Today seems a good one to talk about mail, since the United States Postal Service is in a funding crisis and it is a service that many rely upon.
How do you communicate with others? The best method seems the most direct– meeting face to face. What if this is not an option? Would you email, text or consider rolling up your sleeves, finding some paper and ink and sitting down to write a letter?
We (me, Camphill Village, & Hancock Shaker Village) are embarking on a collaboration to make artwork together. Unfortunately due to Covid we cannot gather together, but we can collaborate together by using alternate means of communication–letter writing. Letter writing was very important to the Shakers, for it kept the various Villages in Union. It kept them together.
“Of course, for much of the 19th century, Shakers kept in contact by writing letters. Family elders wrote frequently, and their letters were read aloud to Believers during evening events known as union or reading meetings. As a journal kept at the Mount Lebanon East Family (probably written by Sister Jane Shearer) stated on May 19, 1867, “This afternoon we had the reading of several letters from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky and they were all interesting.” Indeed, the reading of letters from distant communities must have been one of the many regular duties of family and ministry elders; on April 8, 1876, a Mount Lebanon Church family journal notes that there was “a reading meeting this morn, [and Elder Giles Avery] read to them letters from Groveland, Philadelphia, and other places,” and then in the afternoon he read the letters to the Center, Second, and South Families as well.”Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon, “How Shakers Kept Union Remotely,” June 16, 2020, (accessed on August 17, 2020).
Along with letters, I am mailing sheets of paper hand painted with coreopsis ink made from the plants grown at Hancock and printed paper with oak leaves gathered from Camphill. They sent me beautifully bound blank books and cards to write upon. As our materials crossover the Taconic Mountain range and land in our studios, we roll up our sleeves and get to work.