Last week my friend Becky and I met Rachel Weil, aka The Letter Farmer. Rachel has a red van, decked out with a fancy script logo that she parks at different venues around Seattle – Occidental Square for the night markets, downtown Bellevue for the Bellwether Art Walk, Walnut Street Coffee, Peddler Brewing, Madison Park, Westlake Park… you get the picture – she’s mobile. You can find her calendar here on her website.
Inside the van, Rachel has a mini-retail shop set up. She carries letter press greeting cards, unique postcards, elegant stationery, fountain pens and ink, vintage stamps, and more. I purchased 2 letterpress birthday cards, an antique Parisian Norte Dame postcard, a blank letterpress postcard, a Seattle letterpress greeting card with a yellow Salty Sailor on the front, a J. Herbin pocket fountain pen and some Gris Nuage j. herbin ink cartridges.
But, really it’s not what’s inside her van that is special – it is what is outside. Rachel sets up a white canopy with red tables and chairs, an antique writing desk, free postcards and a plethora of pens. If you build it, they will come? Yes, they do. People come from all around to write and send a letter, card or free postcard. It’s like Rachel has harnessed the ability to hit the “pause” button on each persons life just long enough for a sentiment to be scribbled out, address written and postage stamp applied. Hit “play” again and the correspondence is dropped into the antique mailbox on the back of the van, writer continues on their way and Rachel succeeded in coming one step closer to saving a dying art.
Becky, Rachel, Tess (Rachel’s sidekick) and I chatted, shared stories and ideas and wrote postcards for over an hour – yes, Rachel and Tess were willing to write messages on our postcards 😉 As other people drifted into our little slice of paradise, I couldn’t help but think how refreshed I was that I took that little pause from my busy Friday.
I started collecting postcards when I was about 5 years old. My only Grandfather lived in Germany, and it was a fun way for us to correspond and have some sort of relationship. I adored the "Hilde" postcards, and he soon started sending me a different one each time he wrote. I had a special bond with my paternal Grandfather, although I only met him a few times.
A few years later my adopted Grandparents in Denver started sending me postcards from their vacations, which were mostly road-trips around the USA. My collection continued to grow and eventually filled two binders. As my collection grew, my mother, who also collected postcards when she was young, started adding postcards to my binders from her collection. I had so much fun dreaming of traveling to exotic places! I would sort and re-sort the postcards by type, location, like/dislike, etc.
It wasn't until I was in my 20's, when I sorted the postcards chronologically by sender, that I realized there were a few postcards from my maternal grandmother to my mother. One such postcard was sent to my mother as a teenager who was visiting family in Berlin. My Grandmother wrote and asked her to come home early because my Grandfather's illness had taken a turn for the worse. My Grandmother died a few months later of an unrelated disease, and my Grandfather several weeks after that.
I also found a postcard from a ship that my paternal Grandfather sailed on to immigrate to the USA. He sent it to his parents and explains that when he got seasick, the crew told him to eat rollmops and drink beer and hot cocoa (yes, pickled herring + beer + chocolate).
My current postcard collection is divided into two sets. One set is the pictures I like sorted by theme - exotic places, animals that make me smile, costumes that I dream of making. The other set is from family and pieces together our story.
I still send postcards when I travel and am an active trader.