Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fun with Postcards

Postcards are a fascinating window into people's lives, and they were there long before Facebook and Twitter as a way to keep in touch. It used to be popular for people on vacation to send family or friends a postcard from the destination telling them all about it. As a kid, I remember receiving a postcard from my aunt and uncle every time they traveled (which was often!); it was so fun to get something in the mail with my name on it. I still love that feeling! If you’re also interested in postcards, here are a few books worth checking out.

PostSecret is an interesting community art project created by Frank Warren in which people write down a secret on a postcard and mail it to him anonymously. Warren has compiled several books of the best postcards he receives, each one full of amazing postcards with people’s deepest secrets written across them. They are visually compelling pieces of people’s lives. One of the compilations I enjoyed is PostSecret: confessions on life, death, and God. The postcards chosen for this book were part of an art exhibit called “All Faiths Beautiful” at the American Visionary Art Museum.

I love the idea behind the graphic anthology Postcards: true stories that never happened. , another compilation of mailed postcards, except these are older. This book shows you those old postcards but then takes them a step further: authors and comic book artists collaborated to create stories about the postcards and some possible meanings behind them. You get to see the postcard they are working from and then the story that evolved from it. In one story, a young woman struggles through an abusive relationship, and in another, a man is absorbed in a nostalgic childhood memory. Some of the stories really pulled at me more than others, but overall, I enjoyed the experience of reading these “true stories” that never happened.

If you are a fan of history, then the book The Postcard Century: 2000 cards and their messages is the book for you. By flipping through the pages, the 20th century unfolds through postcards that people sent to each other every day. This book can only be read at the Halifax Central library, but if you drop by to visit there are all kinds of comfortable nooks to curl up with a good book. My choice would be the Halifax Living Room on the fifth floor: it has the perfect combination of comfortable seating and the smell of coffee. The only “problem” is the distraction of that amazing view!

If you’re interested not only in postcards but also in the mail system that delivers them, John Tingey’s The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects is a fascinating read. This novel tells the story of W. Reginald Bray, a man who enjoyed testing the limits of the London postal services After studying the mail regulations, he wanted to explore what the postal system could do, attempting to mail everything from turnips to himself. The most interesting thing I ever received in the mail was an owl puppet with no packaging, but Mr. Bray made some people’s mail really exciting! Full of illustrations and anecdotes, it is an entertaining read.

Last but not least is a postcard book for crafters: Stitched Postcards by Christina Rolf is all about making postcard-sized works of art. I can't vouch for their ability to survive the postal system, but in the style of Mr. Bray, you could experiment or even put it in an envelope. Either way, anybody lucky enough to receive one of the beautiful stitched postcards from this book would be delighted!

by Sarah

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