Do people still send postcards these days…?
In recent years I’ve been buoyed by the growth in the availability of new postcards which has contradicted the apparent dip in the medium’s use since the end of the 20th century. I am ever hopeful of a comeback and, from my experience, receiving a postcard in the mail is still a cherished moment. It feels like there’s a general move towards a slower, artisan and craft-based way of communication alongside our digital friends email, Facebook and Twitter. The trend isn’t just amongst those of a certain age who are responding to nostalgia, but is being embraced by those who have never experienced it before. So, we see the rise in vinyl sales, the ‘discovery’ of printed photographs and the return of baking, knitting and stitching. The easiest and most accessible form of this renaissance in personal, handmade objects is surely the handwritten letter or postcard. Correspondence is on it’s way back, celebrated in best-selling books like the wonderful Letters of Note and My Dear Bessie, but also in the astonishing array of stationery and paraphernalia now available. Next time you have a moment, get a pen and paper out and write to someone, let them know you’re thinking of them, share that moment with someone. I dread that in 50 years time the teenagers of today won’t have that dusty shoebox to lift down from their cupboard shelf stuffed with letters from family, friends and lovers. We won’t be remembering our emails, that’s for sure. That moment when pen touches paper (or the back of a postcard) is a magical thing, the start of a unique composition, set down and saved, possibly beyond our own lifetime, or forever. The nuances of the handwriting, the choice of the words and the way sentences and thoughts are weaved together, idiosyncrasies and all, is as if holding a piece of the writer in your hand. No ‘delete’ button can erase it (although thoughtlessness may see it consigned to a waste paper basket).
This all came to mind when I found my latest postcard book in Waterstone’s Piccadilly yesterday. Whilst topographical and tourist postcards seem to be dwindling, in the last few years there has been a proliferation of postcard boxes from a variety of publishers featuring “100 postcards of” in any given genre. They range from book covers (Ladybird, Pelican, Puffin) and magazine archives (The New Yorker, Vanity Fair) to cookery, gardening, James Bond, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Manga and Marvel, with many more to come. Although I’m sure many are not used for correspondence and are kept as keepsakes by collectors I’m still enthusiastic about the continued variety of these boxes and assume that they are selling in significant enough numbers for publishers to explore new genres.
The Tate Postcard Sketchbook brings together both elements of the above to provide 12 blank postcards upon which you can let you imagination run free. Of course, blank postcards have been around for decades, and you could make your own postcard by taking any piece of cardboard and transforming it, but the designers have here used 350gsm watercolour paper to enhance that feeling of creating a piece of art and have pre-printed the stamp and address spaces on the reverse. The book is published by Seawhite (who have their own non-Tate branded version also) and is clothbound. Sadly, I am not artistic and fear that any attempt to scrawl something here will be a failure, but I might give it a go and claim that whatever I end up with is an example of my artistic expression. I’d prefer to receive one, preferably from someone who can actually draw (and write, too). One thing is certain though… it will be a one-off and no-one will ever have the same thing again.
So, please keep writing, please keep creating. You don’t need to be the next Oscar Wilde or the next Picasso. Just get something off your chest, pass on your regards or tell someone you love them. But do it with a pen and a postcard; it really does mean so much more that way.