Category Archives: Letter Writer’s Toolbox

Random Thoughts: Recycle, Repurpose, Upcycle

When I’m not writing letters or not putting together tokens for mailing, I usually turn my room upside down to look for items that can be discarded, given away or recycled.

I think I’m pretty good at giving away things, especially if I haven’t used them in over a year or if I’ve no use for them at all. Similarly, I’d give myself a “B” for reusing items (e.g. PET soda bottles, plastic bags, corrugated boxes in good condition) as long as possible.

Magazine glossies reborn as Valentine’s Day envelopes (sent in 2011)

Magazine glossies reborn as Valentine’s Day envelopes (sent in 2011)

I’d love to see the day, though, when I have more time in my hands so I can indulge in repurposing and upcycling projects. The mirror I salvaged from a second-hand store, for example, is still waiting for the rest of its old paint to come off. (Sigh)

To recycle, repurpose, and upcycle: it’s not because I don’t want to spend on things that I know I’ll eventually grow tired of. It’s just that I think it’s a cool idea to be able to max out the usage and benefits I get from something I bought, say, a blouse. I also like thrift store shopping, and many of those I’ve been to (and you’ve been to, as well) are teeming with finds waiting for a second chance at life. My latest ‘fantasy’ (if you will) is to turn pretty cups and saucers into fancy pots and planter bases. If only I have the time (there it is again!) to learn how to drill so I can make drainage holes at the bottom of those cups.

The mirror project and any DIY activity that involves paint have been suspended for now. (Sad) I recently dug up a decorative pie pan, however, and repurposed that as a catch-all for letters and stray pens on my work space at home. Admittedly, there’s a pretty tin tray that I saw at the home section of a department store I recently visited. I decided against buying it because, well, I have two of those decorative pie pans I mentioned earlier! And they’re just the right size for my work space. No point in buying something new when I can reuse what I have on hand.

It takes discipline to embrace this lifestyle. But personally, it’s liberating to know that not everything new and shiny has the power to influence me (to buy).

Mother’s Day Greeting with an “Edge”

I was supposed to send cards enclosed in handmade envelopes for this year’s Mother’s Day celebration. Plans had to change at the last minute because the cards I bought are ‘small’ compared to the envelopes I made.

(L-R) A length of ribbon, card, single puncher

(L-R) A length of ribbon, card, single puncher

Beribboned cards all in a row

Beribboned cards all in a row

In the end, I think things turned out well. To make the store-bought 4 x 5 packets pop out a bit, I decided to stick “Happy Mother’s Day!” labels on top of the sealed flaps. Labels with an “edge,” that is.

If you’d like to give it a try, print or type “Happy Mother’s Day!” on paper that’s thin enough so you can easily shape the edges, but not too thin that a small tear can ruin your entire work. When doing the lay-out, make sure to leave about half an inch of border around the words so that you’ll still have that space framing the greeting even after you’ve torn around the edges.

Labels with an "edge"

Labels with an “edge”

Make it straight . . .

“Straight-laced” label

“Straight-laced” label

. . . or curved.

"Curvy" label

“Curvy” label

Either way, you’ll end up with pretty labels that pack just the right amount of “wow.”

Mother's Day cards ready for their intended recipients

Mother’s Day cards ready for their intended recipients

Happy Mother’s Day!

Random Thoughts about Pens and Paper

Pens and Pencils
• It’s inconvenient to have to feel the bottom of my bag – or its pockets – for a pen whenever I need to write something down, and yet I do it all the time. Well, most of the time anyway.

• I used to have a collection of novelty pencils and erasers. This was way back in elementary. I don’t know what happened to them, but I know I never used them.

• I still have my first mechanical pencil, a Pentel, which mom gave me when I was in high school. I used it for a long time until I decided to replace it five years ago with a less expensive unit.

• It was also during high school that I received as a gift (from mom again) my first Cross mechanical pencil. Being very negligent then, I kept dropping it. Subsequently, its mechanism failed, prompting me to send it to the Cross service center for repair. The service center couldn’t put it back to its original state so they replaced it with a brand-new pencil.

One would think I was elated, but I was actually depressed for a few days after receiving the replacement. The new mechanical pencil is more expensive than the model I brought in, I was told. Perhaps. But the sentiment that goes with it – that mom gave it to me – was gone.

• I used to have a fascination for tin pencil boxes, probably because we were not allowed to own one as kids. (Tin pencil boxes turn rusty after prolonged exposure to moisture; they’re not suitable for school-going children.) I still feel excited whenever I see tin-inspired cases, but the ones that are manufactured nowadays are no longer as durable as those from yesteryears.

• I’m not fond of airline and hotel ballpoint pens, but from time to time, I end up keeping one or two because they write surprisingly well.

• At my workspace at home, I keep my pens, pencils, and whatnots in a clear plastic container that also holds rulers, scissors and other often used craft tools. Having things in one place makes it easier to find things, don’t you agree?

Paper
• I won’t hesitate to use the back of an envelope or a receipt to jot down ideas or lists that suddenly bubbled to the surface!

• When I’m out of the house, I don’t mind requesting for a piece of paper when I don’t have any on me as long as I get to write an elusive or fast-moving thought.

• Ironically, I always have a pen in my bag, but I seldom bring a notebook unless I’m traveling long distance.

• Another irony: I don’t mind breaking open and using a new planner or journal, yet I quibble about using colorful notepads, especially those with pretty designs! (I know it’s weird, right? Isn’t that what notepads are for?)

• There was a time I used to collect notebooks and planners from Starbucks, but then I stopped. It dawned on me – once and for all – that it’s not the form that’s important, but the contents. Admittedly, my current planner is from Starbucks, but it’s a gift, and it’s not as ‘populated’ compared to my more whimsical personal journal which I really like!

• Unless I don’t have a choice, I prefer journals with a soft ‘spine’ (you know, it easily lies flat on its back when opened) compared to those that are hard-bound like a book. True, the latter offers more protection, but with the former, I find it easier to write over the middle that separates the two sections.

I think these random thoughts will do for now. Do you have anything similar to share?

Postcards from Travels – Thailand

Classical Dance Costumes for Females

Classical Dance Costumes for Females

Classical Dance Costumes for Males

Classical Dance Costumes for Males

Postcards from Travels – Japan

Source: The Isetatsu Paper Shop in Tokyo’s Yanaka Area

Woodblock print (1)

Woodblock print (1)

Woodblock print (2)

Woodblock print (2)

Postcards from Travels – Hawaii

'Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by the last king of Hawai'i, King Kalakaua.

‘Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by the last king of Hawai’i, King Kalakaua.

King Kalakaua (1836 - 1891)

King Kalakaua (1836 – 1891)

Queen Lili'uokalani (1838 - 1917) succeeded her brother, King Kalakaua, and ruled as Queen of the Hawaiian kingdom from 1891 until the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in January of 1893.

Queen Lili’uokalani (1838 – 1917) succeeded her brother, King Kalakaua, and ruled as Queen of the Hawaiian kingdom from 1891 until the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in January of 1893.

Map of Old Hawaii - Original engraving by Steve Strickland

Map of Old Hawaii – Original engraving by Steve Strickland

Inter-Island Airways, Ltd. - Artwork by Kerne Erickson

Inter-Island Airways, Ltd. – Artwork by Kerne Erickson

Outrigger and Diamondhead - Kodachrome postcard (1951)

Outrigger and Diamondhead – Kodachrome postcard (1951)

United Air Lines Travel Poster - c. 1940s

United Air Lines Travel Poster – c. 1940s

Cardcetera and Its “French Connection” Postcards

It’s almost impossible not to think of my trip to Paris while looking at “The French Connection” postcards from Cardcetera.

I’ve been there many years ago. The group study exchange program I was a part of had wrapped up, and my fellow students and I decided to stay in Europe a few more weeks before flying back home. Although our group of four subsequently parted ways, one of our common destinations was, you guessed it, France.

While I can no longer remember the exact places I went to, it’s not too difficult to pull up details like the Eiffel Tower, River Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur Basilica, the trip to Cannes, the small apartment I initially stayed at, the much bigger apartment I lived in before going to Germany, the very cold weather (it was spring), the train ride I took to visit a popular science museum (all I can recall is the extensive – and impressive – collection of bugs), a flea market I stumbled into, getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and so on.

This is because when one is more focused on experiencing rather than recording a trip, it’s much easier to go back in time. Even the minutiae are easily taken in when one is simply living in the moment.

I’ve had these “French Connection” postcards for about two weeks now. It took me “this long” to say something because each beautiful image looks just like a glossy picture! Much better than those I took back then! Each time I take a postcard in hand, my world slows down and I find myself carrying a conversation with my younger self, “You never went inside Sacré Coeur Basilica. Why’s that? You mean you chose the science museum over a historical building?”

When I was looking at the postcard bearing the croissant, baguette, and confiture, it actually made me think what a friend and I had for breakfast when we stayed for a few days at the Assumption Motherhouse in Paris. Similarly, the bucket of macarons made me wonder if we had those for dessert in Paris or Cannes . . . or if we had them at all. Surely, we drank wine!

That is the kind of whimsical conversation and rumination I have in mind all because of Cardcetera and its “French Connection” series.

Have you ever seen postcards that bring you back to your favorite places or make you wish you could be in those places? Take a look at “The French Connection” and see if you don’t start feeling wistful, too.

The French Connection: In Jardin du Luxembourg

The French Connection: In Jardin du Luxembourg

The French Connection: Aperitif

The French Connection: Aperitif

The French Connection: Croissant, Baguette, and Confiture

The French Connection: Croissant, Baguette, and Confiture

The French Connection: Bucket of Macarons

The French Connection: Bucket of Macarons

The French Connection: Breakfast

The French Connection: Breakfast

The French Connection: Pigeons in Montmarte

The French Connection: Pigeons in Montmarte

The French Connection: Sacre-Couer from Orsay Museum

The French Connection: Sacre-Couer from Orsay Museum

The French Connection: Parisian street clock

The French Connection: Parisian street clock

The French Connection postcards - All in a rack

The French Connection postcards – All in a rack

The Isetatsu Paper Shop in Tokyo’s Yanaka Area

When I was in Tokyo in 2010, I decided to stay in the Yanaka area for two reasons: it’s away from the hectic pace downtown Tokyo is known for and it has a charm not many tourists – not even locals, I think – are aware of.

One must-see shop, especially if you’re a stationery and fine paper collector, is Isetatsu. This traditional store makes and sells “chiyogami,” which is traditional Japanese paper printed with woodblocks.

Isetatsu can easily be overlooked because it blends well with the residential area it is located in. You’ll know you’ve found the shop you’re looking for because of the colorful items by the display window, beckoning you to take a closer look.

Once inside, let time take over: browse to your heart’s content.

Isetatsu - Façade

Isetatsu – Façade

Display window of Isetatsu

Display window of Isetatsu

Display window items

Display window items

Display window item - "Welcome to Isetatsu," it seems to say.

Display window item – “Welcome to Isetatsu,” it seems to say.

Inside the shop, I "saw" her and her kitten trying to catch my eye. They were on a shelf.

Inside the shop, I “saw” her and her kitten trying to catch my eye. They were on a shelf.

Some of the stationery items for sale.

Some of the stationery items for sale.

My Current Source of Inspiration for Illustrations

Title: Pictures in the Post: The illustrated letters of Sir Henry Thornill to his grandchildren
Edited by: Michael Baker

I purchased this coffee table book from a bookshop that sells books in various forms of state: new, used, overruns, and so on. This particular copy is used; its jacket is torn in places. I decided to buy it, just the same, for inspiration.

I’m the kind of letter writer whose imagination is limited by what she has on hand: rubber stamps, decorative tape, and stickers, among others. I used to draw when I was much younger, and then it was totally forgotten when I pursued communication – and not fine – arts in college.

Sir Henry’s illustrated mails to his grandchildren are like little works of art! I hope I can do the same to the letters and cards I send to the young, and even not-so-young, people in my life.

"Pictures in the Post" (front cover)

“Pictures in the Post” (front cover)

"Pictures in the Post" (back cover)

“Pictures in the Post” (back cover)

Sewing on Paper

While fixing my hobby cabinet recently, I discovered an old copy (Winter 2005) of “Paper Made Easy.” I”m not sure if the title is still in circulation, but I’m glad this issue turned up because it contains basic instructions on how to sew on paper. It’s a technique I’ve always wanted to try, though I’ve yet to find a project for it.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

You’ve torn it, layered it, punched it, stamped it, but have you tried sewing on paper? Using brightly colored thread and decorative stitches, you can add borders and other designs to paper projects with a regular sewing machine. Here are some things to keep in mind when experimenting with this exciting technique:

• Use card stock or heavy paper for starters. Move on to more delicate papers, like vellum, after you’re more comfortable with the technique.
• Practice first, without the thread. Sketch lines and shapes on paper and practice moving along them to get used to the feel of sewing on paper instead of fabric.
• Begin slowly and sew slowly. No need to rush.
• Use a small, sharp needle such as a size 9.
• Loosen tension slightly and use long stitches.
• Do not anchor or knot thread. Instead, leave a long length and tape at the back or simply cut and leave as is. Stitching will not unravel easily.
• Don’t sew through more than three paper layers at a time.
• Try sewing ribbon, die cuts, or other thin embellishments to paper.
• Try using metallic or other decorative threads.

Source: Paper Made Easy, Winter 2005 (Amos Craft Publishing)

%d bloggers like this: