Snail mail – staying in touch


I’ve been thinking lately about relationships and friendships and how important it is to us to stay in touch, no matter how far the distance or time is that separates us.

After all that’s how Facebook became so popular, isn’t it?

Several years ago I spent some time in the outback filming an educational documentary about the Great Artesian Basin. We visited the ruins of a telegraph repeater station in the centre of Australia, and it was just extraordinary. You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in the world made of such lonely beauty.

The locals told us the story of a settler who had sent for his English bride to join him. She survived the arduous voyage half way across the world by boat, alone, and the miserably long and hot journey to their farmstead, only to find him gone (I can’t remember why – he was hunting or trading in town or something). It was many months before he returned, and he found her almost starved and completely blind from the glare of the sun on the salt plains.

Desolation doesn’t begin to describe that moonscape environment. Yet people CHOSE to live there and many of them didn’t just live, they thrived.

The repeater station I visited was one of 11 that stretched fully from the north to the south of Australia, over 2000 miles. Building the overland telegraph line, in those days and in those conditions, was one of the greatest engineering feats in Australia’s history.

Once complete it finally put an end to the isolation, by putting Australia in touch with the rest of the world.

To put that sort of effort into a place that was so remote and unforgiving (it was almost 50 degrees one day we were there) shows a powerful desire to stay in touch, don’t you think? Nothing but the overwhelming need to remain connected to the outside world could get you digging and building and maintaining a place like that in an environment like that.

I was playing with all these kinds of ideas when I was decorating mail to send to lovely blog-readers recently. These folk hailed from all over the world, and I wanted to think about ways we once had of communicating across distance, before this age of Internet and technology.

So this little collection of mail art is dedicated to the pioneers of communication. It’s a celebration of the pony express riders (and horses!) who raced through pouring rain and searing sun; of the pigeons of World War II who did the jobs the people couldn’t; of the men who laid a 2000-mile long telegraph route across Australia in 50+ degree heat; of the train drivers and sailors and pilots and code makers and code breakers and Alexander Graham Bell, and the many more men and women who, across the centuries, have helped us stay in touch with the people we love.












  • Margie

    These are so lovely, and they made my weekend! I wanted to know what type of color you are using. I confess I can’t tell whether it’s water color, pasted or something else, but I’d like to attempt to make some of these for my friends and family. Thanks again for sharing this!

    • Naomi Bulger

      Oh thank you Margie, I’m so glad you like them! I use a combination of watercolours and gouache. The watercolours are great for washes and for more subtle tones, but the gouache paints stand out a lot more. They actually mix in together too, if I want to find a happy medium.

  • Jaimie

    I just love love the painting you do on the envelopes. It’s amazing ! You are very talented.

  • Emily

    What great theme for your mail art. It’s inspiring to see your envelopes and read your words. I am getting so much lately out of social media, but am also loving snail mail again and snailmailart. I used to love getting aerogram letters from my grandparents who lived in England (we’d moved to Australia). I’d know straight away who had sent it and rush through reading them and then reread them. Ooh I still do that :) Thanks Naomi

  • Dani @ sand has no home

    I adore this post. Doesn’t it deserve a book written about it, your story of the Great Artesian Basin? Breathtaking, Naomi. Thank you, and where can we see the film?

    • Naomi Bulger

      Oh Dani. It’s quite embarrassing because the doco was designed for children and we were on the world’s lowest budget. It’s kind of dodge in parts! But if you really want to see it, shoot me an email and send you the link to watch it online (it’s only half an hour) that way :-)

  • Kate @ One Small Life

    Ah! You are so talented – to be able to draw and paint like that! Thank-you for this beautiful post, the story and the pictures. It reminded me of the joy I felt when I received my very own beautiful package from you and how long it sat unopened, just so I could enjoy it for as long as possible. x

  • Cindy R.

    Your envelopes always look so lovely!

  • shani nottingham

    YOU BLOW ME AWAY. TOTALLY. I AM JUST GOBSMACKED…. can i interview you…?????

  • Stephanie

    Wow! I love learning about Australian history and geography. SO cool, but seriously, those letters. Oh my gosh!!!! Just totally awe-inspiring! Reminds me of when I used to write letters nearly everyday, and the thrill I’d get whenever a new one would arrive (my correspondent would doodle, draw and hand-letter the address in the most creative ways). It’s like when we do something a lot we always seek out a fun creative way to do it. nice!

  • Anita

    I received a very beautiful letter in the mail from you today, thank you so much you are very talented.

  • Links to Loveliness -

    […] post.  There are some seriously interesting and beautiful ways to jazz up an envelope as seen  on Naomi Bulger’s blog. Do you feel like getting involved in a little snail mail […]

  • Zoya

    I’m always amazed at the many different fun, clever and beautiful ideas you come up with for decorate the envelopes.
    Thank you for your letter, which I got around Christmas.

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