Once a Penpal, Always a Penpal

Once a Penpal, Always a Penpal

From 1973 - 1978, I wrote letters to a friend of mine (still friends today!) who I went to elementary school with, but then she moved away after grade five. Of course at age 11, although it seemed like she lived a million miles away, it was only about a 45 minute car ride away - in 1970's traffic. She recently gifted me back all those letters I wrote to her. It has been a fascinating way to re-visit my childhood and remember what I was like at that age.

I got my letter-writing love from my Mother, who was originally from Reading, England. For weeks, I would watch her sitting and handwriting Holiday letters to her friends and family who lived "across the pond", as she used to say. Starting in the middle of October, she would diligently write a multi-page letter to each person. There she sat, at our dining room table with her list of recipients, all her letter writing paraphernalia; checking each one off, as she licked the envelope closed. My job was to put the stamps on the finished ones. Then she would mail them in batches every week, popping by our local post office to ensure they got the jump on getting out of the country faster. No popping them in a local box one at time. My Mother had a system, from which she never wavered!

So, it is probably no surprise to learn that I am a letter writer through and through. If you are on my extensive Christmas card list, you know all about it. And like my Mother, it doesn't just say Dear XXX, Happy Christmas, best for the new year or something like that. Nope. I write a personal note in each and every one of them. And being true to Mother's rules, I start early and send the ones that go the farthest first. Australia and England are out the door the earliest, followed by the U.S. But most are mailed right here in Canada, from Coast to Coast.

This "hobby" of mine means stationary stores have always been high on my list of retail loves. I am incapable of walking past a card shop without going in. For me, it's like being sucked into a candy store! My current favourite store is a place in Toronto called Paper Plus Cloth. I just LOVE that store. I am one of their happy newsletter subscribers, which often gets me into a little retail paper trouble when I find their latest email edition filled with what's new in their store:  paper, pens, washi tape, stickers, etc. 

Recently, much to my surprise, their latest newsletter featured an initiative called InCoWriMo or International Correspondence Writing Month. How could I NOT know about this??? Apparently it is an annual event, that takes place in February, where participants are challenged to commit, write and send one piece of physical mail every day for the month of February. This event quickly gained popularity and grew into an international phenomenon with people from all over the world taking part. I couldn't resist, and ordered their pre-order of InCoWriMo "limited-edition, leap-year 29 days of writing" set (as pictured above).

The timing couldn't have been better. I was just talking about how the "old school" practices of communication are being lost through our digital age, and how my life-long appreciation of sending and receiving "real mail" is still very strong. Sending snail mail is my pen-to-paper equivalent of walking barefoot on the beach, or digging in the dirt in my community garden plot. It grounds me and keeps me connected. Letter writing draws me back again and again, as I love the hunt for the card or paper for a particular person, choosing the right instrument with which to compose the letter and spending too much time on Canada Post's website looking for great stamps! It's the whole process I enjoy, from start to finish.

The joy is also in the receiving. Most people I write a real card to respond in some way. Text, email, telephone call, or sending a snail mail card back - further touch points to help keep you connected to the ones you love.

It's much like how I approach my jewellery making. I don't think I realized until now, just how closely the relationship is between the jewellery I make and the cards I write. It's all about connection, and always has been.

So with February coming up fast, I have decided to embark on a little experiment that involves both letter writing and jewellery making. If you are interested in discovering what that combination may look like, I encourage you to click the link to the Google Form I have set up. It will ask for your snail mail address and some other information to include, like how you ended up on my newsletter list.

My plan is to write to 29 of you in February, as per the above challenge. Some of you I will know, but there are many on my list who I know by face, but not necessarily by name. And I may not remember exactly how I know you, or what jewellery you own, if any. My memory is NOT getting better with age! So if you could tell me a little about yourself, and your connection with me, that would be wonderful. It will also help with writing content for your personal letter, if you are one of the 29. 

2022 Rescue Hearts

February is also when Valentine's Day happens. Quite a bit of pressure for one day. I personally think every day is LOVE day. Whether to a person, animal or plant, loving something is a daily practice as far as I am concerned. But as a jeweller, I naturally think about hearts in February, more than any other month.

You may remember a couple of years ago, in 2022, I did a series of Rescue Heart Pendants. From February 1-13, I released one pendant daily via Instagram (shown in the image above). This year's heart month idea is my "old school" rendition. I am choosing NOT to solely use social media, but add an injection of good old regular mail into the mix.

I will still be using Instagram to keep you up-to-date with what I am up to (so if you're not following me, you should be @lisaridout). And much like my Rescue Heart Pendants from 2022, I have been talking about my next series of hearts called "Missing Hearts" in my recent posts. Once again, they are being created from my jewellery scrap bin. They are still a work in progress, but I feel confident that I will come up with something suitably "heart-like" that I will release in February. Below is an image of where I am currently with the project.

Missing Hearts Image

If you fill out my Google Form, and your snail mail address is chosen, I will send you a piece of personal mail with a handwritten note, and a small token of my jewellery appreciation, because you have expressed such an interest in what I do. Whether you just discovered my jewellery recently, you've been with me for a while, or followed my entire 32 year career, I appreciate everyone who takes an interest and supports me.

For me, there is no better way to stay more connected with you, than returning to my early roots of letter writing, and combining that with a small token of my "metal gratitude" that will arrive in 29 mailboxes, packaged as a pretty little surprise. Because seriously, can there be anything better than an old fashioned piece of real mail?

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Hi Lisa,
We have been friends for many years and I have a lovely collection of your work. Your creative genius never ceases to amaze me! Beautiful hearts and beautiful words!

Michelle Hallam

Lisa, I became an admirer of your fine creations about twenty five years ago…in an Art boutique in Lakefield,on….where I purchased several earring and pendant styles .After the store closed , I followed you to your Toronto studio , where my husband was fascinated by the silver knitting process , and I purchased a custom watch which I still wear today ….I love following your career through your monthly blogs ,,,Keep on creating new ideas ! Bev

Beverley macdougall

Lovely letter you wrote. I reconnected with you Christmas 2022 when I ordered a necklace for my daughter. As a result I also received one of your wonderful necklaces from my friend Glen who contacted you.
I had the store Interlace Studio in Medicine Hat Alberta many years ago. I met you at the gift show in Toronto. I remember your tiny little busy hands. Love your jewellery.
Happy February, Hugs and Hearts. Gail Macdonald0

Gail Macdonald

This is such a lovely idea Lisa! It explains a lot. I always enjoy getting am email from you. It’s not the typical quick response that most of us do. It always felt like you were “checking in” You ask questions and always told me a bit about what you are up to. -Christine xoxo

Christine McGrath

Oh Lisa ,I can totally picture you loving writing each letter, and choosing just the right card , paper … for each person. What a treasure !
I hope your sons ( are they Your roadies now?)
inherited some of your gifts of connection.
Are you selling your Missing Hearts? I would love to buy one for my granddaughter.
Take care, Lynn

Lynn Schroeder

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