Graceful Envelope Contest

Calling all mail artists and calligraphers!

The Graceful Envelope contest is coming around again.  The contest is a combined effort of The Washington Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers.  Your job is to beautifully decorate and address the front of an envelope based on this year’s contest theme: The Superlative Letter ‘S’.

They said that the S could stand for U.S. Postal Service Six days a week, including Saturday!  Huzzah!  But you can make the S stand for anything you’d like–the solar system, snakes, silliness, statues, whatever you can come up with.  Check out last year’s winners for the theme “A World of Change.”  Feeling uninspired by a letter?  Be sure to see all the fantastic winning entries for 2012 when the theme was the letter D.  My favorite was the Dragon by Tina Lee-Cronkhite!

Tina Lee Cronkhite

Here are the rules:

Artistically (and by hand!) decorate the front of the envelope and address all entries to:

The Graceful Envelope Contest
100 Indiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Legibly print your name, mailing address and e-mail address on the BACK of the envelope.

Students must also indicate their grade to allow judging in the following categories:

  • Adult
  • Grades 9-12
  • Grades 5-8
  • Grades 1-4

For full contest details, see

Entries must be postmarked by March 24, 2014–so start designing now!


I love calligraphy.  The pens and inks and alphabets.  I aspire to one day be proficient at it myself.  But until then, I admire those who practice the art.

I read this Wall Streen Journal article a while back about calligrapher Bernard Maisner.   The article ended with:

Yet Mr. Maisner believes that calligraphy answers a demand for beauty and vitality that technology, however advanced, cannot. Calligraphy, he said, “is not meant to reproduce something over and over again. It’s meant to show the humanity, the responsiveness and variation within.”

Yes! And that’s how I feel about handwritten letters versus email and texts.  Beauty and vitality are precisely what I see in the letters I receive.

But any man who, like Maisner, charges over one thousand dollars to write 8 first names on small cards that can “act as a place card along with a take-home gift” is not really preserving calligraphy for the masses.  He’s an artist and he, like many other successful artists, reserves his work for the super rich who can afford his services.

I have no problem with that, but I propose that we all let our artists within run free from our inner critics and just take up a dip pen and try it ourselves.  I’m going to go play right now!

P.S. Check out these pictures of Maisner’s collection of antique writing gear.  They are drool worthy!

P.P.S. And if you want a tattoo of calligraphy, you can get Maisner to design it for you!

Cursive Handwriting Debate

(Image from Handwriting Makeover)

Cursive handwriting has made the New York Times’ Room for Debate section! You can find the varying view points here.

While some argue that research shows it’s better for your brain or your fluency to learn cursive, and others argue that the research is untrue, I was encouraged by the general assertion in most of the opinions that handwriting (print or cursive) is still important in our technologically-saturated world.

And the comments section was full of people who thought that even if it seemed old fashioned or a dying art, that cursive is one of those things that are worth preserving in our education system. I whole heartedly agree!

Graceful Envelope Contest

Every year the Washington Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers hold The Graceful Envelope Contest inviting calligraphers and artists to take a theme and create beautiful envelopes.

Last year’s theme “D-liver D-letter D-sooner D-better” produced some amazing winners.  Check them out for inspiration and then create your entry for this year’s contest with the theme “A World of Change.” Details for the contest can be found here, and the postmark deadline is Monday, February 25, 2013

Address the envelope to:
The Graceful Envelope Contest 100 Indiana Ave. NW Washington, DC 20001-2144

Happy National Handwriting Day!

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day.  Handwriting is celebrated on this day because it is the birthday of John Hancock–the man whose beautiful signature so boldly graces our Declaration of Independence:

A summit in Washington, D.C. today sought to raise awareness about the importance of handwriting in the digital age.  The conference featured presenters of research from several disciplines–including psychology, education, and neuroscience–to highlight the role that handwriting plays in our cognitive and fine motor development.

An article in Education Week shared quotes from interviews with some of the summit’s presenters:

Ms. Berninger noted that when students struggle with handwriting, “people usually think, well, just put them on the computer.” But her studies of normally developing and struggling students learning handwriting suggest that may not be the solution. “It turns out that many of the problems relating to why they have trouble learning handwriting might also affect how they use a keyboard.”

When handwriting is not taught, reader comprehension may suffer, according to Steve Graham, a professor of special education and literacy at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., whose research was slated to be presented at the conference.

But more commonly, having legible but shaky handwriting “strongly impacts people’s perception of the quality of the message,” he said. In a meta-analysis of research on writing, his research team found that teachers and others scoring students’ tests are more likely to give lower marks to papers with less-legible handwriting.

I am glad this discussion is happening as states adopt the Common Core Standards (a national set of standards in Math and English/Language Arts).  The Common Core standards apparently mention keyboarding, but not handwriting.  I hope that states pay attention and include handwriting in their own curricula. Not giving students a real chance to develop their handwriting may impact their ability to communicate effectively the rest of their lives.

My favorite quote from the Ed Week article is from Angela Webb, chair of the United Kingdom’s National Handwriting Association:

“Journalists are writing about whether handwriting is a dying art,” Ms. Webb said of the British press. But, she said, “if we view it only as an art, we’ve missed the point entirely”—that “handwriting is a tool.”

I’d venture to say the same thing about writing letters!

I hope you celebrate what is left of National Handwriting Day by practicing your own penmanship on a letter.  Write legibly so your recipient can enjoy the message.  If you need help polishing your handwriting, here are a few sources I found.  I haven’t used them, so I can’t make any promises.  I just thought they were interesting.

Happy writing!