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Jeshurun Webb

Mailman, Route 16




My grandfather was a mailman. He told stories of living in rural Iowa and finding mailboxes stuffed full of gifts of appreciation during the holidays. Homemade candies and chocolates spilled forth as he opened each painted wooden latch to deliver the daily mail. This is an unheard of practice now. I wondered if my small metal apartment mailbox scrawled with “2B” in permanent marker could present the same possibility as a space for gratitude. I saw the value and potential in the small space and wanted to create a location through design in which two strangers could meet. The following is a project completed during my Master's thesis in graphic design at RISD.


I began by flooding my apartment mailbox with postcards showing appreciation and respect for my mailman— an inconspicuous job. I mailed a series of ten postcards addressed to Kevin at my address. Though, I only learned his name after he answered my first inquiry. He discovered my postcards as he sifted through his daily deliveries. I tucked a pen inside my mailbox, allowing him to answer my prompts immediately.

I reshaped hand-made collages of time stamps and security patterns usually found on the inside of utility bill envelopes into a more personal use. I wanted to wake him out of his daily routine by adding an element of surprise and connection. I chose the form of a postcard because it has an established universal meaning as a way to connect people across distance. However, the distance demonstrated here is about twenty feet, or really from one side of a door to the other. The short lines on the back of a postcard can lead to awkward, impersonal sentiments. By extending the narrative into a series and exchanging personal details, I tried to overcome the postcard’s templated form. He even made postcards for me containing articles he thought might help my thesis. We were pen-pals for a couple of months, and this is a sampling of our correspondence.
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Comments (9)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Great idea! We really need to re-connect with the people who provide such necessary services on a daily basis.

The design was inspiring.
Ryan
01.04.11 at 07:55

This is great Jeshurun! A wonderful example of mailart and communication. We often forget the humble mailman in the middle. Nicely done
Andy REAL wall
01.04.11 at 11:06

I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing.
Karen
01.04.11 at 01:45

This is brilliant. I love every aspect of this project: the patterns and typography, lovely writing and method of connection.
Jessica
01.04.11 at 07:45

Or you could have just waited near your mailbox, met your mailman in person, thanked him and given him a card in person. Kinda pointless.
Anonymous
01.04.11 at 08:21

Kevin was quite a character. I wonder what the postcards he made you look like...any way to see this? THANK YOU for sharing. Great "post."
Dan Williams
01.06.11 at 10:48

love it...mailmen and garbage collectors are the most under appreciated people. in south africa (where I live) our mailmen walk their rounds in 30-35 degree heat...needless to say my mailman gets a ride to his next street whenever I see him and it is unofficially customary to give him a Christmas 'bonus' at year end to say thanks! love your idea and wish more people would connect with strangers like this...
sam
01.07.11 at 02:06

Bully pulpit idea to connect with people who matter. We live in a largely thankless and praise-less society; nice to know somebody is minding the store....
larry
01.09.11 at 03:08

This is awesome!! Got the link to this from a college classmate. I just started a Fanpage on Facebook called "Save the U.S. Postal Service by Writing More Letters." I'm going to post this story on the page, if that's cool with you!
Rachel
08.09.11 at 03:19


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ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

A slideshow of Jeshurun Webb's correspondence with her mailman.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeshurun Webb is a graphic designer and lecturer currently working from Boston. She can be found furiously brainstorming bold visual strategies for clients that range from large cultural institutions to small start-ups.
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