The Beauty of a Catalog and a Fresh Start
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There's something magical about a printed catalog.

It had been over a year since we'd ordered them last, and I'd just about talked myself out of ordering new ones. Our industry has been moving more toward the digital in the last few years, and I'm feeling that as much as anyone else. When this new catalog arrived in my hands, it brought me back to the feeling of receiving my very first catalog.

The first C&Co wholesale catalog was a true labor of love. It had letterpress printed covers, hand-bound with black & white twine to a few digitally printed pages. I was so proud of it, despite the small quantity of cards contained within. It was the culmination of what I’d accomplished to that point.

For our first “real” catalog, the one I’d take to our first trade show, I had high expectations. My vision was to create a wholesale catalog that felt more like an issue of Kinfolk than a sales piece. We did product photo shoots all over town in the homes of our friends. To go along with the photos, I wrote small pieces about each person and their home. I wanted to bring pieces of our life in Seattle along with us on that trip to New York. I wanted our catalog to reflect all the things we loved about that season of our life. Looking back at that catalog, I see many things I’d change, but following that impulse for storytelling isn’t one of them.

Holding this 2019 catalog in my hands feels like a new kind of victory. As you may know, we lost our wholesale manager, Chelsa, to cancer last May. In the months following, it was incredibly painful for me to pick up where she left off. Chelsa loved her job and was passionate about serving our wholesale customers. In the height of my grief, searching my inbox for something and finding her name and her words was way too hard. I let the wholesale portion of C&Co sit dormant for a bit while I found my bearings.

It took me nearly a year to find the strength to focus myself on wholesale again. With the help of my husband, Brad, and the many hours he spent shooting new photos of our products, I slowly worked on a new catalog. I’m extremely proud of the cards I’ve written & designed in the last year, especially the cards about grief that were directly inspired by this experience of losing my dear friend and team member. I know she’d be proud of this catalog, and proud of the ways I’ve used my grief to make other people feel loved and less alone.

So for me, this new catalog is more than just a sales tool. It’s the final page in this chapter of loss. I’ll never forget my friend, and the ways she helped form Constellation & Co. with her kindness, compassion, hope, and joy. She’ll always be a part of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. What she wanted for this company is for it to continue, to keep speaking words of truth and keep reaching more people. Today, sending this catalog into the world, I step forward and turn the page to greet the next chapter.

If you’re a wholesale buyer and would like more info about working with us, head to our wholesale page.

Sara McNallyComment
C&Co10: 10 Years Since College Graduation

2019 is a year of big milestones for my family and for Constellation & Co. May 2019 marks 10 years since my husband, Brad, and I graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design. Later in 2009, we took a cross country road trip, moved to Seattle, and got married. 2009 was also the year that I started designing and printing greeting cards in the spare bedroom of our first Seattle apartment and selling them on Etsy. I’m carrying around so many thoughts and feelings as I anticipate this series of tenth anniversaries!

In an effort to commemorate this decade of life experiences, I’m rolling out a campaign called: C&Co10. Throughout the rest of 2019, you can look forward to blog posts, YouTube videos, throwback photos, and other forms of nostalgia. Here on the blog, I’ll tell stories and share lists of the top 10 things I’ve learned on a variety of topics. I’ll eventually end the series with a major announcement and a glimpse forward to the next 10 years. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

The Date: May 2019
The Place: Sarasota, Florida
The Occasion: My College Graduation

I completed my 4 years of college at Ringling College of Art & Design, a private visual arts school in southwest Florida. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Graphic & Interactive Communications. I graduated with honors, which seemed very important at the time, but the degree of honor exited my brain at some point in the last 10 years. I started college by moving into a dorm with my best friend from high school, Amanda. I ended college by celebrating with my fiancé, Brad. After 10 years, my college memories are a bit of a blur. I’m far enough out that I’ve forgotten most of the projects, forgotten many of the teachers, and forgotten all of the grades I received. I’ve distilled down what I do remember into this handy list:

TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED…about college in the 10 years since graduation:

  1. I could have (& should have) gotten more sleep and I would still have been just as successful.
    A bizarre phenomenon happened in my mind as art school student. I was lead to believe that spending the maximum amount of time available on a project would make that project better. It might have, but probably only the first one. The more lack of sleep I racked up, the more irrational and obsessive I became. I spent countless nights moving pixels around until the sun came up. While I felt very important at the time, I learned to burn out my body and mind as sacrificial payment for my work. I’ve been unlearning that lesson for the last 10 years. I firmly believe that I could have built better boundaries for the benefit of my physical & mental health, and still have succeeded in learning and getting good grades.

  2. Clean, efficient work and plenty of sleep are actually the secret to long term success.
    Few effective bosses celebrate their employees pulling all nighters. You don’t get paid extra for them, and they’re actually a symptom of poor planning & inefficiency during working hours. As my own boss, I know that working through the night will just make my head groggy, and will blow the rest of my week. I recognize late nights of work as a wake up call for how I’m spending my time and how many unnecessary things I’m saying yes to.

  3. It’s so much easier to make friends in school than it is as an adult. Cherish that time while you have it.
    I spent a lot of time in college feeling guilty about the time I spent away from my desk and the computer lab, goofing off with friends. Looking back, those silly adventures with college friends are my favorite memories from those 4 years. I miss having a group of people with similar interests and goals living in close proximity. I miss popping my head out of my door and grabbing whoever was around to go have an adventure. I wish I’d said yes to a few more adventures, and I wish I’d felt less guilty about taking that time.

  4. You’re not actually all that mature between 18-22, and you have a lot left to learn.

    Learning to eat healthy meals, sleep an appropriate amount of time, and navigate relationships are just as important, or perhaps even more important, educational opportunities than the classes you’re enrolled in. Make mistakes, get messy, and freak out - these things are inevitable - but learn from your mistakes and failures, and do better. Celebrate those learning experiences just as much as the ones you get a grade for.

  5. Ask for help and get help when you need it.

    I closed the door on my high school life hard when I arrived on campus. I wanted to separate myself from that life and the hurts & struggles experienced in those years. I thought that 40 miles and a new set of friends was enough to outrun my old life. It turns out that no matter how far you travel, your baggage comes with you. (I had to learn this again when I moved to Seattle.) My freshman year of college was really, really hard. Stepping through the doorway of my college’s counseling center was a big step for me. It didn’t “fix” all my problems and struggles, but it started me on a path of healing and working on my mental health that has carried me through the last 10 years.

  6. No matter what your college tells you, the job search is on your own shoulders.

    I believed the hype. I believed that the name of the college on my diploma would pave the way to a job for me. It didn’t. I believed that my GPA and the cords around my shoulders on graduation day would make a big difference. They didn’t. I say these things with absolutely no sense of anger or frustration with my school. I’m sure their job placement department helped a ton of my fellow graduates. It just didn’t help me, and I felt really let down at the time. In my chosen city, 3,000 miles from my alma mater, the institution’s name didn’t have a lot of pull. I also graduated at the height of the recession, and regardless of my efforts and my college’s efforts, there weren’t a lot of jobs to slip into. Getting my first jobs (regardless of whether or not I hated them), came from sending a lot of emails and being relentless in my search and follow up.

  7. As much as you learned during college, you’ll need to learn twice as much in the next 4 years.

    The messages on graduation day are all about your beautiful, bright future. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to dreams of exactly how bright and how beautiful your future will be. Unfortunately, no one steps out of their cap gown and directly into an incredible new life. The post-college era will be full of mistakes, harsh lessons, and growing pains. You’ll be faced each day with just how many things they didn’t teach you in college. You’ll wake up each morning to a new weight on your shoulders. You can skip a few classes, but you can’t skip your adult life. You can’t really negotiate with the due dates on your bills like you can with a professor. Don’t get me wrong, the post-college days are full of incredible new adventures, too! I just don’t want you to get slapped in the face with reality the way I did. Keep reality firmly seated in the chair next to you during that graduation ceremony. The next days will be good, but they will be hard. Be prepared.

  8. Your professors can teach you what they know, but they can’t teach you about your passions.

    I spent 4 years of college tamping down the things I was truly passionate about, in favor of the things that I thought I could get hired to do. When I graduated and realized there were no jobs, I had to spend time relearning the skill of being myself and following my passions. I spent so much time in college learning how to build websites in Flash (something I hated), because I was told that it was an important, marketable skill. In case you haven’t noticed: NO ONE BUILDS WEBSITES IN FLASH ANYMORE. Technologies will change. Industries will change. Job titles will change. Investing in your passions will turn dividends. Make note of the things that really excite you. Read the books that scream to you from the shelf. Feed your curiosity. Know about things that are beyond your major. You’ll carry those things with you, through your whole life, and they’ll make you a more interesting, well-rounded human. Your major will eventually be irrelevant. Your career will shift. Your passions will help carry you.

  9. DON’T BE IN SUCH A HURRY.

    You don’t have to slay the world in the year after graduating. You don’t have a land your dream job right away to be headed in the right direction. Keep learning and growing. Be patient. Each job, freelance gig, industry contact, and self-driven project are working together to make you the person who will eventually get that dream job, no matter what it is. You’re a person, not a career robot, and people grow slowly.

  10. The “dream job” you have in mind on graduation day may not actually end up being your dream job in the end.

    If you are wise, you will keep learning. Every day will be an opportunity to grow, and as you grow, your dreams will change. That’s not a sign that your earlier dreams were wrong, it’s a sign that you’re not stuck, still and stagnant. You will eventually look back at yourself on graduation day, and you will hardly recognize that person. What a beautiful thing that is! The Sara that crossed a stage wearing a weird dress and goofy hat isn’t the same person who sits here typing today. (The cat that sits next to me today is about 15 pounds larger than she was 10 years ago, but that’s a whole other conversation.) In May of 2009, I thought I knew exactly how my life would go, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had no idea what was headed my way. And yet, today, I couldn’t be more grateful for the weird, winding road that I’ve travelled. In another 10 years, I’m sure I’ll feel the same way about the Sara that I was today. (Heaven knows how large the cat may be by then!) We’re all a work in progress.

Sara McNallyComment
Michelle: Collector, Guardian of & Preserver of Snail Mail
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Today’s blog post was written by C&Co team member, Michelle!

Back in the 90s when stationery was neon, Lisa Frank was in, and Japanese mechanical pencils were popping up in the U.S., I was beginning my journey with snail mail.

It wasn’t my favorite thing. Being from the South, it involved a lot of manners and rules. Addressing a letter felt like agony. My first letter writing memory is of me sitting in the kitchen of our new house, fidgeting and complaining, struggling to understand the massive amount of letters and numbers and how to stack them in the right way, like you would a good block tower, so that our mail carrier knew where to send my messy-looking words. I was very much a perfectionist. The eraser shavings from my frustrated writing attempts made my envelopes look like sad, little construction sites.

This memory comes from a time when had just moved to a different state, the first really big thing to happen for me, especially as I had finally reached an age where friends began exchanging matching BFF jewelry and were special, treasured things. Leaving friends was hard. It was for this reason that I was beginning my writing journey. Telephone calls weren’t really a thing for some reason, so my closest gal pal had begun writing me from a few states away, asking in her misspellings and reversed letters how I was doing with all the new in my life. I even remember one of her letters including little wooden beads she had painted from a 90s craft set and how special it felt to receive them. I remember this so well because I never wrote her back and I regret it to this day! Sorry, Ruth. Letter writing was hard then!

The very next year, I did something else really huge; I went off to camp by myself. I was pretty young, so it was a big deal. I remember thinking how brave and proud I was of myself for going off without my family for two weeks. It was extra special because my mom, as well as my little sister and a friend wrote me letters for while I was away (later letting me know they sent them around the time I left so they’d arrive in time… so funny). My sister’s letters were mostly amoeba-like drawings of what I think was supposed to be our cat and family, but they were made just for me, so they were special. My mom sent the traditional kind of snail mail, a good few pages, handwritten on teacup-bordered paper, wishing me the best time and letting me know about all the people and pets that missed me. It’s funny now to think that two weeks seemed like forever and how important the letters were to me while I was away. Whenever I go home to visit and find that stationery set, I think about those camp letters (I see now we weren’t big letter writers since it’s still around!).

Over the next few years, that stationery set gathered dust as snail mail focused more on  Valentine’s Day cards for my classmates, birthday invitations, and thank you notes in response to those invite-inspired gifts. And birthday cards. Lots of those! Don’t forget the handwritten notes passed between classmates and boyfriends throughout my tweens and teens. Ha!

It wasn’t really until college that traditional snail mail returned and had a bigger impact on my life. I remember being given my own college P.O. Box and going to check it religiously. Regardless of how much (or little) mail I got, there was something about having the opportunity to receive things of my own, on my own, for the first time. My mailbox was one of the first signs of growing into adulthood and taking ownership of myself. I even had a kind friend who wanted to be penpals. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with sending her letters, which I also regret! Ah!

When I was a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, one of my main reasons for going to college. No kidding. I wrote about it in my application essay.

I ended up in Rome, Italy and got to experience snail mail in another special way. My best friend from college knew that I would need a little love from home every so often, so she organized a letter campaign for me. She gathered letters from our friends to go with me, instructing me to open one a week. Although I was LOVING being abroad and settling in, I was still going through culture shock, learning a new language, adapting to being the new kid, and learning that the world was a much bigger place than what I thought would fit in the palm of my hand.

When I was having a hard time and realizing how small I was in a city older and bigger than I’d ever lived in, the letters would give me a sweet boost of encouragement and love from far away in a small, middle-of-nowhere town where friends were thinking of and missing me. I even had the cool experience of having one of my best friends come visit me and us getting to see one of Italy’s (and maybe the world’s) first ever post boxes together!

While I was abroad, I wrote very little snail mail, but I received it and cherished it. I still wish I had written more during that time, but that year, I began to understand a bit more about my relationship with snail mail and how it played a role in my life.

It was at a leather market in Florence that year that things got a bit clearer. A friend and I, although perhaps not great letter writers, were very much into literature and creative writing, so we were on a search for leather journals and sketchbooks. After pushing through crowds and getting to a quieter corner of all the excitement, we came upon a stall full of beautiful, leatherbound journals. And to our pleasant surprise, stationery.

This wasn’t just any stationery, though. It was Florentine, gilded paper with flowers galore with shining silver and gold accents. It was so elaborate and old-fashioned, like stepping back in time to the days when handwritten letters were one of the few ways to communicate. With that sense of awe, alongside a journal, I bought some stationery in the brightest and deepest of blues and silvers. I may have splurged even further and bought a Florentine paper-wrapped pen… shh.

When I got back into the States from my adventures, I laid out all of my treasures. And what I found was that almost every one of my finds was a paper good. Magazines, pamphlets, snail mail, maps… and that beautiful, Florentine stationery and it’s paper-wrapped pen of a cousin.

Life has changed a lot since that special year of self-discovery. I’ve even moved a few times, and each time, all of these paper goods (and many other stationery-related items) have come with me. I’m not willing to part with them. I now even have an overstuffed file folder of all the cards I’ve received since I was a teenager. So. Much. Paper.

I realize now as I’m looking back at my journey with snail mail that I’ve known something about myself for awhile. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m not the best letter writing kind of snail mail superstar, as I often wish I was. I have stationery gathering dust on both coasts of the United States of America (Sorry, Mom.).

And you know, that’s okay! I’ve finally come to a revelation of the unique relationship to the industry that’s all my own… and here it is:

I’m 100% a collector, guardian of, and preserver of snail mail and all it’s related fun!!!

I love paper. I love the beautiful variety of styles, colors, patterns, designs… I love the differences in people’s handwriting on cards and letters that makes each person unique and special. I love the smell of paper goods. I love the creativity and joy that comes from washi tape, colorful pens, stickers, and postcards. And the joy that comes from giving and receiving these things.

And although the act of letter writing isn’t how I tend to think about my journey with snail mail, I remember what it was like to find the special things that made letter writing not so much about perfection, but about fun and joy for me.

I remember visiting a stationery store with my mom in the 90s and buying a sticker book. I remember being rewarded for doing good work in school and getting to choose a prize from my teacher’s plastic treasure chest. I chose themed erasers almost every time (I still have my eraser collection!). I remember trading Lisa Frank stickers at the lunch table, Markie the unicorn being very coveted (I also still have these!). I remember picking out a mechanical pencil when they got popular, and mine being orange themed, even having a little orange slice dangling from the end. Then the gel pens… whew. I’ve recently invested in a series of gel pens to appease my inner child. And all the thank you notes and greeting cards in their variety of colors and themes. I finally got around to organizing them recently. Kind of.

And I love where God has led me on my unique snail mail journey, to Constellation & Co. I would never have imagined all those years ago when struggling to address a letter that I would be the one figuring out addresses for C & Co. shipments of beautiful cards, or when picking out my new favorite writing utensil as a child, that I’d get to be the one who helps maintain a shop full of these lovely, lovely kinds of things. What a privilege to work under Sara and be gatekeeper to joyful moments through the stationery items we sell that inspire relationship-building letter writing.

It’s crazy how seemingly small things can connect and become big life impactors, even in something as simple and wonderful as snail mail and it’s supporting stationery items.

Oh little me, who got her first sticker book at another lovely stationery shop over 20 years ago… who would have thought you’d be here, working in stationery? And maybe, just maybe, as you work with Sara, a little bit of her letter writing will rub off on you. Your life-long sticker collection needs to find some envelopes to decorate, after all! :)

April Letter Writing Social

We hosted a free letter writing social in April to help celebrate National Card & Letter Writing Month! The mighty group of 11 snail mail enthusiasts wrote & sent 40 pieces of mail and had a great time doing it. This was our first time hosting an event at the Nordby Conference Center (located in Fishermen’s Terminal, one building over from our shop), and it was great to have room to spread out! We’re working on choosing a date for the next event, stay tuned to our events page for more info.

Sara McNallyComment
The Music of the Mail: Letters Never Sent by Carly Simon
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Do you write letters you don’t intend to mail? I’ve heard it suggested over and over through the years as a way to process thoughts and feelings without the risk of involving others in our messy first drafts. I’ve never been very good at holding back. I tend to just go ahead and write or say what’s on my mind. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and my fountain pen scribbles away, pouring my heart onto paper. My internal struggle buzzes painfully on my fingertips until it’s been tapped out on the keys of a typewriter and freed from my mind.

I’ve always been more afraid of letting things go unsaid than I fear saying things I can’t take back. What about you? Do you share freely, or have a box of unsent letters? Maybe a little bit of both?

In a suitcase tied with string
On the highest shelf
In the closet down the hall
Hidden from myself
Fits of madness, pools of grief
Fevers of desire
How peculiar these remain
Salvaged from the fire
For some I crumpled some I burned
Some I tore to shreds
Lifetimes later, here they are
Ones I saved instead
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent

Never reached their destination
Mostly born of pain
Resurfaced with the purpose of
A trip down memory lane

Broken hearted, breaking hearts
All the way it went
Evidence of what I saw
My experiments

Life's a riddle, life's a dream
Life's an accident
Now I'm gonna set them free
Letters never sent

Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent
Once upon a time taboo
Letters never sent

Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent
Incongruous, and overdue
Letters never sent

National Card & Letter Writing Month 2019

April is my favorite month!

The U.S. Postal Service officially designated April National Card & Letter Writing Month in 2001 “to raise awareness of the importance and historical significance of card and letter writing.”

Send Cards Spread Love

I'll be joining our friends at Pretty By Post (for the 3rd year!) in the Send Cards Spread Love letter writing challenge. This year’s challenge is to send at least 5 cards for 5 days. Totally doable!

Write On Campaign

Feeling more ambitious? Join the Write_On campaign! The challenge they’ve thrown down is to see how many letters you can write during National Card & Letter Writing Month.

Share Your Progress With Me!

I'll be using the hashtags #sendcardsspreadlove and #Write_On all month on Instagram and Twitter. Share your snail mail sending progress with me, and I’ll shout you out on social!

Deals!

Want to stock up on cards on a budget? Check out our sale page for a ton of $2 cards!

You can also use coupon code “APRIL” for 10% off your purchase on our website from now until the end of April. The discount even includes your first month of Card Club if you sign up now and use that code!

Snail Mail Superstar

The Snail Mail Superstar YouTube channel will be full of brand new videos for this special month! Check back in often!

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Upcoming Throughout the Month

Stock up on our series of brand new snail mail themed postcards & stickers! Or you can go full Snail Mail Superstar and pick up our epic snail mail starter kit! (This bundle is an online only item.)

We're hosting a free letter writing social on April 14th from 10am - 1pm! For more info, click here.

The Card Club packages for the month of April will be snail mail themed, and will include the brand new items mentioned above!

Resources

In case you missed it, here are some goodies I’ve put together for National Card & Letter Writing Month (and for snail mail success all year)!

Sara McNallyComment
Spring Open House

We had a ton of fun at a recent evening open house! Visitors played with wax seals, learned about fountain pens, and shopped with a discount. They also pulled a brand new spring-themed print on our historic iron handpress! Missed the event and want your own hopeful daffodil print? Scroll down and order your own!

Daffodil Art Print - Winter Is Dead
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This beautiful letterpress broadside celebrates the beginning of spring and all the hope that comes with it. Printed on our historic iron handpress with hand-set wood & lead type and a hand-carved linoleum block. Measures 12” x 18” and printed on your choice of gray or kraft paper.

Paper Color:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
Sara McNally Comment
Snail Mail Envelope Art Inspiration

Hi buddies! I’ve recently been enjoying adding images of creative mail art to my Snail Mail board on Pinterest. I especially enjoy envelope art - both art intended to go through the mail, and art added to envelopes after they’ve been sent and received.

According to Wikipedia, mail art (also known as postal art and correspondence art) is:

a populist artistic movement centered on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of what eventually became Ray Johnson's New York Correspondence School in the 1950s and the Fluxus movement in the 1960s, though it has since developed into a global movement that continues to the present.”

Looking at all the beautiful pieces shared on Pinterest, I’m excited to share some of the inspiring envelopes I’ve received and added to my correspondence collection. While I appreciate and enjoy all snail mail, even in an unassuming white envelope, these envelopes all bring a little extra fun to the table. I like to imagine the mail carrier smiling when they slipped these into my mailbox!

Sent to me by Christina from Athens, Greece

Sent to me by Christina from Athens, Greece

Sent to me by Julienne from Illinois

Sent to me by Julienne from Illinois

Sent to me by Akasha from Washington State

Sent to me by Akasha from Washington State

Sent to me by Alex from Seattle

Sent to me by Alex from Seattle

Sent to me by Rebecca from California

Sent to me by Rebecca from California

Sent to me by Shari from Washington State

Sent to me by Shari from Washington State

Sent to me by Rodja from Austria

Sent to me by Rodja from Austria

Sent to me by Chelsea from Seattle

Sent to me by Chelsea from Seattle

Sent to me by Alex from Seattle

Sent to me by Alex from Seattle

Sent to me by David from Colorado

Sent to me by David from Colorado

Sent to me by Kim from South Carolina

Sent to me by Kim from South Carolina

Sent to me by Michelle from South Dakota

Sent to me by Michelle from South Dakota

Sent to me by Michele from Washington State

Sent to me by Michele from Washington State

Sent to me by Jon from Seattle

Sent to me by Jon from Seattle

Sent to me by Kim from South Carolina

Sent to me by Kim from South Carolina

Letter Carrier #152, Seattle, Washington
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My great-grandfather, Harold Steinke, was a collector of postcards. He swapped with fellow postcard enthusiasts across the US and around the world. For the past several months, I’ve been reading, scanning, and sharing one of his postcards daily for “postcard happy hour” on my Snail Mail Superstar Instagram and Twitter accounts. The series of postcards featuring my home city of Seattle are my favorite in the whole collection. I don’t know for sure if my great-grandfather ever visited Seattle (it’s quite unlikely), but his love for postcards and snail mail gave him a connection to the place I call home.

As you can see in the images above, my great-grandfather corresponded in the 1920’s with a letter carrier in Seattle named Ralph W. Ives. The postcards give us only basic information about him: his age, occupation, location, and the fact that he enjoyed postcards featuring images of church buildings and beautiful scenery, but preferred not to receive cards featuring other types of buildings.

We don’t learn too much about life in Seattle from reading Ralph’s messages. We do learn that, of course, it rains in Seattle. The message on the left below does seem to reveal that Mr. Ives has chosen to love Seattle despite the rain, as I have. “We have had some fine rains, the weather cool, and life is worth the living.”

Each time I prepare to share a postcard from the collection, I do a cursory Google search for the person who sent it. I rarely find much, but I keep doing it, just in case. This time, I was surprised. I typed “Ralph W. Ives” letter carrier Seattle into the search box, and the first result answered questions I didn’t know I had. The result in question was a small article in the pages of The Daily Missoulian, a newspaper in Missoula, Montana, from September 11, 1914.

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I read the article with an ache in my stomach and tears in my eyes. It may seem a little silly to be so affected by this. Both the sender and receiver of these postcards are long gone from this world. I’ve never met either man face to face. But grief and loss are real and palpable, even after 105 years.

In the 1920’s, my great-grandfather was a young man, exploring the world through postcards. In 2018, I dove deep into the familiar comfort of snail mail after the loss of a dear friend. I wonder if Mr. Ives was doing the same? His days would have been filled with delivering mail to the city of Seattle. Did he spend his evenings reaching out into the world for some small sense of connection and comfort to ease the pain of the loss of his son, if only for a moment?

These are just the imaginings of a sentimental soul, 100 years removed from this interaction between a mail carrier in Seattle, WA and my great-grandfather in Woodstock, IL. Few of us make ripples in history large enough to be remembered (or Googled) 100 years later. It’s heartbreaking that the worst day of Ralph Ives’ life is what history remembers. So today, I share these beautiful postcards with you, to add one more ripple. I hope you received all the peaceful churches your heart desired, Ralph. Thank you for reaching out into the world and leaving behind this beautiful legacy of the place I call home.

With just a bit more internet sleuthing, I’ve discovered that Ralph’s son, Almon, was laid to rest just a mile and a half away from my shop. I wonder how long it’s been since someone remembered him or laid flowers on his grave? I can do that for you, Ralph. You and your son aren’t forgotten.

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I drove to Mount Pleasant Cemetery on a cold Seattle weekday morning. I brought flowers, one of Ralph’s postcards, and one of my own postcards. I parked my car and started to walk toward the cemetery entrance. I heard footsteps down the street and turned to watch a mail carrier going about his route. I couldn’t help but think of Ralph.

I entered the cemetery and wandered the rows for awhile reading names on headstones. Blaine, Mercer, Bell…many of the people laid to rest at Mount Pleasant were pioneers who settled in the area and founded the city. As I wandered, I realized how incredibly difficult it would be to read every stone and find the one single marker I was looking for. I needed help.

After a few wrong turns and incorrect buildings, I found the Mount Pleasant office. Upon opening the door, I was greeting by the familiar sound of zebra finches, flitting about inside their cage, singing to each other. I asked the woman at the desk for help finding a specific grave. I half expected to be turned away, but she was very kind and helpful. I told her the name I was looking for (Ralph Almon Ives) and the year of his death (1914). She said something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s an old one.” Regardless of the age, she was able to pull out a large three ring binder and find the name I was looking for. The information beside the name gave her a location, which she marked for me on a map of the cemetery.

The woman explained to me that most graves from 100 years past were marked with a simple concrete headstone. Families with wealth could afford marble, granite or bronze headstones and markers, but most families could not. As time and nature march on, the concrete markers become covered in dirt and moss and grass. The cemetery staff let them be covered, because when nestled under a blanket of earth, the markers are safe from corrosion.

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Once I had the map in my hand and a location to head to, I was ready to go find Almon, or at least get close. I expected, once again, to be sent off alone. Instead, the woman at the desk sent a message to another woman who works at the cemetery to meet me out at the spot and help me find the specific grave I was looking for. I went back for my car and drove slowly through the length of the cemetery to its farthest boundary.

The area of the cemetery marked on the map for Almon’s grave was quiet and beautiful. Huge trees grew up between scattered, moss-covered grave stones. I imagined the rows of unseen grave markers, safe and warm beneath the earth. I walked slowly, trying to decipher words from the corners of smooth, worn stones peeking out from under grass. A soft rain began to fall.

“We have had some fine rains, the weather cool, and life is worth the living.”

After taking a few slow laps around the area, I assumed Almon’s stone was buried, and this would be the end of the road. I sat for several minutes in quiet contemplation on a large tree stump. I thought of Ralph and Almon and Steinke. I thought of all my grandparents, laid to rest far away. I thought of my friend Chelsa, her life cut too short, like Almon’s life was.

I heard footsteps, and shook myself from the fog of my thoughts. A woman walked toward me, and asked if I was looking for the Ives grave. I’d stopped a few hundred feet short. She’d found the grave for me, and uncovered it. I followed her with careful steps, weaving between stones and markers, until I saw the little mound of dirt and freshly uncovered stone.

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Ralph A. Ives
Sept. 6, 1914
Age 15 Years

Ralph Almon Ives was laid to rest in Mount Pleasant Cemetery by his father, Ralph Waldo Ives and his mother, Louella Sumwalt Ives. 105 years later, I knelt by his grave and softly outlined the A of his middle name with my finger. I left flowers of remembrance. When I left the cemetery to return to my life in the present, the young woman who helped me find the stone, covered it up with earth again. It will rest there, safe for another 100 years.

I added images to Almon’s Find A Grave listing in the hopes that someone in his family will find them if they’re looking.
More info about Mount Pleasant Cemetery can be found
here, here, and here.
You can find more info about my great-grandfather Steinke’s postcard collection
here.

While doing additional research about the Ives family, I discovered the obituary for Ralph W. Ives’ wife, Louella. The story of her difficult and beautiful life was an encouragement to me today, and so I will share it with you.

“Louella Sumwalt was born on April 17, 1864. While she was only a little girl her mother died, and not long afterwards her father also died, and she and her four brothers were left orphans to battle with the world. She early came to a realization of her responsibility, and at the beginning of her useful life, while still a young girl, she was baptized into Christ, and followed him closely until the end. At the age of thirty-two she became the wife of Ralph W. Ives, whose life for thirty-one years she constantly encouraged and strengthened, and it was through her encouragement and influence that Brother Ives, under trying circumstances and difficulties, shunned not to preach the gospel of Christ. To this union there were born two boys, only one of which, Jesse, remains to mourn wither husband and her four brothers. She was an exceptionally good wife and loving mother. She took great interest in the development and the training of her home. She was quiet, retiring, and exclusively modest, a disposition which caused her to gain friends slowly, but which made for her the best friends, whose love and respect she forever retained. She was not demonstrative in her affection, but loved intensely, and considered no sacrifice too great for those she loved. She went to sleep in Jesus, March 19, 1928. In the last months of her life her suffering was intense, but her faith in Christ did not waver, and she passed over death'’s river in the triumph of a Christian faith.”
J. W. Maddox. - Gospel Advocate, May 17, 1928, page 479.

Spring Window Display
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The inspiration for our spring window display is fairy doors! These tiny doors are believed to be portals between our world and the world of the fairies. Believers in the magical can place tiny doors in trees or other places to welcome visits from fairies. We could use a little magic to get us through the final days of winter and into the freshness of spring. We’re hoping the tiny doors in our new window display will usher in just the magic we need.

If you scroll all the way to the end of this post, you’ll find a Snail Mail Superstar video I made about the process of creating this window display!

“The Fae Door Legend, is that of a traveling door, given to a human, so that they may have access to the fae, and their realm. Legend states that a daughter of a brewer woman, had been going through trouble and the townsfolk had grudges against her for fear her mother was a witch. Late one night, the towns folk came to confront her mother. The daughter had woken up from the noise while the mother still slept, only to see a fae at a door, gesturing the daughter to come in. As soon as the mob came knocking at the door. The mother ran to get her daughter, only to see a door laying on the ground, wide open, with light coming through. She picked it up as the villagers set fire to the straw on her house. In nearby woods, she placed the door down at the base of a willow tree, and as she tried to open it, it wouldn't budge. She heard her daughter call out to her, but she couldn't ever open the door, so she carried it the rest of her life, waiting for the door to open once again.” (From Wikipedia)

You can read more about fairy doors here and here.

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We're Made In Washington!

We’re so excited to announce that a selection of our cards are now available at all four Made in Washington stores and online! Check out the displays in stores at Pike Place Market, Westlake Center, Bellevue Square Mall, and Alderwood Mall and let us know what you think!

500 YouTube Subscribers Giveaway!
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I'm Sara, the Snail Mail Superstar. I'm a greeting card designer, letterpress printer and stationery shop owner. First and foremost, I love snail mail! In this video, I'm celebrating meeting my goal of 500 subscribers on YouTube by doing a watercolor painting and answering your questions! I'm giving away a Shinola Detroit notebook and a Lamy LX fountain pen, as well as bundles of Constellation & Co. greeting cards, postcards, and stickers! There will be 1 grand prize winner and 10 winners of a smaller prize. All of the rules and instructions are below, keep reading!

Official Giveaway Rules and Entry Details:

-You must be subscribed to my channel on YouTube to win.

-You must comment on this video to be entered in the contest.

-Winners will be chosen on March 15, 2019.

-All entries must be submitted by March 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm PST.

-Once notified, winners must e-mail their mailing address to giveaway@constellationco.com (so I can send the prize).

-The grand prize cannot be won by employees of Constellation & Co. or their immediate families.

-There will be ONE grand prize winner, receiving a Shinola Notebook and a Lamy LX Fountain Pen as well as a Constellation & Co. bundle of cards, postcards & stickers), prize valued at $150.

-There will be TEN additional winners receiving a Constellation & Co. bundle of cards, postcards & stickers valued at $20.

-Please do not re-sell the prize - use it for the snail mail joy for which it is intended.

-Prizes will be shipped by April 1, 2019.

-Any personal data collected will be used ONLY for snail mail sending purposes.

-No purchase necessary to win.

-YouTube is NOT a sponsor of your contest and bears no liability related to this giveaway.

-We adhere to the YouTube Community Guidelines and expect all subscribers to comply as well, or their entry will be disqualified.

YouTubeSara McNallyComment
Valentine's Day Window Display
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The shop's window display is one of the big recurring projects we tackle each month. For February's window, I asked Michelle to take the lead. She did a great job! The first image is her planning sketch, and if you scroll down, you’ll see the finished window! I also made a little video about the process.

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Constellation & Co. 2018 Year In Review

IN 2018...

  • Our brick & mortar shop celebrated its 4th birthday

  • Constellation & Co. released over 50 new products

  • Sara uploaded 123 videos to her Snail Mail Superstar YouTube channel

  • We welcomed 2 new employees to the team

  • Sara read 53 books & wrote 46,424 words toward her first book

interesting milestones

events

Sara’s Appearances

community

important words in 2018: delight, hope, grief, snail mail, connection

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Our Team in 2018

This year, our beloved letterpress printer, Brooke, started her own private therapy practice!

After 3 years working with us, Meredith set off on her own to focus full time on her photography business & start a new venture, Om Mama Co.!

This summer, we had way too much fun with Sara’s sister & summer intern, Beth! Her big project this summer was documenting a year of Card Club. We also enjoyed the exuberant company of another lovely Beth, who filled in throughout the year (Once they worked on the same day, & we called it Bethapalooza!). Lara & Haley were also a big help filling in at the shop this year.

In September, we welcomed Michelle to the team! She does a great job running the front desk, helping customers, assisting Sara with marketing, & coming up with out of the box ideas.

In September, we also welcomed Molly to the team! She has stepped up in a big way, taking on the lion’s share of our letterpress production work. I made this video about Michelle & Molly’s first day.

On May 23rd, we lost a member of our team to cancer. Our wholesale manager, Chelsa, had been with C&Co. for 4 years. Words will never do her justice. I hope you got to meet her. She became fast friends with everyone she met. Her smile lit up the shop. She made our team a family. She was our dear friend. She’ll always be our Wonder Woman. She loved working at Constellation & Co., & loved communicating with all of you. C&Co. will always be full of her memory, and are doing our best to live with joy every day in her honor. I made this video in the days after her passing, trying to make sense of my grief.

In 2018, our window display got a lot of love!

I had way more fun making this video retrospective than is even appropriate. I hope it makes you smile! I’ll be doing another big giveaway when my YouTube channel hits 500 subscribers - do me a favor & click here to help me reach that goal!

Places Sara Visited in 2018

St. Petersburg, Florida
New York, New York
Portland, Oregon
Sanibel Island, Florida
Vancouver, British Columbia
Sonoma County, California
Los Angeles, California
Naples, Florida
Whidbey Island, WA
Treehouse Point, Issaquah, WA

Sara’s Favorite Albums in 2018

The Undoing - Stephanie Gretzinger
American VI: Ain’t No Grave - Johnny Cash
Georgica Pond - Johnny Swim
Evening Machines - Gregory Alan Isakov
Tearing at the Seams - Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Lush - Snail Mail

Sara’s Favorite Books Read in 2018

I Am Radar - Reif Larsen
Year of Yes - Shonda Rhimes
The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
The Bookshop on the Corner - Jenny Colgan
Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life - Jen Hatmaker
We Were the Lucky Ones - Georgia Hunter
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry - Fredrik Backman
Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race - Debby Irving
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism - Robin DiAngelo

The Most Watched Snail mail superstar Videos on youtube in 2018

$1 Stationery Wish Haul - 5.4K views
Unboxing the New Sailor 1911 Stormy Sea Fountain Pen - 2.1K views
Stationery Gift Box Review - 457 views
An Informal Guide to the Heidelberg Windmill - 433 views

In 2018, Sounders FC won the Cascadia Cup, & it made an unexpected visit to the shop! Thanks, Big Dave!

Sara McNallyComment
Letter Writing Retreat at Treehouse Point

For my final few videos of 2018 and to finish up the inaugural year of my YouTube channel, I checked something off my video-making bucket list! I took Mr. Snail Mail Superstar on an overnight adventure to one of my favorite places in the whole world, Treehouse Point. We stayed in the Treehouse called “Nest.” I used the quiet evening away for a mini letter writing retreat. I wrote 16 pieces of mail, addressed to two countries and nine US States. I also took some time to shoot some photos of my favorite cozy items from our brick & mortar!

Treehouse Point, located in a forest beside the Raging River in Issaquah, Washington is a rustic bed and breakfast, featuring six hand- crafted treehouses. It’s the perfect place to turn off technology, escape everyday stress, and enjoy the rejuvenating powers of the PNW. Treehouse craftsman, Pete Nelson and his wife, Judy, share a vision of connecting people through personal encounters with the trees and nature. You may recognize their names from the popular Animal Planet TV show, Treehouse Masters!

This video is Part 1 of 4 in a series! The other parts are linked below. In this segment, I’m leaving Seattle in the pouring rain, arriving at Treehouse Point, giving you a tour of the “Nest” treehouse and talking about the greeting card collaboration I did with the lovely folks from Treehouse Point.

In this segment, I’m opening my mail and reading reading some holiday cards and postcards that I’ve received recently.

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In this segment, I’m writing letters and cards with my favorite fountain pen and using my Snail Mail Superstar wax seal… all in a treehouse! I wanted this video to be a peaceful escape, so I didn’t include any clips of me talking (you’re welcome), and left all the great ASMR letter writing sounds in there. I hope you love it!

In this segment, I’m taking you with me on my morning walk around Treehouse Point to show you the other beautiful treehouses and listen to the roar of the Roaring River. I’m also sharing some thoughts on progress and milestones and reflecting on where my life was at 5 years ago, the last time I visited Treehouse Point.

Treehouse Outtakes! For every video I make, there are a lot of weird moments you don't get to see. Here are a few of them. ;)