Thursday, October 28, 2010

I couldn't wait!

I wanted to take the time to really design my first stamp to death, make it all nice and pretty before I went out hunting, but I had the materials handy and my hands were itching, so I ended up carving a pretty simple stamp and rushing out to use the last couple hours of real daylight to hunt for two nearby letterbox locations.

I used some round, plastic-y stamp carving stuff I had sitting around. I have several more pieces, but I don't have the original packaging anymore, so for the life of me I can't remember what the brand is. I got it at Hobby Lobby,  pretty inexpensive if I recall. The tool you see to the right is just a basic set of Speedball linocutting blades and handle/storage. Some people apparently carve up red rubber or white vinyl erasers too, but I have plenty of these blank seals that seem to be a convenient size, and some actual printmaking linoleum as well.

It has a sticky back, and mounts temporarily to smooth surfaces, the same way clear polymer stamps you may have seen in craft stores do. In this instance, I've been using a cd jewel case cover because I have managed to misplace the hundred damn acrylic blocks I actually own for this purpose. The inkpad you see in the above photo is an ancient Ranger's Archival in sepia. (I ended up using black instead when I went out.) I like Archival; it's an oil based ink, so it's waterproof and doesn't bleed, has a rich tone when applied correctly and it also dries very quickly.

From there, I grabbed a blank book and the clues to letterboxes located in two different cemeteries, one within a mile of my apartment, and the other just few minutes away. The first one was pretty easy to locate, even if I did get momentarily sidetracked by trash that was left in the shrubs I was hunting through. I'm not exactly proud of my stamp, but I'll have plenty of time to hash out new designs when the weather gets cold and I'm less inclined to go out and explore! I also found a pretty kickin' huge branch that must've fallen from the storm that passed through a couple of days ago. This will now serve as the staff for the necromancer costume I'm working on, hurr.

The second box was easy enough to discover once I found the landmark for it, but the clues that the planter left had me running from one end of the cemetery to the other, and a couple of turns weren't always clear. I found it, though, that's the important part! I forgot to take a photo of my stamped page. I also lost my pen somewhere and had to use a pencil I dug out of my car.

That's it for now! I'll post some pics of my find book up here once I've got a few more of these under my belt and it looks more impressive, but today was definitely in exercise in awesome, and I felt like I was Harry Potter or some crazy shit, running around with a secret name, finding boxes with unknowable surprises in them around every corner.

I saw some really neat hand-carved stamps in the books; my favorites included a skull, a bulldozer, and the Riddler as he was depicted in Batman: the Animated Series. I don't think he was carved out by hand, the linework was very smooth, but still very, very cool.

Most Uniquely Titled First Post Ever

As far as what to expect from this blog, I'll be sharing information about letterboxing practices and etiquette as I learn, and of course stories and photos from my own personal exploits.

What is letterboxing you might ask? I only recently stumbled across it myself, so it's difficult to describe just yet, but suffice to say that letterboxing is sort of like a cross between a scavenger hunt and art collecting. There are a handful of people that carve their own stamps (or use commercial ones, though carving your own seems to be the old school way to do it) and bundle these stamps up with log books which are then hidden in various locales. A lot of them seem to be placed in rural areas, and you'll find that a lot of basic safety information that applies to hiking applies to letterboxing as well, though that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of urban and suburban treasures to be discovered. You can keep a personal find book and stamp it with what you find, sort of like an autograph album or a brag book. You can also leave your own personal stamp and signature in the logbook that's typically included in a letterbox, showing everyone that comes after that you were there before them.

Hints and clues as to where letterboxes are hidden can be found in any number of online hubs. I've found out about a few locations local to me through, though there's a ton of other great sites out there as well. I'm still working on designing my own personal stamp, and I'm probably going to register at a hub soon just so I can notify other letterboxers of my finds. I'd really like to post one out myself, but I'll probably wait to do that until after the new year, once I've gotten a little more familiar with the hobby. Take a look around, you might find out that' there's treasure hidden all around you, or has been for years and you never knew about it.