Going the Distance
I recently finished mailing 32[!] letters as part of the InCoWriMo (link) 'challenge'. I put out a call online for interested parties on my primary social network(s) and the response was overwhelming. So much support and positivity among the analog lovers online. Some even asked if I wouldn't mind becoming pen pals as a fun way to keep the project alive long-term.
I said 'yes' to all.
After getting my first response, I tracked down a nice notecard/letter stationary and penned my response.
Unfortunately I realized my approach to letters, cards and all things analog is way more 'over the top' than the approach I took for my first response. So much so that I felt the need to apologize to the recipient.
I am not proud of the letter I just mailed.
From the Heart
Just over 2 years ago I started my 'From the Heart' project. For over 2 years I've been creating cards 'on-demand'. I use nice card stock, one of my photos and a custom makers mark (logo) on every card I give. 2 years!
The only 'template' I use as part of the process is a simple Photoshop file with grid lines for crop/bleed purposes when printing. Every image and makers mark is placed by hand when I create the card and no card is created 'up-front'. I only create the cards when I actually need one. I also hand write the interior.
I even have a deep set of images that are being used so no two cards will be identical. I have yet to send a duplicate image or card (InCoWriMo requests aside).
Why can't I do the same for letters? Why do I 'need' to use something 'off the shelf'?
I've spent over 2 years doing better than simply buying a commercial card. I can do better!
After a long, hard think I know the path forward. I'll be extending the 'From the Heart' project to include proper letters.
The Right Way
- Proper stationary that's image and text friendly
- Proper envelopes
- Proper address labels
- My personal touch
I have a soft spot for 5x7" stationary. I'm USA based, use A5 if looking for international stationary. It's just big enough for a couple of paragraphs but not so large to need a fold (or two or three). Over the years it's proven to be a great size for me. Even better: I can use an EF pen to cram a ton of text onto a single sheet if I desire.
That much was 'easy'. The harder part was figuring out how to adapt 'From the Heart' to letters. 'From the Heart' started out as cards (fancy, folded letters). The materials I buy are not cheap (read: greater than $1 per card in materials) and the final result tends to weigh in at or just above 1oz. 1oz is the USPS (United States Postal Service) cut off for a single stamp. A problematic position to say the least.
I want to feature my photography as part of my letters too. Normally I'd just print an image on photo paper and call it a day. Unfortunately photo papers have a back that make writing anything more than a title, date and signature nearly impossible. Especially if you want to get some words onto the paper.
To get around the weight, cost and other 'issues' I needed to dig. Turns out my usual paper supplier (Red River Paper) sells 'postcard' paper that's photo paper on one side and 'standard' paper on the other. I can get a 100pk of Red River 60lbs Pecos Gloss (link) at a very reasonable price. It's designed to be mailed as-is and written on. They even provide a nice postcard template for the back if you're inclined to eschew an envelope.
I reached out to Red River Paper (due diligence and all) to find out more. Their response indicate it's exactly what I wanted in paper for letters. I get to print my photos on the front and write easily with standard pens on the back. No muss, no fuss.
I have a 100 count box on order.
The next hassle was envelopes. 'From the Heart' uses a nice, bright white, elegant envelope. These are great for cards and 'special' mailings. From first sight through opening, you know the envelope contains something you need to see. Perfect for cards but not the tone I want to set in a letter.
Some poking about online yielded 'Kraft Paper Envelopes'. They are simple envelops that use a thicker paper and aren't too formal. They stand out among the noise of a mailbox but in a diminutive way. You know there's something special but not too fancy waiting for you.
This is where my knack for lateral thinking really shines. If you have an envelope that's non-white how do you handle address labels? Most of the labels I've encountered are bright white. Great for elegant card/envelope combos, bad for non-white envelopes.
Enter the Dymo 30254 (link) label. It's the standard Dymo address label but clear. Perfect for having a very legible label without destroying the envelope's aesthetic and ethos.
I even discovered they have a pre-made template that features an image on the left side of the label. The image sits right next to the address. Their printers also have some surprising resolution. I did some testing and was amazed at the image clarity. It may be grayscale but you can do a lot with the Dymo printers and address labels.
It may take some effort but I'd recommend taking a close look at their image + address template. I was able to put together a return address label that's customized for 'From the Heart'. One more special touch is rarely a bad thing.
Between stationary, envelopes and address label customizations you'd think I'd be done. Not So! I always include one final personal touch on all letters or cards. It's part consistent across all and part tailored specifically to the card or individual that will be receiving.
I won't reveal the faux secret but I can say this...
I found an approach that works for letters. It may be a bit more 'standard' than what I do for cards. However, even if 'standard', it's an additional touch that continues to work well.
I may have been embarrassed by my latest letter but it go me thinking. Sometimes a little embarrassment goes a long way to a great result.
I am looking forward to the next letter I send.