Thursday, July 26, 2012

The 100 Box Roundup: Part 1

So, as of May 5, 2012, I have planted 100 letterboxes – under two years. I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about some of the boxes, my favourites, my not-so-favourites, and the why-the-heck-did-I-plant-thats. But, since there are so many, two posts – the next will come in a couple days.

My very first letterbox, Letterbox Near a Postbox, was planted only two days after I learned about letterboxing. Not too long after I planted it, the Oakville Museum folks commenced some renovation work, and hoisted that post office up on stilts – exposing my little letterbox to the world. Let me tell you, it nearly put me off of letterboxing all together. But, a kind soul let me know and I was able to get the box back from museum staff and replant nearby. Whenever I get find reports on this one, I feel warmth way down in my heart.  It's an old one, but I love it.

The second letterbox I planted was Toronto Skyline,which is a thumb-nail sized stamp in a magnetic key box inside Allen Gardens in Toronto. I put it there while visiting my sister who at the time lived kitty-corner across the street. She’d never been inside before, nor had I, so we spent an afternoon exploring and left this little fella.

The third box I planted after work one day – Albion Falls.  It was the first box I ever had a blue diamond on, though I only had it for a month. It’s not a great carve, done on that horrid Speedy-Cut material, the clue was generic and the logbook was probably not thought through, but the location was stellar. I had never been there before, but was encouraged to go visit by some coworkers. So I carved and prepped a box and off I went.

I had a great time, but again, I was in nice work clothes at the time. As in, I was dressed for court. So, while planting the box, a great big mutt came running up to me from along the creek bed, and throws muddy paws up on my chest, and planted a big wet pouch smooch on me. I have this effect on dogs. Horrified, the pouch’s non-English speaking owners stared at me wide-eyed, likely thinking this crazy lady in a suit would throw a fit now that her suit was covered in mud. I thought it was hilarious. Seriously – what business did I have being in a suit next to a waterfall and creek on the Bruce Trail? I laughed, gave the pooch a hearty snuggle and responded to them in my broken Spanish that it was not a problem, gave their lovely dog a final smooch and off I went. The dry-cleaner was not as impressed.

Hamilton is the City of Waterfalls as it has more waterfalls than any other place on the planet.  I had wanted to plant some more waterfall boxes, but other than a couple, I wasn't that successful. 

Albion Falls, Hamilton Ontario - Gorgeous waterfall and a letterbox, what more could you ask for?

The first letterbox I put together that I really loved was my Redundant Ministry letterbox. The carving, of a silhouette of John Cleese from the classic Ministry of Silly Walks skit, is now likely missing. But I had a terrible time planting this box. I was still relatively green in the box planting department and naively thought that it wouldn’t be hard to find a hidey spot in Queen's Park. Hah!

The first time I really put any sort of effort into my carvings was with my Little Prince and Fox duo. I took images right out of the book to use and finally realized how crappy SpeedyCut is to work with. I still had some of it left, so I used it up for further stamps, but that was about the time I finally put in an order to Stampeaz. That first set of stuff didn’t arrive until December that year, so I continued to use up my stash of SpeedyCut and started using vinyl erasers from Dollarama for some of my following boxes.

Then, that first fall, I went with friends and family down to Salem, Massachusetts, for the October Hallowe’en festivities. I had stayed there before at the Hawthorne Hotel and knew I wanted to plant a letterbox there. So, I set out to carve what was then a seemingly insurmountable task: to carve the Hawthorne capitol. I did it. On SpeedyCut. (shudder). The stamp lived a very short life inside the Hotel on the 3rd floor. I received some awesome responses for that box before the maids made it disappear, and a blue diamond before it retired.

Finally, I got a great shipment of a variety of carving material from Webfoot in the mail, got to work and planted a number of boxes using the various materials I tested: But They’re Starving on my first try with FirmCut, The Lorax with my first bit of SpeedyCarve, Bottoms Up! on a linoleum block, and Sunny Memories on a hunk of MasterCarve (my least favourite carving medium, by the way).

Once I got a feel for the carving materials, it really was the Literary Cats series that I felt I really started to figure out how to carve. I put the images together myself and put quite a bit of time into each of them over a weekend and planted them in the then newly renovated Hamilton library.  My neck hurt like crazy following this, but I still am really happy with those carvings. Today, those would take me no time at all to carve, but at the time it took me forever.

Soon after, I flew to Calgary to meet up with a pair of good friends who lived there. No boxes to be found, but I did manage to leave one in a provincial park there – Fish Creek. The carving matched the location, and I was really proud of that carve, but worried at the time that it would rarely be found. I shouldn’t have worried; despite the relative dearth of letterboxers in that area, there are a lot of travelers who have registered finds on this box. In the time since planting this box, I really have tried to seed empty areas as I travel – you never know who might pick up letterboxing because of your box. And I’m always delighted when someone seeds in my area.hinthint

Down By the Water was the first carving and letterbox I did where I felt that I had really figured out the material. I was really happy with the image I had found and how it translated. But it was at that point that I became unhappy with the actual letterbox itself – beyond the image (clue, location, etc) – and started plotting out new boxes that were more clue-driven.

Although at this point I had come up with some ideas for different clues, the Owl and the Pussycat  was the first puzzle box I tried and I’ve had a number of finders on.

Hic Sunt Dracones... Here Be Dragons

What I had actually been plotting was the clue for Hic Sunt Dracones – and actually, I had been plotting that particular clue all during the carve for the box. I loved the image I had found, it’s a fantastic woodcut from the era of nautical exploration, and wanted a great map clue to match the name and the image. I spent quite a bit of time sketching this map out with various features, then drew over it with different sized Sharpies. Was not entirely happy with how the lines turned out – I wish the map lines were the thinner ones and the words were thicker, but still it was done. Crumpled the whole thing up, soaked it in tea, tore it up a bit, then threw it in the oven to dry. Coloured it up a bit, scanned it, and voila – instant clue. I still have the map in amongst my letterboxing stuff at home, not sure what to do with it. From an aesthetic sense, I don’t love it, so I wouldn’t necessarily put it on the wall, but I don’t want to throw it out either. Maybe I’ll glue it into my logbook…

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