

the black and white stamp looks great with all the colors.
(insert my standard whine about not having enough b&w stamp choices from the usps)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

nan - red

i started with a white galaxy marker and outlined in black (pigma micron .5). i was staying on the edges on the first name, but loosened up on the last name and i like it a lot better when the black isn't perfect, even though the black is perfect on the stamp.

i usually don't include any personal notes on my blog, but many people who follow my blog were friends with nan and her recent passing has been heartbreaking. she was a powerhouse in the world of calligraphy and was the person who coaxed me into teaching....which led to this blog. had i not met nan, i would probably be buried in piles of unfocused practice pages. thank you nan.... the whole calligraphic community thanks you for your contributions. and we thank your family for sharing you. she was the mother superior of our internet-based scribal convent.

Monday, December 10, 2012

catherine - 2 ornaments

catherine sent me this very fun link to a website that has been around a while and has not burned out on the idea of fun snail mail.

they seem to be young and very energetic.

the way the screen looks to me right now, i can't see the edges of the envelope.....i hope it looks ok on the actual blog. it should look like a square envelope.

oh, this lettering has no name. it is just scribbly...and what i do when the pen is fine and i want a bolder looking style of lettering, but am too lazy to look for a bolder pen.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

sharon - ornament

sharon emailed, asking me a FAQ: do i actually mail decorated envelopes. so i offered to send one to her. she does not live in chicago, but her address will fit in that spot.

i have enjoyed the ornament stamps, right-side-up and up-side-down, so, i thought i would try one sideways.

now i have to try the other four ornament stamps, sideways to the left and sideways to the right. and this one looks like a spaceship, so maybe i should have some orbiting a planet.

the usps is unveiling the stamp designs for 2013. subscribe to *beyond the perf* (at and they will send you an email every time there is a new one to view.

p.s. i just noticed that the pale blue bars of color that i put between the letters of the name, to mimic the pale blue lines on the stamp do not appear on the computer i am using. so i will try to do a better example of this one and post it fairly soon. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

amy's lace

another discovery in a stack. i thought i posted it already, but can't find it in the archives. i know that it was originally a boo-boo. i scribbled over the name and then tried to make it into something fun. it would be nice to do this idea a little less, i hope to get back to the idea one day..... i still have quite a few of those stamps.

Friday, December 7, 2012

jeri-linda blue indian art

love the stamps
love the little devils in the corner
love the lettering
love the last name on top, tiny
love the tiny dots of color in the counters

(counters is the name of the space that is surrounded by a letter and isolates it from the space on the outside of the letter...but, i forgot what the name is for the space that is only partially the center of a c...would someone please post that word in the comments, or send it to me and i will add it to this post...please and thank you)

Thursday, December 6, 2012


i posted this one earlier with a traditional, one stamp in the upper right corner. later, i added an address...a fake one...and a bunch of stamps. i put this one in an exhibit of mail art. i love the idea of a row of guys across the top of an envelope. i arranged them according to which direction they were facing. but, i wish i had reversed the order of the first 4, so that the profile was the first one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

foreign - sitoshi kitamura

sitoshi kitamura - another lovely horizon - i could list all the great things going on in this envelope, but i think you can spot them without my list. maybe i should point out some the line that divides the red and white on the ship looks better being just slightly higher than the water.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

nancy's ribbon & skip's grid

oops. really bad scan above and nothing new. i posted a bunch of these ribbon letters a while back. this was in a stack that was unearthed on nov10. so, i scanned the stack and set them up in the schedule, and that's all i have to say about this one. maybe tomorrow will make up for this one....

now it is dec 3 and i am filling in and scheduling things to appear in the coming weeks. i added this one to make up for the problems with the top one i like those two stamps together. and i love making a grid into a name....

Monday, December 3, 2012

e&c loopty-loop

there is a similar envelope posted (way-back)
that has a loopy pattern like this. i made the envelope out of a piece of wrapping paper. it is a favorite, so, i made my own version with a dry brush and some ink. i have an odd little brush that should be pointed, but it is all fluffed out and i only use it with ink. i only dip it in about a 64th of an inch. it holds quite a bit of ink and then dispenses it nicely. it is almost like a set of multiple brushes in one holder....which is a genius idea. note to self, make a multi-brush it the leeloo dallas brush. does anyone know who leeloo dallas is?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

guest artist - linda - puppy

ooooooh, these were such cute stamps. sorry about my goofy blurring.

note to my students who have studied neuland...i am pretty strict about keeping the bottom of the j square. you have to rotate the nib and you come around the curve. i approve of her nice tight letter-spacing...and the centering is good. centering is not easy.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

stacey's pencil sharpener

i love pencils, and drawing pencils. her apartment number is on the pencil. i didn't want to fit in her lengthy pennsylvania avenue address, and i knew that i probably wouldn't send this to her anyway. although, maybe i will. tough decision. i think i did mail some of them in the series...and it would be nice for her to have them all. maybe i'll keep it for a while...
i pity the person who has to clean off my desk when i fall off my perch.