Do You Know About Postcrossing?

If you’re at all tuned in to the stamp-loving and letter-writing communities across the web, chances are you’ve heard of Postcrossing. Launched in 2005 by people who delight in checking the mailbox (not the inbox) every day, this postal-based project connects people from all over the world through the exchange of postcards.

The premise is simple: Create a profile, request an address to which you’d like to mail a postcard, send it, and wait for one to come to you, all for (almost) free—you do have to pay for postage! (For the visually-minded, this video demonstrates the process, set to philatelic music.) The best part is, you never know what you’re going to find in your mailbox.

Because it’s an international exchange, users can receive a wide variety of stamps, postcards, and even mail art. Many Postcrossers upload images of their unique pieces to Postcrossing’s Flickr page as a visual component to the shared communication. Some are truly amazing!

Since the project’s inception, Postcrossers have sent more than 13 million postcards to addresses around the globe. And it isn’t just mail fans participating. The State Journal reported that several homeschool communities use Postcrossing as an alternative method for teaching geography and history. Letters and stamps can be fun and educational!

Have you ever participated in Postcrossing? If you were to send a postcard to an unknown recipient, what would you write? What kind of postcard would you send? Which stamp(s) would you use? Tell us your stories in the comments.

Poet Wallace Stevens & The Power of Imagination

Poet Wallace Stevens was born on this day in 1879. An elegant and playful writer, Stevens—who had a long and very successful career in the insurance business—created poems that richly reward patient reading.

Some of his poems are highly comic, while others are somber and spare. Many of them explore the relationship between consciousness and reality. Take, for example, “The Snow Man,” an excerpt from which appears on the Twentieth-Century Poets stamp sheet. The poem begins:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

In order to understand winter, we must shed our human perceptions and expectations and become like the snow man, for whom the winter world is not cold and desolate. It just is. Human consciousness, Wallace seems to be saying, shapes our reality; to find truth, we must transcend ourselves.

Of course, this is just an interpretation of the poet’s message. Artist Vivienne Flesher (who illustrated the ) chose to represent the poem not literally with the image of a snow man but with what a snow man might see: a single pine tree glowing in the cool winter light.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

This image appears on one of the cards in the , which includes 10 unique note cards and envelopes plus 10 stamps. Each of the cards features a painting by Flesher that, in one way or another, re-imagines the sentiments of the poem it illustrates, rendering the words of the poems both familiar and strange.

Stevens may have appreciated this. Poetry, he once said, is a “a way through reality.” In the words of one critic, “The imagination is the true hero of a Stevens poem.”

Sending Love on Love Note Day

Writing expressions of love to the people in your life who matter most is a truly wonderful gesture . . . for sender and receiver alike. And what better day to send a reminder of how much you care than today? That’s right, it’s Love Note Day!

This cover carries an affixed stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark (click for more info).

How will you celebrate? Will you be sending a letter to your mother or father, to your siblings or grandparents? How about to your significant other? Or someone you’ve admired from afar? Tell us about your Love Note Day plans in the comments, share your photos on Instagram and Twitter (#lovenoteday), and visit our Pinterest boards for some and inspiration.

The simple act of telling others you love them is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced world. Take a little time to send a love note today and put a smile on someone’s face.

Favorite Links: 52 Weeks of Mail Edition

On October 9, 2011 (World Post Day!), the Etsy Greetings Team—a group of more than 100 artists devoted to the art and promotion of handmade cards—issued a challenge to their followers: Mail at least one letter, postcard, or note to a friend or loved one every week for a year. People around the world took on the 52 Weeks of Mail challenge, including one blog devoted (almost) entirely to the project. (Do a Google search for “52 Weeks of Mail” and you’ll find many more bloggers and penpal organizations doing the same thing.)

The first 52 Weeks of Mail challenge ends two weeks from this Sunday. If like us, however, you follow the official (there’s also a Flickr group devoted to the challenge), you’ll know that a whole new 52 Weeks of Mail begins again the second week of October.

For those of you thinking about joining in for the second year, here are some participation ideas from Handmadeology:

Send your card to Grandma (or whomever), enclosing a second card with a stamped envelope, so that she can send a card to someone else! Be sure to explain in your card what you are doing, so she will know why you sent her a brand new card.

Get your kids involved! Tell them stories of how snail mail was all there was when you were a kid. Let them write letters or send cards to grandparents, friends, etc. This will help keep the “art” of letter writing and sending alive.

Encourage friends, relatives and co-workers to join in on the fun, and challenge each other to see who can stick with this challenge.

USPS Stamps will officially be taking part this time around! How about you?

Our Favorite Links of the Week: Mail Art Edition

We’ve seen some amazing mail art in our time, and since the Internet makes it so easy to spread the love of letter-, envelope-, and postcard-based illustrations, we’re sharing some of our favorite sites and blogs that celebrate one of our favorite kinds of art!

Postmarked 2012 exhibits and then auctions off beautifully illustrated envelopes and letters from artists around the world. The proceeds benefit the Prison Library Project, which provides books and other educational material to prisons around the U.S. Submissions for this year’s auction will be accepted through the end of the month.

Serving as a repository for mail art competitions, exhibitions, and symposiums, Mail Art Project provides a forum for mail art enthusiasts to get involved in current projects around the world.

Mail Art Postcard Exhibition posts user-submitted photos of artfully decorated postcards that have been sent through the post.

With two exhibitions, two books, and more than 1,300 pieces of mail, Mail Me Art has brought together a diverse array of amateur and professional illustrators whose medium of choice is mail.

Are you a mail artist? We’d love to see some of your work! Share your art with us on , Twitter, or by email at uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com.