‘5 Questions With’ is a segment where I introduce you to some of brilliant individuals that not only inspire me with the beautiful images they share on Instagram, but also with their incredible passion for what they do: it will be a great opportunity to learn more about them and also to - hopefully - inspire you as well.
Today I’m asking 5 questions to Rhea, aka DevotedDiarist, a fellow letter writer and mail artist.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First Fab, thank you for having me and for being such an amazing inspiration to the mail art community! My name is Rhea Abramson. I was born and raised on St. Croix, the largest of the US Virgin Islands a few decades ago ; ) I’ve lived in NYC for the last 18 years – but right now I am on sabbatical back in St. Croix. In May I left my job of 15 years as a Marketing Executive at a company that does television retailing. I did that to focus more fully on growing Mail More Love and revamp one of my grandmother’s businesses. That has been keeping me pretty busy for the last 2 months. I’m looking forward to things settling down a little soon so I can enjoy being in St. Croix. As I type, I am headed back to NYC to attend NY NOW to plan Mail More Love subscription boxes through the end of the year. When I am not working on any of the above you can find me drawing, coloring, working on the posts I do daily for my @Devoteddiarist Instagram, designing rubber stamps, reading, or hanging out with my boyfriend. I’m kind of a workaholic so I am never idle for long.
On your IG you share lots of photos of your mail art and correspondence. When/How did you first get into it?
I was doing a lot of hand lettering in my journal. I was on vacation in Ojai, CA with my friend Leah Pearlman who is a comic illustrator and she asked me why I wasn’t showing my work in a public way. It got me thinking. I had read an Austin Kleon book about doing just that and so I decided to start Devoted Diarist on Instagram. Some people ask me why my insta is called Devoted Diarist when essentially I am the Card Whisperer. Years ago, fueled by whatever self help book I was reading at the time, I sent my closest friends a questionarie about me to help me understand how people see me. One of the questions was list 7 adjectives that describe Rhea. Every single one came back with the word devoted. I never saw myself that way but I very much am devoted – once I’m in I stick with things – jobs, projects, friendships. So the word just stuck. And I have been keeping a diary since I was 5 years old. My first one was a little red leather diary with a lock and key. Throughout my life I have always journaled. About 8 years ago I began collaging and lettering in my journals instead of just writing to clear my head. So Devoted Diarist started just to show that work. Ever so often I showed some of my mail art and found that I got a lot more likes for that work. At the time, I was addicted to the likes so I decided to do a 30 day snail mail challenge to get myself to use some of the cards in my ever growing stash (AKA mountain) and people started following along. Then around the end of the year, one of my pen pals, Kate from Of Note Stationers inspired me to do a year-long challenge. On January 1st 2016 I began my “yearofsnailmail” – 366 days of letters (check out the hashtag on Instagram). At the end of 2016, I was a little tired and decided to would stop posting every day and just do one love letter a week, #52loveletters. But I found very quickly that I couldn’t stop writing letters and doing mail art and sending to all my friends, family and pen pals because I loved it so much. I continued to post EVERY day. I’m already starting to think about what the 2018 project will be but, but I’m simmering. And it will be less involved.
© IG: DevotedDiarist
What’s the best thing/What do you love the most about mail art and correspondence?
My FAVORITE thing to do is read a letter I have received and then sit in front of my collection of cards and pick the perfect card for the person I am writing to. I think it all goes back to being a merchandiser, which was my career for so long. I love looking at all the beautiful art that card makers create and I love matching that to a recipient. I also love hand lettering. Picking the style I will draw the name in and then coloring it. I also ADORE working with rubber stamps which is why I design my own and have a HUGE (too big) collection. My favorite kind of mail to make is one with lots of stamping on it. These pieces take the most time and concentration but it also the time when my brain goes into FLOW. Named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling og energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of activity. I don’t get into that state enough these days now that I am away from my “Carrie Bradshaw” desk, which is in NYC. The other thing I LOVE about correspondence is the connection. I have some penpals who are amazing writers and reading a letter from them feels like floating through each of their experiences with them. I love being part of peoples’ lives at a distance and learning about them even though we can’t be together. These relationships are deeper and more meaningful. One of my favorite letters ever was when one of my Mail More Love customers and a member of the LA Pen Pal Club wrote me about how she and met husband got together. I had read that letter over and over and travelling through that experience by reading her letter cemented their relationship and their love story in my mind in a way that just hearing it never could. I can see each scene of their meeting and courtship as I type. I’ve just started reading the love letters of Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. The first volume is so thick I don’t know if I will ever get through it in this lifetime but I am loving each letter – they are just magical.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into mail art or letter writing?
Just start! Start writing letters to people you know and people you don’t know. Join a letter writing group like The Letter Writers Alliance – they can match you to a penpal. Depending on where you live you can even join a letter writing club - search for them on Instagram. When you write to others, the response you get either with returned letters or calls or texts will inspire you to write more. It’s such an amazing act to put your life on paper – you will get the bug – promise!
Any IG account you’re most inspired by?
Yes – oh my goodness soooo many! My friend Eunice of @thedailyroe – my goodness her mail art and her journals are some of the most STUNNING things I have ever seen. When I get letters from her I usually don’t open them for days because I don’t want to disrupt their beauty. My biggest inspiration is my friend Samantha Dion Baker @sdionbakerdesign – she is member of my group, the NYC Letter Writers Society @nycletterwriterssociety and her daily journal pages give me life. Her work is as stunning the woman she is. I look forward to her posts and when I need a pick me up I look at past posts and read some of the inspirational quotes or just marvel at her drawing. What a talent. I also LOVE @alyxcullen, @daniellekroll, @kelseygarrityriley @kylieann @cestriley @papermint_paris @craftedbycarly @raechild – clearly I want to be reincarnated as an illustrator with some talent : ) I’ve forgotten a ton of people but this is a good list.
If you've never written a letter and are thinking of giving it a go, Rhea's Instagram feed is the place to go for inspiration. She's always posting the nicest cards accompanied by lovely and colorful lettering that I'm sure will make you want to get started!
A big thank you to Rhea for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing with us her tips and tricks ♥
Make sure to check her Instagram account for more gorgeous photos of her lettering and creations.