On New Years Eve 2015, I stayed in a woke up at 4am to watch the very first sunrise of 2016. When I got home, I wrote a letter to a friend, hand lettered the envelope, photographed it and posted it on Instagram. It was something I had been doing with almost daily consistency since July of 2015. Two days later I read a post by Kate from Of Note Stationers that said: “New notebook and new resolutions, one of which is writing one letter a day for 366 days”. I thought, I should do that, I’m already posting almost every day – why not make the commitment? The wheels in my head started turning at 85 miles an hour as they usually do when an idea takes over my brain. Within a few days I had designed a 366 stamp and had them hand carved so Kate, Isabel and I could adorn each piece of outgoing mail with the message of our project. I sent a package to them with a letter (pictured below) explaining what I had in mind and a great pen pal odyssey ensued that continues today.
Kate had the brilliant idea to interview each other about our 366 day #yearofsnailmail in honor of National Letter Writing Month. So here you will find Isabel and Kate’s answers to my questions and on their blog you will find my answers to their questions. Happy reading!
Ladies, thank you for inspiring me to do my year of snail mail in 2016. What made you decide to do the 366 day challenge? What was your favorite thing about doing the challenge? What was your least favorite thing?
KK: I decided to take on this challenge because I felt that if I was going to talk the talk I needed to walk the walk. Isabel and I started this company because we needed an outlet, a means to slow down, a means to be creative, and a means to connect with others. But as our hobby became our job, one that we absolutely love, I didn’t prioritize my own letter writing. Every day I was choosing to encourage others to reach out and connect, but I wasn’t making time for myself and so the challenge began.
My favorite thing about the challenge was getting into a flow of writing. I am no Rhea Abramson though. By that I mean, I wasn’t able to write every single day, so instead, I would write in long spurts, 7 letters in one sitting, kind of thing. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains that during flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. I found this to be entirely true with my letter writing. Words would stream from my mind to the page, I felt fully engaged and present with the recipient, and new ideas of whom I could write to would keep popping into my head.
My least favorite thing was the fact that this style made me feel perpetually behind. Moving forward I can do a better job of being kind to myself and trusting that in my own time it will all get done.
IB: Although this was Kate’s personal resolution for 2016, I really enjoyed being by her side as she took on such a challenge. It was truly inspirational to witness her determination to complete the 366 letters handwritten letters–which she did in early January and I am so proud of her for doing so!! Her challenge also pushed me to write more, as I found myself often corresponding in response to her notes :). I also realized that while our little company is growing and we spend time designing new product, improving our website, attending in person events, etc., that carving time everyday for that hobby, which we fell for, is equally important. After all, it is the reason why we began designing our own cards. I still often struggle to make time during the week for letter writing, but I have found that leaving my basket full of letter writing supplies out on my desk really makes it easier to recognize how important putting pen to paper, slowing down, and connecting with others is for me. My favorite time to write is in the afternoon, when the light is golden, right before sunset. There is something magical about that time and I so wish I was home at my desk by that time every day.
Besides learning about what Kate discovered to be challenging–having to catch up on letters every weekend– it inspired me to take on the Love Letter a Week challenge this year.
I could really relate to your February Blog about vanishing time…..are you liking our 2017 Love Letter a Week challenge? How is it going for you this far? Are the people you write love letters to responding?
KK: Yes! I am loving it 😉 With each note we are exploring different ways to express and share love with all Of Note cards. This is a wonderful quote from Krista Tippett in her book Becoming Wise that I am using as my guiding principle:
“Love is another word that is a bit (or a lot) ruined–something we routinely speak of as something to fall into and fall out of. But as a piece of intelligence about what makes us human, and what we are capable of, it is a virtue and way of being…a fantastic new companion in stepping out of fear and into care, and realizing our natural belonging one to another.”
And how is it going…welp…I got a little behind, but I am back on track and finding that planning ahead and staying consistent is key. With this post I am declaring for myself that my love letters are written and shared on Saturday. Please hold me to it!
And yes, people are responding, slowly, but surely. Having your /52 stamp and our “love inside” stamp really piques the recipient’s interest and makes it clear that this is not just any letter.
IB: This year’s Love Letter a Week has been fun so far! I think my favorite part about it putting our own designs to test. I also really enjoy adorning envelopes with the “love inside” stamp, which we specifically designed for the challenge. I have to admit, I’ve been stamping a lot of letters with it lately–and by a lot, I mean most :). I started off by sending the first letter to my mother in law and received such a wonderful note in return. I think spreading love seemed so necessary after last year’s devastating election that it has truly turned my mindset around as I focus on the positivity in daily life.
Do you write handwritten letters each other?
KK: Yes we do! And Isabel has the best supplies! I covet her date stamp and all the different address labels she has. We use this medium as a way to catch up just as friends and paper lovers. Sometimes we’ll include little treats from our travels like Mrs. Grossman’s stickers or a business card that we liked.
IB: We often do! Before we were business partners, we were friends, and early in the journey of Of Note we would exchange letters with ideas about this paper business of ours. Although we lived in the same city up until last Fall, there seems to always be much left unsaid when we meet up to work or hang out. That’s when we take pen to paper 🙂 I am truly lucky to be able to share inspiration, express my frustrations, ask for relationship or friendship advice, receive movie and book recommendations, share current podcasts obsessions, and even some laughs via notes to my dearest business partner, Kate. She always knows how to put a smile on my face, whether she sends a short postcard, a gratitude, or a more in depth catch up letter. It is so nice to see her handwriting and signature, especially since we correspond via the digital medium on the day to day.
What inspired you to create Of Note Stationers? What keeps you motivated to create gorgeous paper products?
KK: Dissatisfaction and a need to slow down. After three years working as a Special Education teacher I decided to take some time off. I was burnt out from working 60-80 hour weeks and needed space to determine if this really was the best path for me. At the same time, Isabel and her husband were planning their wedding and designing their own invitations. To top it off they had a friend letterpress print their invitations. I was blown away by Isabel’s talent and thought to myself we could create something special together.
Leading up to the launch of our business were many months of figuring out who we wanted to be and how we wanted to contribute the stationery world. In that time we established that it was the “just because” niche of the greeting card industry that captivated us. Within that niche, it was the small yet significant moments of reaching out to loved ones that we hoped to encourage.
And in time, Of Note was born. What we especially love about the phrase Of Note is the expected use of it for something extraordinary. We believe the opposite, that pausing to take note is notable in and of itself. The fact that one takes a moment to slow down, step out of his/her day to write, to reach out, and to share, is “Of Note.”
I just blabbed on for a good long while so I’ll let Isabel answer the second part of this question 🙂
IB: Ideas are never scarce when there are two running a business, so it makes it quite easy to continue developing products and putting them out into the world. Often times we are inspired by the things we wish existed, or by the words themselves. At the very beginning we were eager to make our designs a reality, and now that we have a full line (with more designs launching this coming May eeeek!), it is motivating to see the brand almost exist on its own. Meaning, yes, we are coming up with the ideas, but we are also expanding the line so that designs can have “siblings” or pairings of cards that stemmed out of an initial idea. I guess that sounds very poetic, but really there are so many ideas that we’ve written down and discussed but haven’t had time to explore yet. There are so many elements that drive our business but ultimately it is this idea and desire to create space for the handwritten word and deepening connections.
I have a few more questions about love letters, places to write and special passion projects that will be in the next blog. I will also talk about the special day when the three of us met. And there will be a very special video of all the letters I wrote to Isabel and Kate during the 366 days of 2016.
Until the next note, Rhea