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It’s In the Mail: An Austin Student and the Lost Art of Letter Writing

It’s that time of year when our mailboxes fill up not just with bills and credit card applications, but holiday greetings.

While most of us enjoy getting cards and notes on holidays and birthdays for the most part, the tradition of sending and receiving personal snail mail seems to be fading. Just ask the U.S. Postal Service.

One local man isn’t out to save the post office, but he does want more of us to get back to putting pens to paper.

Gerald Llorence is a graphic design major at St. Edward’s University. When he had to come up with a design project for his senior show, he thought immediately of showcasing letters.

In the age of Facebook, texts and Twitter, Llorence says there’s still something special about communicating with people through the mail.

“Like if you need to get in contact with them really quickly, there’s ways to do that," Llorence says. "But I think for something that’s more thoughtful and for, I don’t know, longer communication. It’s kind of existing in this nebulous space between communication and art. You can use it for a lot of things but that’s how I kind of use it.”

Llorence says he’s always loved mail. But his connection to letter writing intensified when he and a friend from high school became pen pals after graduation.

“I think we’re really open with each other in our letters," Llorence says. "It started off they were pretty short and now they’ve gotten to the point where she’ll send me pages and pages each time. One of the longest ones I got had to have been like 15 pages from her. And so, they’re just really detailed and really interesting.”

And because there’s so much time and thought put into each letter. Llorence keeps them all. He doesn’t even mind the idea of someone else finding and reading them.

“I just have them in a box in my room right now," Llorence says. "And if people find it, I feel like I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s kind of like a better archive than someone going to your computer and scrolling through all of your emails. It’s something you sat down and wrote and clearly thought about. It’s more interesting to me for sure.”

In fact, Llorence’s senior design project is all about sharing other peoples’ letters. He sent out a call to family, friends and strangers asking them to write to him about snail mail.

“I got a letter from the UK and this lady wrote in this perfect handwriting," Llorence says. "There was this lady for the Netherlands who wrote also, which is kind of crazy, and she was talking about how she recently met up with someone who she’s just pen pals with. One my favorite ones I got was from this mother who’s a nurse and her daughter wrote a letter. It was like ‘I like writing letter because you can draw things on them’ and stuff like that. It was really cute.”

"The internet and computers and stuff haven't been around long enough for us to see how we're going to record humanity from here on out," Llorence says. "So I think still having written history is really interesting and kind of important."

Llorence’s project and all of the senior graphic design work will be displayed in a show at the St. Edwards Fine Art Gallery starting Feb. 15.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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