Handwritten Mail: Tradition, Art, and Keepsakes

I'd be interested to meet the person who doesn't enjoy receiving a handwritten card or letter. A piece of personalized mail is a rarity—signaling that someone took the time to write and send it your way. 

There is something about a hand-addressed envelope peeking out of the mailbox, or someone's familiar scrawl across a card, that never fails to elicit from me a thrill of warmth and human connection.  Now that we live in “an increasingly digital world," I treasure my cultural traditions more. 

As a child, I was taught to write thank-you notes as a sign of respect and proper etiquette. Up until the Internet exploded into my world when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I had a slew of penpals from as far away as Sweden. And, like my mother before me, to this day I keep a “Special Box” full of the snail mail that’s been sent to me that retains its meaningfulness.

Am I alone in my love of “old-fashioned” communication? 

Funnily enough, it’s through social media I find encouragement that others still care about a cultural tradition of handwritten mail. On Twitter, there are endless posts from people happy to have a letter from a friend:

Or, like this young man, posts from people asking for someone to send them “real” mail:

And there are also blog posts where letter-writers elaborate on why the handwritten tradition is still essential for them, be it etiquette, habit, Ludditism, or the belief that the newest, fastest thing isn’t always the best (at least when it entirely replaces a predecessor that still has value). 

Yet one of my favorite posts on the topic is this one which looks at letters in a historical context: “What do we use to gain an insightful analysis of the world at hand?” Typically, we use journals and letters, and if we give up these hard-copy records of our human lives and interactions, where will we end up in the abyss of a digitized world?

My favorite lines from this post are these: “But handwritten letters are unique in that they don’t just convey introspection. They shed light on the messages we felt the need to impart on people we care about.”

At The Spot Press, we believe that tangible things are precious: a book to touch, a card to write to a friend (or a card to receive and keep in a special box or hang on the fridge). Our goal is to create small pieces of art that are accessible to anyone, keepsakes which can offer something visually pleasing while sharing human stories. 

Years in the future, whose handwriting would you like to see on a long-kept card that will thrill you with the warmth of human connection?

We are (a)live!

The Spot Press store is up and ready to go! 

Charlee and I flipped the switch last evening and launched with our first six books and a selection of greeting cards. We can also make literally any image into a gallery-quality inkjet print in several sizes. 

As a fledgling venture, we are very excited, but there's some trepidation, too. We still have kinks in the site to sort out, and we are both the type who will keep working on something until we think it's perfect. That can mean hours tweaking tiny details that no one else may notice, or deciding exactly how to best ship a 22"x17" print. But we also get to do fun things like making final visual decisions on packaging, branding, and business cards. 

We also get excited talking about plans for The Spot Press: We have more books and cards in the works, and want to include other artists' work down the road. We hope to support organizations that we believe in by blogging about them. We want to maintain discussions about photography, literature, animals, the canine-human bond, and how these things may better help us understand our world.

We like that the work we do with Max — when it comes right down to it — makes people smile. This project strives to interact with people out there who are interested in seeing as much as there is to see, and absorbing many perspectives, especially through the arts. 



Please check out our work, spread the word, and visit The Spot Press community again!

That's my story for now.



Exhibit at Davis Orton Gallery and Other News

It's an invigorating time at The Spot Press.

We're working to launch the site and meet an audience interested in our work. As we select products, write copy, design and redesign, we're thinking about how to present the work to you, our audience. 

In other news, Charlee has an exhibition of "Monster and Other Tales" at the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, New York. Running through October 6, the exhibit showcases work from the Good Dog series that will be available on The Spot Press, including our limited edition artists's books, manufactured books, giclée (inkjet) prints, and notecards.

Follow us on Twitter or bookmark us to keep up with newly published work and discussions of art, literature, and humanity.

Through the exhibit and The Spot Press shop, we hope to share with you work that will act as both a mirror and a lens -- reflecting back to you something with which you can identify while also allowing you to see elements of human life from perspectives other than your own. 

Welcome to The Spot Press

As the inaugural blog post for The Spot Press, our welcome and invitation to explore the site comes with much excitement and some suspense. 

I'm J.B. Blackford, our editor and writer, who will be curating our blog and engaging you in discussions on everything from social commentary in fine art photography to why one of our team members, Max the Westie, is an ideal subject and Everyman. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Our story actually started in 2007 with one photographer, two West Highland Terriers, and an experiment. 

Charlee Brodsky is a fine-art documentary photographer who used her two Westies as subjects while familiarizing herself with a new digital camera before visiting India. The liveliness of the photographs, coupled with Charlee's experiences that passersby almost always desired to connect with her dogs, made her probe the possibility of the work. Doing so led her to connect photographs and then pair them with the words of "collaborators" known for their skill in using language to explore the flaws and triumphs of humanity: Mary Shelley, William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

This work evolved into the Good Dog series, which was exhibited at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 2012, and was the first project that Charlee and I worked on together. It was my job to edit the Afterwords in which Charlee elaborates on the impetus for the work, and, to do my job well, I spent a lot of time looking at the images and text together. I was continually struck by how the language from novels that I'd read multiple times over many years was fresh to my eyes when put next to a "speaker" who wasn't human. From there, it wasn't a far leap to agree to Charlee's proposal that we try to get the work out, try to share it with a larger group of people than we were able to reach here in Pittsburgh. With that goal in mind, Becky Torbochkin -- a former design student of Charlee's at Carnegie Mellon University -- came on board to create and design the site. 

As individuals, the three of us -- Charlee, Becky, and myself -- are all storytellers in our own mediums and styles, whether through photography, information design, or the written word. Together, we want to tell you the story of The Spot Press. We want to involve you in the work that's being done here so that The Spot Press is both a place to create and sustain art, and a place where we can use beautiful things as a venue for examining our experiences as humans.  

For us, The Spot Press is an adventure, and it's our hope that you join us.