Meet the Team: Molly!

Hello there! It’s been a season of change at Constellation & Co., and it’s time to bring you some new Meet the Team blog posts. Molly joined our team in September to help keep things running smoothly in the production department. Our beloved letterpress printer Brooke recently cut back her hours at the shop to focus on starting her own therapy practice, and we are SO PROUD of her! It was the perfect time to bring on another member of the production team, and we’re so glad Molly applied!

Molly graduated this past May from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma with a degree in Art and Design, with concentrations in Book Arts and Graphic Design. She has acquired quite a bit of letterpress experience in a short period of time, which is quite impressive! (No pun intended.) She’s super efficient and talented, and has sprinted up to speed, quickly making herself an integral part of the team. Molly has made herself right at home in our print shop since coming on board, and we’re so glad to have her on the squad!

To hear more from Molly, check out the video I made about her first day!

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Q: Describe yourself in 6 words or less.
Happiest when french fries are present.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working at Constellation & Co.?
My favorite thing about working at Constellation & Co. is just getting the opportunity to do what I love. I get to come to work, be creative, and print the day away. Adorable print shops are my happy place.

Q: What are you doing when you're not in the shop? (Other jobs, hobbies, etc.)
When I'm not at Constellation & Co. I'm working at another letterpress print shop in Tacoma, carving linocuts and attempting to print out of my tiny apartment, or starting a new Netflix binge.

Q: What is your favorite place in Seattle? (Shops, restaurants, parks, etc.)
I haven't spent enough time exploring Seattle yet, but at this point I'd have to say I've fallen in love with Fisherman's Terminal. Taking a lunch break to sit and watch the boats in the marina is probably my second favorite thing about working at Constellation & Co. 

Our TeamSara McNallyComment
My Great-Grandfather's Postcard Collection

A few weeks ago, I went on vacation with my immediate and extended family. It was a wonderful week on the beach and the time away left me feeling rested and peaceful. While there, I was given stewardship of my great-grandfather Harold's postcard collection. The collection includes (by my count) 641 postcards from within the USA and 621 postcards from international locations (including Hawaii and Alaska due to the time period). The collection is housed in a wooden box with two compartments. The postcards from within the USA are housed on the left side of the box and are organized alphabetically by state. The right side of the box is organized by country, with the names written on a set of card stock dividers that have been badly degraded by time. The postcards themselves are in impeccable condition, considering their age. The oldest cards are postmarked in the early 1920's, and a few late additions reach into the 1960's.

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I never had the chance to meet my great-grandfather, as he passed away 14 years before I was born. I really haven't known much about him at all. Holding his postcard collection in my hands has been the catalyst for an expedition into the past, into my ancestry, to meet Harold and get to know the original Snail Mail Superstar in my family. Everyone in his life (including his wife) called him by his last name, Steinke. I will continue the tradition from here on out.

As you can read in the inscription above, it was Steinke's goal to collect one or more postcards from every country. I treasure this returned and battered postcard because it's a window into how Steinke reached out into the world to meet people and build his collection. He was 16 when this  postcard was sent. From my research on Ancestry, I can make a few meaningful connections here. In 1921 when this postcard was sent, Steinke's father, Emil, was working in a typewriter factory. I can picture Emil bringing home a typewriter for the family and showing his curious son how it worked. I can picture the glint in Steinke's eye while thinking of all the possibilities, and landing on his plan to travel the world and bring it home with just a postcard and a stamp. His dream started with this simple, typewritten postcard. He understood the power of snail mail. Steinke grew up and worked with typewriters like his dad. He sold Olympia typewriters for many years and eventually started his own office machines business. A snail mail lover and an entrepreneur. I like the cut of his jib.

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As you can see in this follow up postcard, people heard about Steinke's project and they wanted to be a part of it. They were, in fact, "very anxious to join." Many of the postcards in Steinke's collection are blank. There are many doubles and multiples, especially in the Washington DC section. I can only speculate on his intentions, but I imagine that he sent a lot of those overseas for exchange. My favorite examples in the collection are those with messages, stamps and cancellations. Steinke has postcards in his box addressed to everyone in the family, not just to him. It's like they all knew he collected them, so they'd send them to each other and then give them to Steinke when they were done. This habit gives me the immense pleasure of reading examples of how they all communicated with each other. I get to see a glimpse into Steinke himself in his postcards to his brother Stan, his father Emil, and my own Grandma Jean.

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Between the first postcards in the collection and the last, Steinke met his wife, Georgia, had three daughters and raised them to love sending snail mail. I know, because his daughter, my Grandma Jean, taught me to love snail mail. She sent letters for every day I was at camp, sent me cards from my dolls in character, and wrote beautiful letters on behalf of Mrs. Claus. She showed me her love in myriad ways, but the magic of snail mail stuck. When I feel lost, I've always returned to it, like my North Star, or like it's in my DNA. I'm learning that perhaps, it is. 

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I can only infer the sentimental meaning that will follow this sentence, but it feels right. Steinke strikes me as a young man who dreamed of seeing the world. He must have grown up hearing about places in Europe from his dad, Emil, who came to America from Germany in the 1880's. His collection includes beautiful postcards from all over, and I picture him opening his mailbox to find a 4" x 6" window into a place in the world he longs to see for himself. But the postcard collection also encompasses a few more modern cards, written by Steinke to my Grandma Jean in 1961 from locations all over Europe. Revealing the dry humor that is certainly a part of our family legacy, he wrote: "This is the darndest country. Everyone speaks French." I never met Steinke, but after just a few short weeks of research and reading postcards, I recognize him. He's like me. I'm just at the beginning of this journey, but I already feel anchored in my family history in a way I've never felt before. 

There is so much more I could say, and I will share eventually... I'm working on something special and I've already written 4,600 words! In the meantime, I need your help. I've started my own postcard collection, and perhaps my own great-grandchild will read it someday and learn about this moment in time. I would LOVE for you to send me a postcard. On it, please tell me about the person who taught you to love snail mail. I'll share them here, and we can all celebrate the magic of our snail mail predecessors together!

Here's the address:
Snail Mail Superstar
c/o Constellation & Co.
1900 W. Nickerson St. #101
Seattle, WA 98119
United States of America

Vacation Sara
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As this first work week back from vacation comes to a close, I would like to formally submit my transfer request to return to vacation forever and ever. A weird thing happens every time I go on vacation. I'm overcome by a delusion that one week away will change me permanently into Vacation Sara. Vacation Sara is fun. She is carefree and spontaneous and silly and says yes to all things that bring delight. She leaves her phone plugged in at the house all day. Her circle is small. She laughs freely. She is always ready for ice cream. She wanders on the beach and feels her feelings and lets them be messy. She reads books. So many books! She gets tan and looks healthy and feels good about the future. I like Vacation Sara. So when I meet her again, I get sucked into believing that I can be Vacation Sara all the time. I usually make it a few days, until The Monday After Vacation. Then I open my inbox and I've missed 3 deadlines, someone is mad, I have more work to accomplish than I can do in 3 Mondays, the dog poops on the rug, the toddler poops in his bed, there's no groceries and simply not enough coffee on the planet. And Regular Stressed Out Sara comes back with a guttural roar. I whined to my husband last night that while on vacation I am unflappable, and that restful feeling has to last me until the next vacation (they are few and far between!) and I should not be this ABSOLUTELY FLAPPED ON THE THE FIRST DAY BACK. But that's the thing. I'm not a vacation person all the time. I can't be. And the first Monday back after a restful vacation is always going to be a rude awakening. I can't stay on vacation forever. But I can grab onto moments of Vacation Sara when they present themselves. A weekend afternoon, a nice glass of wine, an evening campfire, a break in the day to snuggle my son, a long walk with my dog... these glimpses into my vacation self are plenty to get me through if I grab enough of them.

Sara McNallyComment
Road Trip to Canada With My Snail Mail Squad

I'm Sara, the Snail Mail Superstar. I'm a greeting card designer, letterpress printer and stationery shop owner. In this video, I’m on an epic road trip adventure with my friends Emily & Kelly from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC in Canada.

I'm Sara, the Snail Mail Superstar. I'm a greeting card designer, letterpress printer and stationery shop owner. In this video, I’m on an epic road trip adventure with my friends Emily & Kelly in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We met up with subscriber, Irene, for lunch and shopping!

I'm Sara, the Snail Mail Superstar. I'm a greeting card designer, letterpress printer and stationery shop owner. In this video, I’m on an epic road trip adventure with my friends Emily & Kelly to Vancouver, BC. In this leg, we return from Canada back to Seattle, WA. On the way home, we stopped at three different Fred Meyer stores to acquire a full set of the Sketchers Bobs "Quote Me Cats" shoes for the squad. Every road trip squad needs a ridiculous side quest. We also ate a ton of Canadian candy (Aero! Weird and wonderful KitKats! Coffee Crisp!) and oh so many delicious Ketchup Chips. This video is part 3 of a 3 part series. But check back soon to see me share what I bought at Muji!

Learn more about Snail Mail Superstar!

National Stationery Show: Video Series

In this video, I'm preparing for my trip and flying from Seattle to New York for the National Stationery Show! It's an industry trade show that offers retailers & wholesalers the latest in invitations, greeting cards, stationery and lifestyle gifts on the market. This video is the first in a series chronicling my whirlwind 28 hours in NYC. I am SO EXCITED. So many sights and people and snail mail magic to see! I edited this quick little video on the plane, and I'm uploading it in the quiet few moments before I take a power nap and then head out into the big city.

This video is the 2nd in my series of travel vlogs about my trip to New York City. The trip was a bit of a planes, trains, and automobiles experience for me, but in a fun way. My morning of transit was really peaceful and enjoyable for me, despite the lack of sleep. I'm feeling very much lately that the journey is so much of the beauty in our lives.

In this video, I'm sharing my day at the National Stationery Show with you! I spent a whirlwind 28 hours in New York City last week to attend an industry trade show (NSS) and scout out new products to offer in my stationery store in Seattle. This video is the 3rd in this series of travel vlogs, and there are a few more coming your way in the next week or so.

In this video, I'm sharing more of my New York City adventure for the National Stationery Show. After my long and wonderful day at the trade show, I took a walk on the High Line to the Paper Party, a stationery industry event hosted by Oh So Beautiful Paper.

The Music of the Mail: Another Postcard by Barenaked Ladies
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This is the least serious song on my playlist, but it's probably my favorite. Have you heard this song? It's about POSTCARDS FILLED WITH CHIMPANZEES! I'm inspired. I know I already wrote a post about postcards, but that one was sweet and sentimental. This post is all about how much fun you can have with your correspondence.

Sending mail doesn't have to be a sentimentality fest. You can send ridiculous things in the mail. Like a coconut. Or a potato. Or a tacky tourist postcard. Or postcards filled with Chimpanzees. Sometimes all you want to accomplish with your correspondence is to make someone smile. 

Maybe don't troll someone incessantly with chimps. (But if you do, you have to tell me about it, pretty please?) But why not send a brief message of love or laughter or silliness? The stamps are cheaper, you are forced to brief, and you can have a lot of fun with it. 

Now stop wasting time reading this nonsense and go send some postcards. May I suggest our A-Z Nautical Flag postcards

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You can't imagine so many monkeys in the daily mail
All of them coming anonymously so they leave no trail
I never thought I'd have an admirer from overseas
But someone is sending me stationery filled with chimpanzees

Some chimps in swimsuits, some chimps are swinging from a vine
Some chimps in jackboots, some chimps that wish they could be mine
Starsky and Hutch chimps, a chimp who's sitting on the can
A pair of Dutch chimps who send their love from Amsterdam

Another postcard with chimpanzees
And every one is addressed to me

If I had to guess, I'd say the monkey-sender thinks it's great
He's sending me, maybe she's sending me just to see me get irate
I'm losing sleep - and it's gonna be keeping me up all night
I thought it was funny, but now I've got money on a monkey fight

Some chimps in hard hats, chimps a-working on a chain gang
Some chimps who love cats, burning rubber in a Mustang
A birthday-wishing chimp, a chimp in black like a goth
A goin' fishin' chimp, a British chimp in the bath

Another postcard with chimpanzees
And every one is addressed to me

Somehow they followed me even though I packed and moved my home
No matter what, they come and they come they won't leave me alone
Another monkey in the mail could make me lose my mind
But look at me shuffling through the stack until I finally find

Some chimps in swimsuits
Some chimps in Jackboots
Some chimps in hard hats
Some chimps who love cats
I've got some shaved chimps; that's chimps devoid of any hair
I've got depraved chimps dressed up in women's underwear

Another postcard with chimpanzees
And every one is addressed to me
Every one is addressed to me
Another postcard with chimpanzees
And every one is addressed to me

The Music of the Mail: Please Read the Letter by Robert Plant
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I love this song. Like, "sing it at the top of my lungs with my eyes closed" kind of love. While it's about a letter on the surface, it dives much deeper into the magic and mystery of written communication. Writing a postcard can be the thing you do while you wait for your coffee to brew. Writing an inspired and heartfelt letter is the kind of thing you wake up from a dead sleep to do. It's the kind of thing that love or passion or disappointment or anxiety drives you to do. It's a fire within your chest that can't be extinguished until you've put pen to paper and said your peace. The letter this song begs you to read is a letter that might not be fun. It's a letter than might awaken new ideas or fears or doubts. It's the kind of letter that uncovers the secrets and the memories we cherish in the deep.

There are some things that just don't belong in a text message or an e-mail. They're personal, heart to heart topics that require time and intention. Face to face suits these topics best, but that's not always possible. Or helpful. Or safe. Writing letters gives us an option that is personal and intimate, but still at arm's length. There are things you might not find the courage to say in person, but a letter will do nicely.

Lately, I write a lot of letters to myself. Moments that I can't bear to live in my own skin, so I scribble until the feeling passes. I can write the things my brain won't let me think. I can write the things I can't find the courage to say out loud. Lately I'd give just about all I have to receive a letter than promises: everything's gonna work out fine.

Caught out running
With just a little too much to hide
Maybe baby
Everything's gonna work out fine
Please read the letter
I pinned it to your door
It's crazy how it all turned out
We needed so much more

Too late, too late
A fool could read the signs
Maybe baby
You'd better check between the lines

Please read the letter, I
Wrote it in my sleep
With help and consultation from
The angels of the deep

Once I stood beside a well of many words
My house was full of rings and
Charms and pretty birds
Please understand me, my
Walls come falling down

There's nothing here that's left for you
But check with lost and found

Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote

One more song just before we go
Remember baby
All the things
We used to know
Please read my letter
And promise you'll keep
The secrets and the memories and
Cherish in the deep

Ah…
Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote

The Music of the Mail: Postcards by Meadowlark
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I learned during my snail mail playlist endeavor that postcards are a very popular topic in songwriting. Everyone from James Blunt to First Aid Kit to The Who have written songs about sending and receiving postcards. 

Some popular postcard message topics:
We're having a lovely time, wish you were here
I miss you
Look at this cool place I visited
I've arrived at my destination
I'm thinking about you from far away
Hello from Paradise
Remember that time we...?

This particular song by Meadowlark offers a few new ideas. Firstly, it's a breakup song. If you've gotta send an "I don't love you anymore" letter, I wouldn't usually suggest a postcard. The public nature of such correspondence makes that gesture a bit of a public announcement. (You'll really perk up your postman's day, though.) However, in this particular instance, the person sounds like a big giant jerk who probably deserves a petty postcard. 

While this has been a fun detour into the land of postcard etiquette, I digress. The sentiment in this song that stopped me in my tracks was this:

I just want you to know it's nice being loved.

This message distills down a lot of the complications and distractions of sending snail mail to its most important element. Correspondence is a reminder that we are loved and thought of. The writer of this song hasn't found love with the receiver of this postcard, but elsewhere. Regardless, the sentiment is significant. It's nice loving and sending that love out into the world. It's nice being loved, and receiving physical proof of that love, made of paper and ink. 

Yesterday
I sent postcards to your front door
Reminisce
Bruises reappear
All we were was a high-speed train
We derailed in the summer rain
Yesterday
I sent postcards

I just want you to know, you to know
It's nice being loved

I found love
Drinking coffee
On the hilltops
I found love
Everywhere you're not

Seven years of being clean
Gave you up like nicotine
Yesterday
I sent postcards

I just want you to know, you to know
It's nice being loved

I just want you to know, you to know
It's nice being loved

I just want you to know, you to know
It's nice being loved

Letters Beyond Life: A guest post
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This beautiful essay about letter writing was written by our C&Co. letterpress printer, Brooke Usrey.

I can still remember coming home from college during a summer break, huffing and puffing as I pulled out my huge tupperware container from under my bed. My mission was to cram another bursting stack of letters in a corner somewhere; evidence of a well corresponded year. Each pile had rubber bands wrapped around it with a hand-written date for reference, a record of new friendships and explored identity. I found my mom soon after, sat her down by the tub, and said, “If I die before you do, I want you to take all of these letters and somehow display them at my funeral. They are my life’s work.” She took it all in, accepted my wishes, and returned to her weeds in the garden.

My mom, of all people, would have understood. She modeled for me the benefit of letter writing, and she learned it from her mother. Once a week during my childhood I could find my mom sitting at her desk, address book open, stamps at the ready, keeping friends and family up to date with our lives and offering support, congratulations, or condolences for recipients on the other end. When I left for college, she wrote me religiously. I could find something from her in my mailbox every week, and this continued on as I moved across the country and back, to Europe, to remote islands, Appalachia, and Seattle. No matter where I went, or how long I stayed, she would always ask, “what’s your address?” as soon as I arrived.

Fast forward twelve years from that summer and some things are the same while others are forever changed. I have suffered the loss of my mother and I have felt the ebbs and flows of grief. I have found true love, survived graduate school, worked a million different jobs, and been through the darkest and lightest of days.  In my grief, I find healing through letters and correspondence. I treasure the letters we wrote one another and correspondence with her friends who help me remember and honor her. When I need a moment to connect, I can go to the letters and touch them.  I can see her handwriting. I can feel her essence again.

I have found relief through writing my mother beyond her death. When I am lonely and missing her, when I am feeling small or proud, when I want to share mundane parts of my day, when I want to complain or speak my fears, I write to her. I sit down at my grandmother’s desk, I get out some paper, and I write to her. On special occasions, I will buy her cards, fill them with words, and put them on display. Usually, emotions ramp up during this process, and usually I feel better when I am done.  

Sometimes she writes me back. I never could have imagined this when she was alive. If I put my pen down and wait a few minutes, I often feel an urge to pick it back up, and the words come. Her responses always have some message that helps me get through these uncharted waters without her. These days, I save the price of two stamps, a walk to the mailbox, and the two week turnaround; now we can communicate instantaneously. While this will never replace the real thing, I have found letters to be a comfort on those dark days, and I’ll take all the comfort I can get.

I no longer consider letters from my early 20s to be my “life’s work.” Collecting friends and having mail from all corners of the globe is exciting, but not nearly as important as personal growth or daily ups and downs with my partner, my dad, and my closest friends. Nothing new or exotic can compare to the depth and richness of daily life. I have come to see letter writing as a personal and spiritual journey that nourishes and connects me to what is most important. Perhaps this, then is my new legacy: connecting to what is real in this moment, and saying what my heart needs to say, even if it’s unclear if anyone is listening (although they probably are).

The Music of the Mail: Box Full of Letters by Wilco
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I have a box full of letters. I've had several over the years. They document many friendships, my family history, and my old relationships. Some of the letters are beloved. Some of them are cringeworthy. They all document a different part of my life and the other lives that helped shape mine. 

I've been writing letters since I was about six years old. My first pen pal and I wrote letters like: "Hi, how are you? I'm fine. I like puppies. Do you like puppies? I love you. Bye." They were beautiful. I still have a few of them. (Shout out to you, Sarah!)

I have letters from my Grandma Jean that mean the world to me now that she's gone. They weren't effusive or filled with wisdom for my adult life, but they show her particular love for me. I cherish them like I cherished her. 

I revisit letters from friendships and relationships that have ended, looking for clarity. Looking for "a lot of answers to...all these questions being directed at me." It's tempting to look to these relics of the past for evidence that I've grown.

All of these things I've shared are reasons I think it's worthwhile to be a little sentimental and keep evidence of feelings and words exchanged in your own box of letters. But the part of this song that keeps me coming back for future listens is this: "I can't find the time, to write my mind, the way I want it to read." This may be the truest thing I've ever heard about sending mail.

It's emotionally expensive to spend time gathering your thoughts to write and send words of love, encouragement, and support. We don't always know the right thing to say or how to say it - especially when someone you care about is going through a hard time. It can be nerve wracking to risk saying the wrong thing, and tempting to say nothing at all. 

I can't guarantee that your effort to send letters will always feel worth it. I can't promise that you'll never put your foot in your mouth, or that you won't feel rejected if they don't write back. There will never be enough time to write exactly the write words, in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time. In your struggle, don't forget that it's like this for all of us. Sending letters is an extension of our relationships, and relationships are tricky business. I'll always wish there were a few more words in my vocabulary and a few more hours in the day so I can make sure to "do it right." But like everything else in life, doing what you can is better than letting fear keep you from making an effort. "You'll come back again, and I'll still be your friend."

Got a box full of letters,
Think you might like to read
Some things that you might like to see,
But they're all addressed to me

Wish I had a lotta answers,
'Cause that's the way it should be
For all these questions,
Being directed at me

I just can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

You'll come back again
And I'll still be your friend

I got a lot of your records,
In a separate stack
Some things that I might like to hear,
But I guess I'll give 'em back

I wish I had a lotta answers,
'Cause that's the way it should be
All these questions
Being directed at me

Just can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

You'll come back again,
And I'll still be your friend

I can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

Just can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

The Music of the Mail: Songs about correspondence and what we can learn from them
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I like making playlists. I have a playlist for soccer match days, a playlist for dance parties with my son, and a playlist for days I'm feeling blue and need to cheer up. Music helps get me hyped up for the task at hand. It's only fitting that I should have a playlist for writing letters and sending mail. With this in mind, I set off on a several days' rabbit hole of collecting songs about correspondence. There were a few classic snail mail songs I knew had to be on there - Please Mr. Postman, Signed Sealed Delivered, Return to Sender, etc. While doing some keyword searches on Spotify, I was reminded of many amazing tracks by artists I love that reference to sending mail. I also discovered a ton of great songs I'd never heard. I ended up choosing 54 of my favorite discoveries and sharing them on a Spotify playlist. You can listen to it here! It's been a popular soundtrack in my brick & mortar shop for the past few weeks.

I'll be choosing a few of the most poignant songs and sharing them here with links, lyrics, and my thoughts on what they can teach us about being our best snail mail superstar selves. Stay tuned for those posts - I'll be sharing one per week in April. 

And if you have a favorite correspondence themed song that's not on my list, please comment and share it with me! I'd love to expand the playlist to include everyone's favorites.