Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Black Hole of Exchanges - Jan exchange to Sara

Sara is not the person who left the comment.
Back on Jan 6th, I wondered about the people who only sign up for the exchange once. A very nice two-time exchanger left this comment:

As someone who signed up for my second--I almost didn't, and it was because while the envelopes were beautiful, I was surprised at the lack of any personal interaction with most of them. I think I only got one with an inclusion. Which is fine--I understand that the exchange is only about envelopes, and that some people like the simplicity of that.

I sent out five envelopes and they went into a black hole, as far as I could tell.

However, I signed up again this month with a little shift in expectation and an idea for eliminating the black-hole feeling. It's a shift some folks might not want to make.

Also...I know from long years of mail-art participation that people sign up with high excitement, and then blank at the drawing board, so that their participation is more stressful than they expected.

(end of comment)

I was happy that she was giving the exchange another chance - and I really wanted to add a personal note in my envelope to her - but - I'm the best example of someone who likes doing the envelopes and always have too much on my plate - and the only way the envelopes will ever get out the door is if I skip the part where I include a note.

Above is an example of my typical struggles with exchanges. I am trying to use up old stamps. It is so hard to find stamps that fit both the lettering and the envelope. This one is going out of the country so it needs $1.15. I need to follow my own excellent advice and start with the stamp, stupid. SWTSS

Slightly more than half of the envelopes I receive are empty. In December, there are way more enclosures - mostly holiday cards. I imagine there are some people who would enjoy more conversation between fellow exchangers. Maybe I should have people add some kind of designation when they sign up to indicate that they like to exchange or not exchange notes. That way...we would know when a note would be appreciated. Let me know what you think of that idea, please and thank you. Here is a second comment that confirms what I suspected - it's hard to find time to squeeze in everything we'd like to be doing.

Interesting take. I participated quite some time back, but I never experienced the black hole feeling, but I think I understand what you're saying. I assumed, when I signed up, that it was just an envelope exchange. Each month some envelopes arrived with enclosures and I wondered, oh, was I supposed to do that too? I mostly create digitally, so I started including what program I used and how I accomplished the look. Most everyone creates by hand so I wasn't sure if my explanation was interesting or not. 

I soon found, I didn't really have the time to devote to enclosures, as I was lucky to get my envelopes in the mail on time! Right before I stopped participating, I wanted to transition away from digital to hand crafted, but my life got too crazy and I've still not gotten my office set up after our down sizing move. One day, I'll be back! I've been buying envelopes and markers! 

I hope you'll keep participating, I found it more interesting with more people. 


  1. I like the idea of designating whether a person is an *open* person or an *empty* person on the lists that go out.
    That way each sender who like to enclose notes could identify each other....and it would be easy to send empty envelopes to people who you already know will not be enclosing anything...
    although - i sometimes have to enclose notes to explain things... so I am not consistent with open/empty option....

    1. Jean, I've participated in a calligrapher's exchange through my guild, and I have been accustomed to hearing back--sometimes by mail or email, sometimes in person at guild meetings--from the people with whom I exchanged. We also started including a display at our guild meeting periodically so that we could share all the work everyone had sent.

      Obviously that's not feasible here! And I'm not sure the "inclusion/no inclusion" would fill my "black hole," either. I found I wanted to communicate with people *after* receiving their envelopes, and after they'd received mine.

      I've decided not to do inclusions, which will be easy enough...but I may send short emails after the exchange. It's very hard for me to receive something beautiful without expressing appreciation or complimenting the work, and equally hard to design and create something and wonder how it was received.

      I feel like you're already doing a lot to organize and keep this exchange going, and I had no intention of making it more complicated for you!

    2. Thank you for pondering this topic further. I'm sure people will be happy to receive a thank you email. I know some exchanges request confirmation that mail has been received. This exchange has been perking along for several years now and it is easy to tweak the rules every once in a while. It would not be more complicated to include [open] or [empty] - because people send me the info each month and if they leave that info off, I would just post their info without it. I know what you mean about the urge to thank someone for a really spectacular envelope.

      The Jan 16 post is about creativity - and how we express ourselves. I realize now that the whole point of mail is a back and forth experience - and the way I run the exchange, I have taken the communication part out of the equation. So - this is more food for thought and maybe there will be another post about it. I know a lot of people probably don't go back to look for more messages.

      I do enjoy conversation about the blog. Thanks for launching this exchange.

    3. I like having the choice to include a note or not. Sometimes I have the extra time or sometimes my brain is empty. I agree with Majaka that when I receive a lovely envelope I want to let the sender know how appreciated their art is... and sometimes when I’ve spent a lot of time on an envelope I wonder how it was received.