Feeling nostalgic for the almost forgotten written letter, author and former ad man Ivan Cash fell upon a simple idea: he invited anyone in the world to send him an email, and he'd write it out in a letter and mail it, for free. Participants could even request a doodle or to seal it with a kiss.
What started out as a personal art project exploded into a worldwide event. As requests poured in, Cash enlisted an international army of volunteers who helped create more than 10,000 letters sent all over the globe.
An addictive and artful window into everyday lives, Snail Mail My Email is a collection of the most memorable letters and moments from the project, and a reminder of the power of personal connection in a digital world.
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Ivan Cash is an artist and designer based in San Francisco who creates socially engaging, interactive media projects. Nothing would make him happier than if you closed your eyes for twenty seconds after reading this and just listened to your breath. For more info, visit IvanCash.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In July of 2011, I quit (what I thought was) my dream job at an advertising agency and set off in search of a more balanced lifestyle. I promised myself to live more mindfully and engage in slower activities. One such activity, letter writing, was always a passion of mine but had been neglected while working full time in the corporate world.
Compared to the instant gratification clicking "send" on an email provides, there's something deeper about communicating in the intentional, slow-paced, and tangible form that-in the age of Internet communication-is widely referred to as "snail mail."
And so, two weeks after leaving my job, I created Snail Mail My Email, a month-long online art project where I aimed to send handwritten letters to as many people as possible while building excitement about letter writing in the process. The project's website offered these simple instructions: Type a message to a friend, family member, pet, politician, or lover, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then sit back and relax while your email is handwritten, sent out, and delivered to the recipient of your choosing, completely free of charge!
Letter requests could include custom options like a doodle, flower petal, or lipstick kiss, if so desired.
The nostalgia for letter writing apparently hit an emotional nerve, as more than one thousand letter requests poured in on the project's fourth day alone. Despite family and friends lending a hand, this demand was insurmountable. I was begrudgingly forced to halt the project and reevaluate its scope.
Later that day, Lucy, a recent NYU grad living in Shanghai reached out to offer her services as a volunteer letter writer. Similar offers began trickling in, and the idea of crowdsourcing a team of volunteer letter writers appeared to be a viable way of continuing forward. I posted a call to arms on the project's website and was completely floored when people whom I've never met responded with such enthusiasm, eager to help out.
Lucy immediately stepped up as Project Manager while Terry, an Oklahoma City-based musician, joined as Administrator. We worked furiously and, after a few sleepless nights, developed a company-esque structure, making it possible to manage an international team that grew to become 234 people strong. The generosity and participation of these dedicated volunteers allowed the project to take on a large scale. After the month was up, 10,457 handwritten letters had been sent out (with postage covered by the volunteers) to more than 70 countries, spanning across all seven continents. These "letter artists" were asked to document their work and the letter's route before mailing, resulting in an archive from which this book's selections are comprised.
I think so many people responded to this project because, despite living in an era increasingly dominated by technology, we as human beings still crave tangible, intimate connections...even if it's a stranger providing these experiences for us. With that said, I hope you fi nd the letters within this book as entertaining, heartfelt, bizarre, honest, endearing, unexpected, creative, and inspiring as I did.
Ultimately, there are many ways to find more human connections within our technology-laden lives. Some may choose, as I did, to walk away from their jobs, but walking to a mailbox might work just as well. Now go send a letter!
Ivan Cash Creator of Snail Mail My Email
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