Like many people trying to make it through quarantine, I tried out a lot of different hobbies over the past year. I made a few loaves of bread, started seriously taking care of a plant, and I tried to perfect that TikTok whipped instant coffee more times than I’d like to admit. But the only one that outlasted its novelty was writing letters. In July, after watching Doug Nichol’s documentary California Typewriter, I picked up an electric typewriter I found for free on NextDoor, bought some stamps, and asked for people’s addresses in an attempt to find connection in this time of isolation.
In my quest to find a letter writing community online, I came across More Postcards Please, a Chicago-based Instagram project that—as its name suggests—encourages people to send more postcards. Kristin Lee started the project in September of 2019 because she wanted to be able to trade with artists at a show she was attending in Portland. Lee didn’t consider herself an artist, but she did have a large collection of postcards in her apartment that could use a home.
“I hoard postcards,” Lee says. “I have postcards that people have written to me and I have so many postcards that are unwritten for me to send out or give out . . . I am a literal glutton for postcards, it’s ridiculous.”
Lee set up an Instagram account and a PO box and sent herself a postcard to see if it would work. She came back from Portland inspired and ready to document whatever mail came her way.
Scrolling through More Postcards Please feels like attending an art gallery from your phone. Lee posts every postcard she receives and catalogues them, including photos of the art, whatever message is written, who it’s from, and any other bits of information Lee can extrapolate from each card. Some postcards date back to the 1960s, some are brand-new, and others are completely handmade or DIY’d in some way. (One of my personal favorites features an illustration of a cat on top of a bagel with lox by Chicago-based artist Cloey Zikmund.)
Lee still doesn’t consider herself to be an artist, but she likes her behind the scenes role with More Postcards Please. “I don’t feel the need to be on the walls,” she says. “And even though I am running the show, it’s about everybody else . . . It’s their stories being showcased and it isn’t about me at all, but I have this unique privilege to be able to see it and feel it.”
While More Postcards Please started in 2019, the project has ballooned exponentially in 2020 due to the pandemic and the larger “Save the USPS” movement.
“When I first started it people were like, ‘Oh, that’s right, I remember you talked about postcards before.’ And now people are like, ‘Let’s support the USPS!’ And I’m, like, wait, where were you guys last year when I said postcards are great? But I will definitely take it.”
With an influx of interest in the project, Lee has noticed an unexpected learning curve: not a lot of people know how to write postcards anymore. “They don’t know where the address goes, where the stamp goes, how much room to leave,” she says. “It really is a lost art form.” (If you scroll all the way back to her first post, though, you can find a handy diagram.)
Lee hopes that with this project, people will come to see postcards as an easy, meaningful, and accessible form of communication. Rather than being something you send from a vacation once every few years, Lee says postcards can be something you send whenever you’re thinking of someone.
More Postcards Please is an interactive time capsule of our current moment. Every message, design, and stamp choice communicates something about the sender and provides a sneak peak into their lives—and Lee has managed to collect and archive those fleeting feelings from hundreds of people around the world.
“One of the things about sending postcards is that some of them have taken quite the journey,” Lee says. “Some of them take months—even from within the city—and some of them come with torn edges or are folded in half. They’ve had their own life that only they will ever know.” v
If you want to send a postcard yourself:
More Postcards Please
PO Box 47103
Chicago, IL 60647 USA