Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Souvenirs of the wounded by Hugh Shirley

Those who have spent time in boarding school will know how important receiving post is when living far from family and home. Every lunch time we would all congregate in the quad while a prefect read out the names of those with post. I will never forget that feeling of euphoria when my name was read out. It was wonderful to receive one letter but two, three or four would make me feel quite giddy. Some of the girls received thick bundles of envelopes tied up with string and others would wait for days or weeks without receiving any mail at all.

I found this image on Tumblr.

My mom was always very good about sending a few letters a week. Some envelopes were thick with cuttings from newspapers and magazines, pressed flowers, snippets about the goings-on at the farm, jokes and anything she thought would cheer me up. I was not a happy boarder!

Out of Context by Janet Jones. See Janet's website here.

Valentine's day at boarding school was an important occasion which we all looked forward to because the prefects intercepted the post and actually opened and read the cards out in front of the school. Some of the messages were rather steamy and others were extremely soppy which would have us all rolling around on the floor with laughter. 

Kathryn Frund. See more of Kathryn's work here.

Cecil Touchon. See more of Cecil's work here.

Love Letter series by Crystal Neubauer. Read about the series at Crystal's blog, here.
"The series is built around a stack of love letters found stashed inside a wall in my mothers childhood home.

All of the letters are written to Gerald "Jerry" from his sweetheart Mary, as he travels around the state in the late 1920s looking for work. In the end Mary breaks Gerald's heart by telling him she can never be the kind of girl he needs her to be for marriage.

Background is comprised of original pages of love letters, which have been sampled by the mice and ravaged by time. Other elements include texts, cloth, objects and photographs relevant to that time. " - Crystal Neubauer

Photo mosaic of a carving I did for someone living far from home. See my website here.


  1. I adore this theme Robyn!
    Close to my heart .. bundles of letters are priceless.
    Lovely to see them interpreted!

  2. Hi Robyn,

    This is a fantastic post! So many letters, so many great new links, thank you very much,

    Regina SXM

  3. What a a beautiful and evocative post. The art work is great always. Thank you. Emails just aren't the same.

  4. I have always saved letters- we receive so few now, with the internet!
    I have a bunch of old love notes written in pencil on tiny lined notepaper- found in the old house on our property. I should dig them out, read them, and do something with them!!!
    Thanks for another interesting post!!!

  5. Thank you for the links to some very interesting artists, I love collages that incorporate print and handwriting.
    I particularly like the work of Cecil Touchon and Kathryn Frund

  6. I know....

    To see a blue airmail envelope in the post box is so heartlifting. Email is great for keeping in touch, but I hear my Mother's voice in her written realmail and that of my best friend too.

    I do like your work in the last image.

  7. A letter is something you can keep and read over when you need to! it means so much to someone far from home!you cant do that too easily with a text message! I wonder if people will stay as connected without real letters! thanks for sharing those lovely pieces with us.

  8. Robyn, this is fantastic. It reminds me of a wonderful journal I have that belonged to my long deceased, but favorite great aunt documents her journey from Philadelphia to California as a young woman in the 1930's...a treasure for my heart.

  9. I will have to go to all of these web sites that you have mentioned. I love letters even in this day of email. So much more is conveyed with the hand written word.

    I often wondered about boarding school. Something that is a foreign thought to me. I would think it would be lonely. I didn't even go to summer camp.

  10. What a wonderful post. You just cannot beat real mail!!

  11. Hi Robyn,
    thank you for your wonderful post!
    I love the work of Janet Jones. fantastic!

  12. ah yes, i still have a brown paper packet of letters from when i was 17
    not likely to part with them anytime soon

    [or to share them with the whirled either]

  13. another post that invites all the senses... love crystals work, and truly miss letter.. thanks Robyn...

  14. This was an absolutely amazing post. The so touching. It also brought back memories of those very short times at summer camp and then the longer ones abroad. Isn't it amazing how something as a simple piece of paper can change someone's day. thank you!

  15. Wonderful post! Thank you! I love letters and mail...

  16. Snippets from lives we can only imagine..... gorgeous images to ponder. Thanks.

  17. Such a lovely and poignant theme. Many websites to explore here too! Always a joy.

  18. I went to boarding school so I know just what it was like to receive a letter and my parents lived hundreds of miles away.
    The valentine's day ritual sounds like so much fun, no I don't have such a memory from boarding school days.
    Wonderful post.

  19. I loved your memories about boarding school letters - it reminded me of all the wonderful letters I received at summer camp each year - many of which I have saved.

    And although they have become "too trendy" in my opinion as of late, I was first enchanted by the Griffin and Sabine books because of the aspect of letters, stamps, handwriting, etc.

    Thank you for the inspiring post!

  20. Love this Robyn....letters are the artifacts of precious memories....what an inspiration to see the ways in which they find themselves being made into art! Beautiful post!

  21. I adore the stack of letters at the beginning of the post and thought it couldn't be bettered by anything else you showed me until I reached Love Letter by Adrian Lockhart which is surprising and very beautiful. Somehow that stamp seems to set off the whole piece perfectly. Thanks you, it's left me feeling quite wistful!

  22. I shall try and leave a comment again Robyn - sometimes I find it impossible to get the comment to print out on your site - but I do always read it and enjoy it. I love letters but - sadly = it seems to be a dying art. I wonder if parents communicate by e mail with their children at boarding school now - I expect they do but surely it doesn't hold the same excitement.

  23. Letters! I have my mothers I think some where all the ones I wrote to John, wonder if the mice have eaten them? I must search for them, such a wonderful way to communicate, perhaps that is why Christmas cards still survive.

  24. I never had to go away to school as a young child but I was in college way before the days before email and computers and text messaging on cell phones- letters and mail are becoming a 'dinosaur' of the past- my sons don't write notes or letters anymore..
    so it is always so wonderful to see letters elevated to an artform.

  25. Always enjoy your post..I love finding old bundles of letters and etc..When I go to estate sales, I am always looking for old letters and etc..
    As always thanks for your info of beauty and art.

  26. What a great post and wonderful tales. Wishing you a very happy Valentines day

  27. What a good post Robyn. You reminded me not only of my own boarding school days but also my first overseas posting in Angola with my husband. Letters from home were the absolute highlight of the week and SO very precious! Your mosaic is super!

  28. Letters - connections across the miles between loved ones and friends. I have a tiny date book in which my grandmother wrote each date she received a letter from my father far away on active duty in World War II. But I don't know what happened to the letters!

    I doubt anyone will ever have a collection of text messages. Beautiful post Robyn. Thank you.

  29. R-something gripping about a bundle of letters. But Im think multiples of almost anything make a stronger statement as does the very singular object in splendid isolation. In-between does not have the same poignancy. Thanks for drawing this to our attention. B

  30. In our world of email, this post is a great reminder of the beauty of what once was...and still could be!

  31. So many wonderful artists sites you always offer, so little time.

    Beautiful choice today. I so miss receiving handwritten notes.

    Thanks Robyn

  32. It´s always a pleasure to visit your online expositions. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Robyn, this is such a romantic post, what a lovely way to start my Saturday morning... thinking of letters (from my mother), oh where did they all go? I hope you have a wonderful weekend... roxanne

  34. I stand amazed once again at the collection of incredible artists and artwork that you've found to support your article on letters, Robyn. Thank you for this wonderful post. I must go dig out all the old letters that I kept, many from college days. I'm wishing I had saved more.

  35. What a great story Robyn!! I love this post :) I've never been to boarding school or away camp or anything, but I can imagine because you are describing it so well, and the accompanying photos are delightful! Thanks for sharing your story - I find myself smiling still!
    xoxo k

  36. you certainly made a home run with the letters.
    I did go to a boarding school, a presbyterian boarding school and do still have letters sent to my by my parents. I also have letters sent to me by friends at the boarding school who graduated and were thoughtful enough to write! This is an excellent post!
    You are THE MOSTEST.

  37. letters are such a dying art which is why i probably covet them..saving a box of old ones and collecting other's past histories...a definite sign of the times...

  38. Old letters seem to take on so much more importance in these days of instant communication. with old photos and old postcards, they invoke a wonderful feeling in me.

    Thanks for the images. regards Dave

  39. Dear Robyn, this is one of my favourite posts! Its theme is very much "mine". I like to receive letters (who doesn't?) and it was not so long ago that I liked to write "real" letters. Maybe I still do, only that Internet has beaten this fascination for the moment, I'm afraid! I keep a lot of letters in cardboard boxes - from friends and pen-friends from abroad, sent to my parents by me, the correspondence between me and my husband...! Oh, sweet memories! As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago I put on my desk two of those boxes with the intention to read the letters after so many years...
    I liked very much the works of Janet Jones, especially the dolls!:) And Gillian Taylor's efforts to find what has happened to that couple in love are so inspiring and deserving good luck!
    Your piece of art at the end was such a pleasant discovery!!

  40. Dear Robyn...oh! I just love all these images of letters. There is something about an old fashioned letter that just melts my heart...text, paper, old vintage feel, emotions pouring out of the pages...the visuals are so amazing.
    I never went to borading school but your post made me smile. I remember the prefects in my school (pain in the butt really!!) . fun to read this. xxx

  41. Sophie, I love bundles of letters especially when the paper is yellowing with age.

    Regina, enjoy the links!

    Hazel, emails are great but there is definitely something lacking compared to hand written letters. I'm finding my handwriting is going to the dogs since I do most of my writing by tapping on the keys.

    Pat, I'm kicking myself for throwing out my old love letters and it wasn't that long ago either. What was i thinking?!

    Ian, I agree,Cecil and Kathryn incorporate old letters into their artwork so well!

    Thanks HHnB, you must enjoy receiving letters from home particularly. You are such a long way from family.

    Lyle, receiving your big art envelopes filled with snippets reminds me so much of my moms envelopes. i had forgotten the feeling until you started sending them to me.

  42. LauraX, your great aunt's journal must be a treasure indeed!

    Lisa at Greenbow, at boarding school you are always surrounded by people but it can still be lonely in a different way. I was always desperate for quiet time in wide open spaces, away from school books and chitter chatter.

    Blu, exactly!

    Hi Ralf, yes Janet's work often features in my posts. I love her abstract collages in particular.

    Indi@na, hmmmm.... what a pity you can't share them :-)

    Cat, the story behind Crystal's letter series has interested me for a long time.

    Mary Z, so glad you enjoyed the post. We never had Summer Camp's here in South Africa but I remember watching movies about kids getting up to nonsense at camp, and being a little intrigued.

    Emma, glad you enjoyed the post.

    Annie, I'm always amazed to read about the old letters that have been found in attics .... telling a story of times past.

    Theresa, enjoy the links!

    Maya, many of the boarders came from other countries and they only went home twice a year (sometimes only once) so I felt extremely lucky that I could go home more often.

    Heather, I did think of including some of the letters from the Griffin and Sabine books but had to shorten the post. It was getting quite long!

    Thanks so much Patti.

    Wild C, I had the same reaction. Adrian Lockhart's piece was a wonderful surprise.

    Weaver, I'm sure parents communicate by email and I'm wondering if they send parcels to make up for the impersonal way of corresponding to their children.

    Penny, I hate to say I havn't sent a Christmas card since I purchased my computer.

    Katelen, that is something I would enjoy.....going to an estate sale and finding bundles of old love letters .... or expedition letters. Old hunters writing home about their adventures in Kenya.

    Chris, thank you. Happy Valentines day to you too.

  43. Thanks Caroline, yes letters from home are so important when far from home.

    Leslie, it would be wonderful to find the letters my father wrote home during the war. We do have a few of my father inlaw's letters. So interesting!

    Barry, I feel the same way about multiples. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Seth .... You are right! Perhaps it's not too late to bring back the tradition of letter writing.

    Karen Cole, so little time ....I know! No wonder I've cut down on sleep :-)

    Cerulean, I'm glad you enjoy my posts.

  44. Roxanne, if only we thought twice about throwing out all those old precious letters!

    Jo Reimer, I know the feeling. Just before moving to the house we are in now I threw out boxes of old letters, thinking that if I havn't read them for 10 years I'm unlikely to read them again but now I have a different outlook.

    Karin .... and now I'm smiling too :-)

    Cristina, thank you!!

    Lisa, some of the art we are seeing certainly makes one aware of the beauty of old aging letters filled with stories and history.

    Dave, glad you enjoyed the post.

    Thanks Rossichka, I also loved writing real letters but now after writing emails I have a lazy hand. My writing is appalling!!

    Soraya, yes letters certainly do stir up emotions don't they. As for boarding school.... I'm glad you didn't have to endure it! I still get butterflies in my tummy at the thought of that time of my life.

  45. I'm smitten, chuffed... as it were
    ;-) with the beauty of these works and the freshness of this story line...separation, letters, anticpation a heart's history.

  46. Hi Robyn - better late than never I hope! I loved this post - any art that includes text grabs me straightaway; and envelopes and handwriting and scraps...are all so wonderful. I still write letters to a few friends, but not nearly as often as we used to. That sense of delight on receiving a letter is pure magic!

  47. I particularly love your Valentine's day story. What a great memory. I never went to boarding school, but I still adore getting mail. I irrationally check my mailbox every time I enter my house, even though I know I've already gotten the mail.. in the hope that someone may have left me a package... a note ...a surprise. great post. thx.

  48. There is so much to love about a bundle of old coorespondence! The handwritting, the paper that was used, the aging, the stories the letters contain...I love it all.

    Your personal story of coorespondence is touching as well. The summers when my kids were camp counselors, I made sure to send them lots of mail. If they received more than one letter a day they had to sing a song in order to receive front of a lunchroom full of campers.

  49. Having never been at boarding school myself, I found your comments so interesting, and I never would have thought of the importance of mail in that context....rather like soldiers receiving mail from home I suspect...I love the idea of letters and packages sent in the mail as art....another fabulous post Robyn!

  50. Thank you Robyn for this lovely reminder of times gone by--and I dare to hope, times to come again. I believe that at some point, we'll recognize/rediscover the beauty of the handwritten word. In the meantime, the visual arts (and your posts in particular:) keep this practice well nourished.

  51. Delicious post, I say, smacking my lips. I adore vintage ephemera.

  52. "I had a farm in Africa"
    I'm shure she wrote letters.

  53. that's it!!

    I'm never throwing anything out again.

    They will have to wade through a labyrinth of piles to get at me.

    I have all my dad's letters when he was having an affair back in 1963.

    Now I know what to do with them.

  54. Brings to mind my days of basic training in the military many, many years ago. We would live for mail!
    Thanks for sharing the pics!

  55. You brought my memories back, I know the passion of wanting to share everything I have,everything I am with you and only you.!@bose