The Envelope Project
The Envelope Project began with a recent find at an estate sale.
I am an artist and collector of all things vintage. Poking around antique markets and yard sales is a favorite pastime of mine. Repurposing and recycling is a personal passion.
Recently, I happened upon a $3.00 basket brimming with old postage stamps and cancelled envelopes. There were stamps from all over the world that dated back 75 years. Their faded colors created a lovely palette. But the envelopes stole my heart. As I sifted through the envelopes and saw the flowery copperplate handwriting, the formal styles of address, the lack of zip codes – sometimes only a city as a destination – an idea began to form. There was a beauty to the simple design of each envelope. I imagined stories of connection between soldiers and their sweethearts at home, relatives and distant family members, best friends.
That these keepsakes of family histories were sitting in a barn in a plastic basket didn’t feel right. I wanted to preserve them in a way that the history and story of each one would live on. I began to draw images and words on the envelopes, incorporating the original stamps and markings. I posted a few on my Facebook page and was surprised that friends wanted to purchase them. The Envelope Project was born. There are now envelopes in homes all over the world. Some people have collected them based on a date or postmark that had a personal connection for them. Others have loved the art and the idea of recycling the old envelopes into new art.
Creating art out of these ordinary papers has given me a way to preserve a dying form of communication in this digital age. Many school districts no longer teach cursive handwriting. Letter writing has been replaced by email and text messages. These long ago letter writers and their words have been given new life through The Envelope Project. It has enabled me to bring attention to the power and beauty of words on paper.
Most of my adult life I’ve been fortunate to be a working artist. I didn’t have a grand plan to rescue and revive these beautiful old papers. It was a bit of serendipity that put the basket of correspondence in my hands and ignited my imagination. I got to make art, recycle these pieces of history and share them with others. It’s all good.