The San Francisco Correspondence Co-op: Liberté, égalité, amitié

[Alyson Kuhn] I have recently become postal pals with several members of the SF Correspondence Co-op. I always like to celebrate Bastille Day, and the co-op’s bleu-blanc-rouge fête on July 14 seemed parfait. The monthly get-together is called a meeting, but it’s really about greeting, eating and stamping.

Co-op member Maureen Forys lent her big stamp (from Aéroport Charles de Gaulle) as the official cancellation for the July 14 meeting.

Jennie Hinchcliff, co-author of Good Mail Day, founded the co-op in the spring of 2011. I love the motto: “Hand in Hand, Letter by Letter.” The first several meetings were held after-hours in the café of the Mechanics’ Institute Library. The group rapidly outgrew the space and tried out two other venues. July 14 was the premiere meeting in an activity room at San Francisco’s Main Library.

Four long tables pushed together provided a splendid work surface, though it was sometimes necessary to stand up to reach supplies. Photo: Pamela Gerard.

Maureen Forys’ “Get Out of Jail Free” in French post cards, about to be cut (not by guillotine) and distributed

My corner: Freshly-sharpened (before leaving home) red and blue pencils, and beaucoup de theme postage. I hear you thinking, “What’s French about that little bird stamp?” Nothing, but it’s my signature stamp, because its initials are the same as mine (AK for American Kestrel).

Pamela Gerard’s Correspondence Co-op passport. Photo: Pamela Gerard.

Pamela Gerard is a charter member. Her exemplary 100% attendance is reflected in her official passport, an impressive succession of pages each bearing its Cinderella (imaginary postage), signature and cancellation stamp . Pamela is a photographer, a wizard with washi and a crafty correspondent. She recently made me two mini-books for the presentation of even-more-mini vintage photos of Carmel she uncached somewhere. The first little book (below left) she mailed in an envelope; the second (below right) she presented in person, inside a Parisian postal pouch tied with airmail ribbon. Once I had decanted my gifties, we promptly pressed the ribbon into service to frame some chocolate letters and an ampersand toast, for our digital R.S.V.P. to the July 14 meeting.

My mixed-media mini-books by Pamela Gerard. Photo: © 2012 StudioAlex.

Café Rigolo, SF, June 22: What you don’t see is the table behind us, covered with the supplies of the artiste who was painting French flags and curlicues (evoking fireworks and effervescence) on the glass doors in anticipation of Bastille Day. Our zone in the café looked like an atelier. Photo: Pamela Gerard.

Pamela is also a bloggerista. She updates her Cappuccino and Art Journal continually, with a great stream of well-annotated photos as well as wonderful encouragement and tips for aspiring mail artists, correspondents and other mail-makers.

Happy Birthday to Annie: Co-op member Annie Yu (a.k.a. Curbside Treasure) received a Corona 4 typewriter as her birthday gift from Anna Lincoln, a recent arrival in SF from Seattle.

One of the things I love about the SF Correspondence Co-op is the absence of any bureaucracy. We are all epistolary aristocracy at this social club, where the sharing of skills (and supplies), the exchanging of favors, and the love of letter-writing are writ large.

Speaking of large writing, the flyer below was for a talk — about Blackletter written with bamboo pens — held concurrently in the room next to the Correspondence Co-op. I popped my head in after the co-op had adjourned and instantly realized how raucous we must have sounded through the wall. Ward Dunham and Linnea Lundquist of Atelier Gargoyle were speaking to a very full room of very quiet listeners. The crinkling of my coat caused heads to turn.

Flyer for the presentation in the room next door & my new “Take me to Paris” button. Photo: © 2012 StudioAlex.

Gina Visione, whose incredible multi-roll tape dispenser we featured on our Washi Watch, is another new postal pal. She quickly moved beyond basic envelopment and sent me lots o’ loot in a Lucca ravioli box, including several of her map-elopes held together with washi, plus two sheets of dots, for which my appetite is apparently insatiable.

Gina Visione’s “postal pasta” delivery. Photo: © 2012 StudioAlex.

My prized Monte Carlo envelopes: The Place Masséna on the left, casino and theatre on the right.

For show-and-tell, I revealed the provenance of a pair of ooh-and-aah-provoking envelopes (above), which date back to 1995, when I worked at Paper Source in Chicago. Founder Sue Lindstrom let me design an envelope to convert from a huge stash she’d just acquired of heavy paper placemats. Most of the mats featured Americana scenes, so my “Riviera rarities” were elegant exceptions.

Jennifer Utter’s après-Bastille post card to me. Her every communiqué radiates sense & sensibility and perfect printing. (I show uncharacteristic restraint by not taking liberté with her last name.) Photo: © 2012 StudioAlex.

Jennie Hinchcliff sent a baker’s dozen of Après-Bastille Cards. I was honored to receive 2/13. Photo: © 2012 StudioAlex.

Photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Jennie Hinchcliff herself. Her blog is Red Letter Day. You can see many more photos of mail in the making, posted by co-op members, on Flickr.

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Comments (3)

  1. Posted by Joan O'Connor on 08.3.12 at 4:45 pm

    Magical! So sorry I missed this fabulous party.

    We are huge fans of Jennie Hinchcliff’s book and Alyson Kukn’s creative energy at Timeless Treasures in San Francisco. Hope y’all will come and check out our vintage rubber stamps when you’re in the city. You can see a little bit about us at http://www.timelesstreasuressf.com.

  2. Posted by Stephanie on 08.8.12 at 12:36 pm

    Oh My Gosh!!! I so wish I could attend this. It looks FABULOUS!!! I am so jealous!!! I hope you have a WONDERFUL time :0)

  3. Posted by CMN on 09.10.12 at 6:33 am

    LOVED this post! Thank you, Alyson, for taking the time to document and share such a fun event! Those of us who weren’t there (only because we don’t live within distance, of course!) are extremely jealous… 🙂

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