Send Out a Creative Lifeline With Art by Mail

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, an annual celebration of handwritten correspondence!

Artist Lanova Bartlett’s gorgeous “Remedy For Ennui.”
Tweet by Tanzina Vega on Twitter @tanzinavega

I fell into the abyss a few days ago, and I am hearing others say they fell, too.

I go outside. I’m running and doing daily yoga, but I don’t know you guys…



Stares some more.

I still have enough perspective to know that this will pass. But, I am sad, mad, cranky, and burnt TF out! I feel deep in it, and Monday was really a no-good, terrible, very bad day.

Little things pick me up just a bit: hearing poetry get a day in the sun on NPR, watching my son read proficiently in two languages with his Grams, seeing loved ones get vaccinated, and gathering with my Power Circles.

The biggest pick-me-up, however, came by mail. Yesterday morning when I opened the lid, I peeped a mysterious piece of mail marked “HAND CANCEL” and the return address said, “REMEDY FOR ENNUI” in perfectionist handwriting that I have seen only from the hands of famed advertising legend David Kennedy and less-famous, but equally creative artist Lanova Bartlett. We have been blessed with mail from both of these perfect-penning artists, and I was delighted when I realized this little envelope was from Lanova.

Surprise art by mail, with special touches like the custom “HAND CANCEL” stamp. ❤️


Good Day!

“YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN TO BE A PASSIVE PARTICIPANT IN REMEDY for ENNUI.” The letter and art inside, each made 14 times to send to 14 friends/fans, was a complete surprise to me. Not only was the stitched Daruma inside gorgeous, but I learned more about Daruma, and read her handwritten note explaining, “For 15 years or so I have been kicking around the idea for an art in the mail project.” And, “It is a project to combat stagnation and boredom…And an excuse to be creative while bringing joy to friends.”

Mission fucking accomplished, Ms. Bartlett! I found myself hanging on to her perfect little Daruma and tracing the stitches lightly with my fingers all day, and well into the evening. I meditated on how creative expression saves those who make and those who receive. “How funny,” I thought, “I guess art does kind of save lives.” And, this is vulnerable for me to share, as I have always hated those cheesy bumper stickers and/or wanted to change them to say “Fart saves lives.” (It’s funny and true!) Lanova’s art helped pull me up a little bit, and she had no idea how much I needed it.

And, as I reminisce over the past year, I remember that some of my most joy-filled activities involved mailing surprises to others, and I do not wish to stop! last year we mailed:

  • Seasonal fruit (apples & persimmons) packed in rosemary as packing materials!
  • A mini zine/coloring book about our fiction podcast for kids.
  • Stickers for a sticker club.
  • Books for a book exchange while the libraries were closed.
  • Postcards & letters.
  • Holiday packages with special things from Portland businesses.
  • Socks.
  • Home-sewn cloth face masks.
  • A chapbook filled with poetry and prose: Quelle Presse.

I am so inspired by Lanova’s surprise, and I love how she framed the parameters for enjoyment for her recipients. I have decided that I would like to make a plan for the year for what I will be sending out. I had already wanted to make a zine anthology of Quit Lit (Let me know if you want to submit a good quitting story/art!)

So, my question for you is,

What could you send by mail, and to whom?

Seriously, y’all, art by mail saves lives.

Kennedy’s handwriting and love for sending art are always a welcome surprise in the mailbox, too!

nerd with an MLIS

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