7 stationery essentials to up your letter-writing game
Correspondences have never looked so cute
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After six months of an overabundance of screen time partnered with relative personal isolation, a more authentic way to connect feels nice.
Bring on the analog: Put your phone down and pick up a pen. For those over a certain age, it may seem odd to say that letter writing is the new texting, but this time-honored tradition has come full circle.
“People really are actually sending letters,” says Rosanna Kvernmo of Shorthand Highland Park, a stationery and luxury office supply store and letterpress company in Los Angeles, California. “In the greeting card industry we all want to believe that cards are still really important. Since the pandemic, we are seeing a definite spike in sales on notecards and letter-writing sets. People really are trying to connect with friends and family in this way.”
Chandra Greer of GREERChicago, a luxury paper goods shop in Chicago, Illinois, agrees. “Letter writing is perhaps the deepest socially-distanced form of connection there is.”
Whatever the reason, there can be a distinct pleasure in finding the perfect paper and pen combo. Small indulgences can make correspondence feel like a self-care ritual. It feels great to tell the people in your life that you’re keeping them in your thoughts.
Here are some of our favorite letter-writing accessories on which we encourage you to splurge.
1. Stationery sets
Finding the perfect stationery set is like finding a visual and tactile extension of yourself. Since letter writing sets are having a Renaissance, there are so many from which to choose.
For a fully customizable set that is all your own, check out Minted’s extended selection. From foil-pressed to letter-pressed options—and everything in between—no personality is too big or too restrained to shine through. Designed by independent artists, there are plenty of options for you to find your best match and finish it off with your own personalized touches.
We love the eye-grabbing, bold floral designs of Rifle Paper Company, which have become an iconic darling of the Anthropologie set and spread from stationery to phone cases and wallpaper. Imagine one of Rifle's bouquet-covered notes bursting out of your pen pal’s mailbox. This is a set that’s going to make a statement. Garden party!
If you’re looking for something that really stands apart, Moglea focuses on the craft of artful stationery and paper goods. The Iowa-based letterpress studio is known for crafting hand-painted sets made for one-of-a-kind correspondence that always make every notecard—and its recipient—feel special.
At Shorthand Highland Park, one of Kvernmo's longtime favorites, Mr. Boddington's Studio, is fast becoming one of ours. Designed in New York and made on U.S. soil, the charming, playful stationery layers a dash of humor over excellent design aesthetic and quality printing.
The wild child out there can add a little of the exotic to correspondence with the bold, jaguar print Soleia notecard set, a collaborative effort by British paper company Papier and luxury pajama designers Desmond & Dempsey. The warm, white cards can even be personalized with your monogram and address.
Sometimes, a quick note says more than a long letter ever could, and other times you just want to let someone know you're thinking of them. For both these occasions, a postcard offers an easy and fun solution. Not to mention, a picture can be worth a thousand words.
We love the fun and fruity postcards by Los Angeles-based design company Poketo, picturing juicy cantaloupe, curvy pears, and clusters of raspberries. They're so sunny and vibrant you may even want to hang them on your wall as art rather than stick them in the post.
Speaking of stunning flora, the Archives at the New York Botanical Garden offers a postcard set of 100 rare portraits of exotic flowers, cacti, and succulents from its world-renowned collection. Beautifully printed, this set is gorgeous enough to make a simple “hello” seem special.
And, there's no time like the present to show your support for the causes of 2020, from the current political climate to social distancing amid COVID-19. Boston-based art director Stephanie Cornell recommends the Forward Together postcard pack by Portland, Oregon-based designer Lisa Congdon.
“All of her designs are terrific, but I’m partial to these right now,” says Cornell.
3. Creative pens
From Chicago, Greer recommends that anyone looking for a well-crafted pen with a timeless appeal should look to Kaweco, a heritage brand that achieves modernity through timeless design and perfected quality.
“Kaweco first produced fountain pens in Heidelberg, Germany in 1889," she says. "Many of their stylish writing instruments are not far-removed in design from their original versions.”
The classic sport fountain pen follows the original design from 1935, and yet, at under $17, is quite affordable.
More casual, but no less important, the very artistic Cornell swears by colorful Muji pens.
She says, “They are the only pen I use, and I have them in every color. I use them for art-making, letter writing, journaling, and every day.”
If you can't decide whether you're partial to pens or pencils, you can have the best of both worlds with Japanese pen-maker Ohto's clever wooden pencil ballpoint pen. Made of cedar wood, it looks like a pencil but is fitted with a ballpoint refill and brass tip. Like all Ohto pens, this one writes like a dream using oil-based ink to give a smooth script.
4. Fun envelopes
It’s true that what’s inside is what really counts—but why not let what’s outside inspire some excitement with a bold envelope choice.
Not even a quick note scribbled on copy paper can look boring when it arrives in one of the floral-inspired envelopes by Monarch.
We are also partial to envelopes that really lean into the nostalgia element of letter-writing. A simple set of air mail envelopes is a throwback to the days of overseas penpals and mailing letters to foreign exchange students.
There's something about the red and blue stripes that always made it feel like what was inside was going to be extra important—and they still do the same today.
If you're aiming to elevate your letter-writing game, now is not the time to settle for boring postage stamps.
To bring some high art to your envelopes, check out the USPS's Ruth Asawa Forever stamps. We may not be able to see the late Japanese-American artist's intricate abstract wire sculptures in museums these days, but thanks to these stamps we can look deep inside some of her most celebrated pieces.
We also like the recent release of USPS stamps that celebrate the Voices of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was one of the most important literary and artistic movements in American history; maybe having faces of some of the greats gracing your letters will help inspire your most poetic writing.
6. A personal seal
Channel your inner Cyrano and sign off your letters in 17th-century style with a wax seal. We love the functional quality of a wax seal that also leaves an impression of the mailer’s personality in tiny details.
A favorite is the Always + Forever solid brass wax seal by Baum-kuchen, which gives meaning and timeless style to your envelope sealing. But, if you want a more contemporary imprint on your correspondence, the Social Type seals things off with skulls, palm trees, and expressions like "Yay!" on wax seal stickers that easily affix to your envelope, without the use of candles and wax.
If you want to look like you are preparing a secretive correspondence for the French Revolution, try this brass and lacquered wood spoon and furnace set.
You'll also have to purchase a melting agent, like this wax beads kit that features 24 colors of sealing wax beads. These perfectly portioned wax drops are less messy than classic wax sticks. You can also get creative by easily melting more than one color at a time, making for unique, marbleized effect all your own.
While many people love the control of wax beads like the ones we've just talked about, some consider using them blasphemy. If you're one of those, we suggest you go all in with J.Herbin's French Cire Souple richly colored sealing wax sticks. These have a superior drip, and they bend instead of cracking when opened.
7. Letter openers
There's something satisfying about tearing open an envelope with a letter opener—you can neatly get out your aggression without getting a paper cut.
We love anything that serves a dual purpose. In the case of the Izola brass-plated letter opener it not only opens letters, it doubles as a ruler—both metric and imperial—and somehow looks both modern and classic all at the same time.
If your tastes veer more towards commanding, the solid brass, stallion-topped horse letter opener by High Street Market is detailed, elegant, and worthy of a letter from a VIP.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.