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Letter making and reflection

I have been watching a documentary series recently on the art of design, and one episode about Jonathan Hoefler: Typeface Design in particular captured my imagination. It’s an amazing glimpse into a professional and creative practice that combines material and digital elements effortlessly. Anything from maps in museum collections to books and wooden blocks to visualisation tools and digital pens is part of the process of creating a new typeface, which then is used both in the virtual and physical world. I love watching the series partly because I get to see some of the most beautiful work spaces, kitted out with everything you can possibly imagine and also because the production values of the series are high. It’s a glossy glimpse into the cult of contemporary design. It’s also a refreshing change of perspective coming from a context in which we revisit the tension between digital and more traditional ways of working all the time.

From the book “Envelopes” by Harriett Russel

Learning more about typeface design fits in well with two discoveries I recently made: first, a charity shop book find, a volume called Envelopes. This book documents a project, a postal art project, of letters sent via the Royal Mail with extraordinary envelopes. Some of the envelopes are more cryptic than others, and all of them were delivered by the postal service.

Another recent discovery, and an absolute joy, has been a blog of weekly letters written between two women called ROG & SHINCH A CREATIVE SPACE FOR TWO. I really love the project, which is described as “an exploration of writing, conversation, collaboration and curation” and I have enjoyed exploring the archive of now over a year’s worth of weekly letters.

The letters share glimpses of daily life, work, seasons and events, thoughts and ideas explored, shared and reflected on. It makes for amazing reading and it also speaks eloquently of the value of conversation and reflection – of making a connection across geographical distance, of setting aside time and space for writing and sharing.

I’ve written before about my love of letters, postcards and stationary, and setting aside time for writing… and this project has been a wonderful discovery that has inspired me anew to think more about the role writing, conversations and blogging have for me. Significance that is both personal and professional and a reflection of how distributed many of the people who are important to me have been since childhood, from school-sponsored pen pals that grew into long term friendships, to family relationships maintained over great distances to working in a distributed team resulting in a huge volume of letters, voicemails, video calls, emails, blog posts, postcards, parcels… that has steadily grown over the decades.

The complete mix of different media of communication practice is one of the things I relate to from the documentary series. When I first started writing letters as a child some of the options I have now, such as recording voice messages or sending a DM were not available to me. But even though there is more choice now, what is of primary importance is not the way I write, communicate or reflect but when, how and with whom.

I am inspired by the work of the creative people who have designed the typeface which renders these words. I am inspired by artists who create envelopes as an art form celebrating the journeys words go on between people. I am inspired by the sharing of conversations such as these two women who write letters to each other. These sources of inspiration form part of the space that my words are part of, where my voice finds room to sound. They remind me that it is important to practice communicating, reflecting, articulating my experience of the world. To keep making letters and to share, contribute, value my thoughts, my voice.

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