Thursday, February 28, 2013

fermi - minimal

this is it. this is just as much fun as the one i did a long time ago.

i kept looking at the stamp
and loved the way his writing was cropped
and thought
oh....he could have written the address
i liked the idea
and then,
making some of the letters into numbers was
margaret-esque enough that i could put this challenge to rest.

maybe margaret will tell us if she has a favorite
or if she is disappointed and going to find someone else to make a fun envelope
with her Fermi stamp.

anyone else have a favorite stamp?

of course, all this talk about fermi made me curious. from the stamp, he looks like a pretty fun guy. i highly recommend the wikipedia story of his life. fascinating. and the best part is towards the end where it says this:

"He disliked complicated theories, and while he had great mathematical ability, he would never use it when the job could be done much more simply. He was famous for getting quick and accurate answers to problems which would stump other people. Later on, his method of getting approximate and quick answers through back-of-the-envelope calculations became informally known as the "Fermi method""

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

fermi - black bars

this one is just a rough design. anyone who has taken a class with me knows that i love repetition. so, i thought of repeating that black bar. again, i could spin several ideas off multiple black bars. but, i'm not feeling like this is the winner....yet....
anyone scared that i am going to obsess on this stamp for the next six weeks?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

fermi -top green

yup, i love it.
most of you knew exactly what was coming.

this is just a variation of all those landscape ideas.
i used a ruler and a calligraphy marker for the black stripe. then i used a tombo brush marker for the *blackboard* lines. obviously, i did not use a ruler. 

there are many, many different ways to put the address on an envelope like this...
maybe i'll post a few...
or maybe someone will send some of their own ideas.

i love this one....
but it doesn't quite measure up to my all time favorite that uses this stamp....
must keep trying.....

Monday, February 25, 2013

fermi -tall

ok, this is a hot mess.
i should have put something inside the envelope to give me a smooth surface. those ghost lines through the margaret are from the back side of the envelope.

i liked the idea of filling the top space on the envelope and making it look like the blackboard. and the black bars are an obvious design element to borrow from the stamp.
and i even like the loopy shepherd.
if i did a finished version of this idea, the shepherd would have dots along the lines to mimic the atomic drawing on the stamp.
but, i would have to re-do it to get the stamp to fit on the envelope and i really need the lines on the blackboard to be horizontal...
so can you picture where i am going with this?
see u tomorrow....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

guest artist linda - patchwork

looks like a birthday to me. i love any kind of lettering that is filled with designs.

sunday is my new day for guest artists and foreign mail art.

monday through friday will have more from the Fermi series. i am going to try to have a theme each week. my goal is to get people to try these ideas.

if you don't like the weekly theme concept, let me know. i can always go back to hodge-podge-chaos.
or the second law of thermodynamics for you Fermi-heads.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

fermi - carefully

this was my first try at a Fermi design for margaret. i was being pretty careful. i used pencil lines. and i am happy with some of it. but i can tell that i would have to spend a LOT of time tweeking all the elements to make it into one that i just love to pieces.

part of the problem is that the one i did for jackie is an all-time favorite. when i already have a favorite idea that goes with a stamp, it can be challenging to come up with another favorite idea. but, you all know i like a good challenge, so, i wasn't going to quit after this one....
monday will be try no. 2.... (tomorrow is sunday, guest artist day)
any guesses how many tries it took until i got to one that i loved-to-pieces?

BTW, i was thinking that if i actually mailed this, i would need a second stamp. ideally, i would find another sheet of the Fermi stamps and use two of them...but, i rather like the LOVE stamp paired with Fermi. a lot of artists love math or physics or whatever he did. we like chalk boards, too.

that is not her real if you live in ames, don't be looking for her house.

ya'know could do something fun with the AR g AR
in between the  M and ET

Friday, February 22, 2013

margaret - guest artist

so here is the second person who inspired me to keep the blog going. margaret shepherd. she's been authoring calligraphy books for 40+ years. she has a blog where she posts a new alphabet 6 days a week (and a project on the 7th day).

i'm guessing she is using some of the alphabets from her books. but, she better start working on 300 new alphabets because this year will fly by and she'll be hooked on this *every day* commitment. clearly, any one who hoards Fermi stamps, will be compelled to continue her one-a-day routine.

my first message from margaret was an email asking me if i would be interested in spinning an idea off of one of her favorite stamps. *of course i would* was the response...i was curious as all get-out which stamp it would be. so this is what she sent....the Fermi stamp. it is there on the left of the envelope...i just moved it from the note, to cover up her return address.

i will come back and talk about her gold *shepherd* name. for now, tip your head as far as you can, to the right and read the one on the top -- you will see that *shepherd* says... *margaret* when viewed from the other direction. she had it easy, she has the same number of letters in both names. i had the challenge of fitting *jean* into *wilson* -  but, i am happy with the results...which will be posted another day.

tomorrow will be the beginning of a series of ideas based on this stamp. it did appear on an envelope to jackie...does anyone remember it?

here is a link to margaret's blog....

i like the way she puts a cross bar on her Ms

check below, if you missed it, there was a bonus post yesterday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

bonus post

i was thinking the blog looked a little blah this week...and went surfing to find something colorful. instead, i found this one, which i just love.

super stealworthy.
it was sent to someone in st louis who invited 1000 artists to send mail art and the mail was supposed to end up in a book. i will surf a little more and see if the book ever materialized...

here is the link to the illustrator who made the envelope.

he is making a living at his we can't steal any of his ideas....except i am pretty sure that dotted lines and maps are in the public domain. and we can use black and white on kraft paper....actually, he says he is inspired by maurice sendak and i think those little guys on the top are very sendakian

next week, we will have color
although, as i will only be green...can anyone out there tell what's coming from that clue?

thank you , susan 5

my fifth and final idea for a thank you to susan.
i used a brush marker.

below is
a sample of caps from french calligrapher, Jean Larcher. (i gave him a ride in my car one time) google him and you'll see all kinds of great stuff...

i am going to start putting stuff like this on the blog for people who think i am hot stuff. i am not. i am lukewarm. but, i'm happy where i am.

also, a BIG thank you to
alyce, jack, claire, linda, ally, nancy, susan x 2, jackie, marti, ruth, allison ....and if i have forgotten anyone...leave another comment and i will add you to the list.
i will be posting envelopes for all of you

thank you thank you thank you 

- also...allison....i will post the link to your graphic very soon....sorry for the delay.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

thank you susan, 3-4

two more rough ideas for susan. this time, i used the scroll tip of the marker. that's what gives it the double line.
on the top one, i left out the middle crossbar on the E
and the cross bars on the As
those are fun places to add a design element.

on the bottom one, i looked for a repeat letter - s -
and wrote the the two names with a shared S.
i also mashed things together because i like to do that.
and the name mashman is just asking to be mashed.

these two will appear again, once i finish them.
again, if you have names that don't respond to these two  ideas, lemmekno
and i will show you how every name can be subjected to every design principle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

thank you susan - 1-2

so after susan saved the blog from extinction, i started working on thank you notes to her. she kindly gave me her email address and her name is shortened to sue, so i did 5 sue envelopes. now, i am thinking that she goes by susan. so, i will turn these 5 rough ideas into a design lesson and then do 5 more susan envelopes.

design lesson number one.
take the first letter and make it really big and write everything else really small.

design lesson number two.
write the first name really big

these are obviously not finished, but i am trying to get people to respond to the blog. so, if you think you have a name that will not work, put the name in the comments or send me an email and ask me to show you the solution to your problem name.
email me at jmwilson411 (at)

and i will do something fun to finish these two and repost them in march.
something to look forward to.
my new focus in life is stringing people along.....
highly manipulative
but at least i'm upfront about it.
if i were a writer, i'd call it cliffhanging.
but i am not a writer.
i'm a scribe.
big difference.

Monday, February 18, 2013

chapter 2 - susan saves the day

chapter 2 (of the blog)

here it is. the letter that saved this blog from extinction. (or to be a little more dramatic...murder. i was going to pull the plug.) in dec/early jan, as i scheduled all of jan and half of feb, i was exhausted and wrote my farewell post, scheduled to appear on feb 17th. i guess writing 60 posts over a couple weeks is too much. lesson learned.

when i got home and went through my mail, there was only one pretty envelope. and it was this one. i opened it and when i read the note, i thought to myself.....for three years i was wondering if anyone would discover the blog and actually send me an envelope.

yes, Facebookers and emailers...i know some of you have contacted me and you, too, will get your credit for saving the blog...but this was the very first time that someone saw the blog and sent a real envelope. so...i thought to myself...that must be some kind of sign. i think i need to at least post a thank you to Susan and post a few more more envelopes.

and then....there were MORE.
more what?
well you will just have to stay tuned.
i know stella is on the edge of her chair, because we met on facebook and i told her i would post a *stella* envelope... so, hang in there, stella. it's coming
and to the others...yes, there are more coming...
i'm not even go to tell you all how many people reached out in jan-feb
but, it was enough to breathe some life back into the blog.

of course my tombstone is prepared, *return to sender* but we don't have to talk about that now.

at the very least, i would like a few of you to post in the comment section and let susan how much you appreciate that she talked me off the ledge so to speak.

and don't skim over her note and miss the part where she says she is addressing an envelope to herself every day this year. more on that...later....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NOT my last blog post -

NOTE added today: this is not the end of the blog. i had run out of steam, but, something nice happened to keep me going....

a couple people have read the post below and thought it was going to worries. there is a really good post tomorrow.

below is the original post for today. sorry for the confusion.

i chose this envelope by sitoshi kitamura to say goodbye to the blog. as you might have noticed, all of february has been guest artists. i intended to stop the blog today because i had run out of steam. i actually wrote a post that said good bye, and happy trails.

[i hear a couple gasps]

getting ready to go on a 3 week trip was exhausting and i decided i would just quit blogging after i had used up all the great envelopes that carol and jeri had shared with me.

this date was even a good date to stop, since it is the 3rd anniversary of the very beginning of the blog. 3 years and i have not missed a single day. i have deleted a few posts, so some dates look empty....but, there were several days where i posted more than once, so the total number of posts is 1256. i believe that is 160 more than one-a-day. (3 x 365 + one leap day)

seriously, if you are going to check the dates on the posts to see what's missing, i think you need to think of something more constructive to do with your time. or possibly, make a list of those dates -send it to me- and i will go back and fill them in....NOT

so, come back tomorrow, the blog will continue thanks to a timely piece of mail.....

Saturday, February 16, 2013

graceful envelope deadline - carol

the deadline for the graceful envelope is coming up (feb 25)

this is what carol said about this envelope:

Graceful Envelope 2010 - the theme was "A Stream of Letters"

When I read the theme, I said to myself: Finally, I can use the 8 cent set that shows the step-by-step progression of mail!

I used a piece of paper that I had painted in blues and greens to convey the "stream" idea and just arranged the stamps in a loose swirl. The Postal Service mantra seemed the perfect text to include as the featured calligraphy…. Neither snow nor rain or heat nor gloom of night…..

below, is another post that popped up today. i accidentally scheduled two posts for read on....

graceful envelope

 this envelope is a repeat from dec 28. it was the first graceful envelope entry i posted from carol dubosch. carol shared 10 envelopes with us. tomorrow will be the final one in the series and also a reminder to enter the graceful envelope contest.

carol was also kind enough to share these layout pages so you can see a bit of her thought process. there was an embossed hand on the envelope that i don't think shows up in the scan. the theme that year was the 5th birthday of the smithsonian postal museum, which was the originator of the contest. it has since been turned over to the washington calligraphy guild.

carol made one other comment about black:

I heard once that a bit of black will make colors pop, and that black is needed to "ground" color.
For what its worth….

well, carol, i've heard that too and not just from calligraphers. interior designers say that most rooms will benefit from a bit of black...or a room is not finished until you find a place to put in a bit of black.

the exception, for me, (on envelopes) is when there are very specific colors and instead of black for a minor color, there is a very dark brown. or a monochromatic stamp. sometimes, one color is enough. the most recent example of this is the red ribbon Love stamp. i loved using all red and white on the envelopes. but, black did not necessarily ruin an just looked like i didn't have the right weight pen in white.

Friday, February 15, 2013

guest artist linda - mergenthaller

oh, i love this one. i've loved confetti for years. i always forget to teach more confetti. maybe i hesitate because i am not sure everyone else will like confetti, too. i probably have a fondness for it because it was one of the first decorative doo-dads i used when i learned to decorate letters instead of just write.

and scribbling. love the scribbling.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

happy valentines day

as i have been saying, the first three weeks of february were written in dec before my trip. but....i bumped a previously scheduled post to thank sue for this very welcome piece of mail. there is more to the story, but, you will just have to wait until feb 17th.

alert readers will see the portion of the note that says *i was inspired to send another* and they will be eagerly awaiting the rest of the story.

and now for the BIG NEWS....i am changing my address. will now be

420 - 44th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50312
420 instead of 430

420 is my house.
i have moved out of the studio, two doors from my house.
i hear a few long distance gasps. everyone who visited the studio knew that it was a dream space. a complete 2 bedroom duplex with a basement. has turned into a maintenance burden. and, i am ready to clear out and simplify my life and make this blog so much better. so, it is a win-win situation. i will be mailing a ton of stuff to whomever wants it. i might have to start another blog just to post all the art supplies and treasures that will be shipped out. if you already know what you want....lemmekno. i have a Whopperplate...and those are prized amongst people who know what they are....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

guest artist - postcard jim

this is from a blog written by *postcard jim*. his main focus is collecting postcards...

extremely steal-worthy idea

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

guest artist - linda - flag stamp

this one is a wonderful example of taking the ideas off the stamp and really taking them to the next level. those little hearts at the end of the squiggly lines are adorable and stealworthy.

this is done by guest artist, linda.

Monday, February 11, 2013

guest artist, linda - marilyn stamp

it looks like linda used a brush to do some chunky lettering and knew that she would have to make some adjustments to fit the name in. substituting stars for vowels is fun. most names can lose their vowels and still be pretty readable.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

guest artist - carol dubosch

time to get those last minute valentines in the mail. here is a fun idea from carol that was the 2007 entry in the graceful envelope. it is a nice layout -- one to remember because you could put any stamp in between a first and last name and then choose an element from the stamp and repeat it across the top. this looks like it might be a rubber stamp. if you don't have rubber stamps, you can use found objects to stamp things across the envelope. corks, the eraser end of pencils, potatoes, carrots, any vegetable, fingerprints, google *creative stamping* and you might come up with 3 million additional ideas.  (i just did....8,300,000)

additional notes from carol:
Graceful Envelope 2007 - the theme was "A Mailable Feast." The Love Kiss stamp had just been issued, and I had carved a stamp of a Hershey's kiss years back. I stamped my kiss stamp and then dusted the images with silver embossing powder and heated to melt the powder. The postage stamp and the rubber stamp became the basis for the design. Writing the two words Graceful and Envelope in a very large size provided the strong contrast element needed to pull the design together.

[another reminder that there will be one more week of solid guest artists, due to the time crunch when i was out-of-town]

Saturday, February 9, 2013

guest artist jeri - kate smith

another fun collaboration. the p.o. likes jeri's envelopes and does such a nice job of cancelling them. i see that jeri did this in 2010. i wonder if she did it using a parallel pen. they are nifty pens that make very wide lines, or broad edge, if you understand calligraphy lingo. and they have nice crisp edges. i don't have any because, as i have mentioned before, if i let them into the house or studio, i would be consumed with writing with them for a very long time and would get in trouble for shirking all my duties. i wonder if this font has a name or if it is experimental.

Friday, February 8, 2013

guest artist - linda

i chose the x-large photo option so you could see the detail. the kwanzaa stamps always have nice details to pull out and use for the name.  this was done by jeri's sister and that little tag a is super-stealworthy idea.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

guest artist - linda w/ sponge?

i wonder if she had a set of those alphabets made out of sponges. they look like they are intended for children, but any children's toy is fair game. so pretty...and the hearts really make the whole envelope. one of my favorite design principles is *scale.* i like the mix of something over-sized with something tiny.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

foreign guest artist - tony ross

tony ross
how cute is this?
the way the address wraps around the scene is so perfect.
keep in mind, if you do this on an envelope in the US, they will want to charge extra because the address is not level with the bottom of the envelope.

[every 4 days, i will issue the reminder warning that there will be 3 weeks of guest artists due to my out-of-town situation]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

guest artist - carol dubosch

this looks like she embossed a circuit board pattern.
very nice arrangement of elements. if  you want to send an envelope in portrait orientation, you have to pay extra. double the one ounce rate will be more than enough to the best of my knowledge. i hesitate to give specifics on what it costs to send anything, since it changes all the time.

carol's comments:

Graceful Envelope 2000 - the theme was "Significant Event from the Past Century"

I had two stamps of a circuit board, and decided to use them to honor electronics. I used a silver colored pencil and did a rubbing of a small circuit board to create the textured background on the envelope. It is such an easy technique and it gives a 3-D look to the flat paper.

Turning the square stamps to stand on their corners gives the layout more energy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

guest artist - kathy schneider

kathy knows how much i love white space.
also, i love wispy growing things.
thank you very much :-)

also, note how the p.o. didn't cancel the stamp...and that bar code is at the top. i wonder what's up with that???? those stick on bar codes are easy to peel off and i will be doing that.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

guest artist - carol dubosch

this is a great idea, to adhere a folded something to the front of the envelope. the arrangement of the elements is very nice. the slight tilt on the stamps and address label. it would be fun to know how long it took carol to arrange the elements. sometimes artists spend more time moving the elements around than they do on the actual lettering and choosing of the stamps. other times, there is a quick and logical flow to where things are going. it's a balancing act.

i sent my comments on carol's envelopes to her and she kindly answered my questions:

2005 Graceful Envelope - "The Letter P" was the theme. P for Peace, that was easy! I had recently learned how to fold a flat Origami crane and I adapted the fold design to become an envelope. The entire envelope is one piece of paper. The Origami crane is an extension of one of the sides and wraps around to the front. I had to glue all the bits down flat and then do the calligraphy on the edges.

The three Peace-themed stamps and the address "envelope" needed to be arranged to compliment one another. I spent much time moving things about. The pleasing layout was to tilt all the pieces slightly to echo the diagonals in the crane fold.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

guest artist - jeri

this was jeri's holiday card. so pretty. i like the detail on the J. not sure what to call it, it is not exactly a flourish...a nice little wispy flower. just makes me want to go get my white ink and make some valentines.

and how does jeri always make her stamps come out to the exact amount? plus they are color coordinated. i don't get it....i can never make the stamps come out right and still look pretty together. i waste many many cents because i use more than the required amount to make the stamps look good. but jeri always has the right amount PLUS they look'd think she was some kind of chartered accountant. oh, wait. she is. am i joking? or is it a skeleton in her tabouret?

[warning...the next three weeks are entirely guest artists because i was out-of-town for 3 weeks and ran out of time to schedule my own work]

Friday, February 1, 2013


here are three that i did the day after i came up with the idea to use that ornament stamp as a nib. i hardly ever compare envelopes, so i thought this would be a good opportunity to show how one idea works with different amounts of information 

this one has the most information and while i usually like lots of decorative doo-dads, i think this one just looks cluttered. i might have liked it better if the address lines were on the same slant as the name, but then, i would worry that the p.o. would tack a surcharge on the envelope for being not-level. so, when i wanted to conform to the rule to make the address legible and level with the landscape orientation, i should have used tiny pens and made the address really tiny.

this one has less information and some doo-dads. i might like it better than the amensen one because the big S and the swoopy d are more interesting than amensen. the slanted name and level address seem to fit together a little better. i did not put the blue shadow on the first name and can't decide whether or not it needs it. i know that d needed some more weight. maybe sandra will send it back so i can fix it.

this is my favorite of the three, also the least cluttered and the short name ends up looking better, to me.  i would have put more weight on the red name if i had seen this scan before i mailed it. it is interesting to note that i see a lot of things i would change after i see the envelopes scanned and on the screen.