Saturday, July 12, 2008
Art Sport -- My Secret is Out
Sometimes a great secret lies just beneath your feet, just around the corner, behind a tree or in plain view. Just when you think you've seen all and heard everything you stumble into something new and you can believe in magic again. Such a day came to me last August, at the dog pond I visit weekly. There I found I jar in a stump. I pulled it out for inspection with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. What could it be? An abandoned collection of captured and now decomposing frogs? Just as that disgusting thought crossed my mind I noticed an ornately lettered label. This jar declared itself to be a letterbox and welcomed me inside; to sign in, stamp in, and please return to its hiding spot when I was finished. I felt like Alice finding Wonderland. There was a hand-carved stamp inside and a logbook full of notes by other passers by. Every entry had a stamp, some hand-carved, others purchased but all unique. I'd been accidentally introduced to what for me is the perfect hobby (one that combines art and the outdoors); the art/sport of letterboxing where stamps are hidden in the woods (or other places) and finders find them and leave behind stamped impressions and notes of their own.
I was so excited that my first stamp was carved out of an old petrified eraser by that evening. I had no tools so I used a kitchen knife to scrape it out. I planted my first woodland box the very next day and haven't stopped letterboxing since.
Intrigued? What to join in the fun? Its free and open to all, without restrictions, a fully participatory collective art without pretension.
See www.letterboxing.org and/or www.atlasquest.com for full explanations.
The image shown is my first crude stamp (now permanently retired--this display is its last outing). It was created as my signature stamp, which is the stamp I carry with me and use to "sign in" to someone else's letterbox. I also use it "sign" my own letterboxes. Two days later I bought a proper carving set (speedball) and re-carved my signature stamp in a brand new vinyl eraser. As secrecy is a huge part of the fun of letterboxing, I won't be showing you my current signature stamp or any of my letterbox stamps. If you want to see them you'll have to find my boxes and peak inside and maybe leave a nice note and stamped impression of your own. You'll find me at atlasquest or letterboxing under the trail name Ondine.
Now remember, its a secret, so shhhhhhh....
Image: Eraser Stamp carved with kitchen knife, inked with crayola markers, additional colours with coloured pencil on 3"x5" sketch paper.