Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

One Way Around the Surveillance State: Go Postal and Be Free

With all the brouhaha about the State monitoring our phone calls and emails to find out who we love, whether they love us back, what we ate for breakfast, what time of day we watch for the green eyed Vireo, the immigration status of the gardener (part Swedish, no papers, BTW,) I humbly suggest going postal. Letters, remember those? The stamps are in the drawer over there, with the beautiful pen that fits in your hand just so.



“Love & Letters” © Iskra Design


I have boxes and boxes of letters from calligraphers, none of which I can post here without cropping because they will give away my address and “privacy.” But trust me, everyone of them is a work of extreme art. And in kind, just to keep up and honor those who wrote to me, I spent years writing back with as much grace as possible, with sometimes only a sentence or two in the actual letter, but the envelope taking perhaps a day to perfect and design so that it looked….undesigned and unpracticed (now you know.)

In recent years I regret to say I too have fallen prey to the ease and expediency of email. Yet I still have a few correspondents who keep my love of the letter alive. A true master of the art of the envelope, a man who favors the old fashioned typewriter and scotch tape, is Richey Kehl. These wonderful missives have been living on my kitchen wall above the coffee grinder for quite awhile, and they help me start my day with a sense of gratitude and wonder:


Richey Kehl Envelopes

Envelopes by Richey Kehl


My only recent handwritten letter was done as “Jon Stewart,” in his recent publication America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction. It was great fun to channel history through one of our leading humorists (those with political correctness sensitivity syndrome, may not want to read further…):



Jon Stewart’s ‘How I spent my summer vacation’ letter


I came back from a trip to New York a few weeks ago inspired by meetings with people I’ve been working with in publishing. In gratitude to the fact that books live, that paper exists, that there is an entire city where people talk too much and wave their hands while doing it, I thought I would get back to the traditional art of the thank you:


Grazie classice pen calligtaphy

“Grazie” Classic Pen Calligraphy © Iskra Design


This is edged pen lettering laid over the textures of New York, captured from one of the 1,700 pictures I took of old buildings in Dumbo, Chelsea and the West Village. The card was printed on thick paper, and I doubt that it has been held up to a bright light to read the secret messages on the other side.

Just think what would happen if we all started writing a letter a day, or three, or even just a post card a day, and bought a stamp (!!). The thousands of at-risk jobs at the Postal Service would remain. The art of stamps would continue. People would have to continue learning to read handwriting. And as we all know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Unlike the internet servers, or the power grid. And think opaque envelopes. Think such wild hand writing that if they decided that all letters should be read as well as our little emails that they would have to hire 500,000 recent college graduates to decipher the handwriting! Carry on scribes, brides, kings and queens of etiquette, get thee to thy pens and paper and keep the Fourth Amendment strong.


Postcard from the village, vinatge mailbox

Postcard from the Village © Iskra Design