The Graceful Envelope Contest 2017

pushing the envelope

CONTEST STIPULATIONS | The envelope must actually go through the USPS system without a protective sleeve, without anything in it, with the correct address incorporated into the design or beautifully lettered, and with the correct postage. It must not exceed 9x7 inches (which, they don't mention, is a slightly different set of dimensions than those the USPS actually goes by when calculating postage and mail-ability). It must use artwork, stamps, and lettering in a cohesive and creative manner to fit the year's theme - this time "Pushing the Envelope." It must be postmarked by March 27th. It must be done by hand; no computer graphics, lettering, or rubber stamps! Other years' themes, since I began participating, have been:

"World of Change"

"The Superlative Letter S"

"There's No Place Like Home"


This year, partly with a husband to give me extra input, I had a plethora of rough sketches to choose from when I finally got around to starting the final design with only a couple of days left before the deadline. (See below.) Of course, I'm hoping to be in the winning circle again, with this brightly colored and carefully thought out entry, but I'll be framing it to hang with the other three win or no win. That announcement comes in June.


Why, you might ask, do all my designs have to do with airplanes? Initially, I was still thinking about the Wright brothers and their innovations, thinking of them pushing the envelope in a new field. Any number of inventions or careers could have been my theme, although I had already seen that Peter had a collection of 20 stamps featuring famous American airplane models. Only after these thoughts went through my head did I find out that "pushing the envelope" was a phrase coined in the aviation world and referred to pilots testing the safe speed and elevation boundaries of their aircraft within Earth's flyable atmosphere. Did you know that?

option no. 1

The envelope became a massive door to an airplane hangar, the pilot pushing the envelope open before he boards his plane. The address would have been written on the pavement. The stamps are posters describing the planes within the hangar.

option no. 4

Maybe some little critter, like a mouse or an insect, is trying to push an envelope into his home? Yeah, I'm not great at illustrating mice in action.

option no. 6

Another of Peter's ideas. Here we have a shopfront with event posters lining the neighboring wall, models of all types in the window, the shop name is The Graceful Envelope, and the address can go on the street-facing wall. The date of the exhibit is the date by which the envelope must be postmarked.

option no. 2

I don't know where I was going to put the stamps on this design, but it was one of my favorites none-theless. Directions for folding a paper airplane out of the actual contest envelope. Hopefully, it would have made a graceful flight to the Capitol!

option no. 5

The stamps feature as part of this Wright flyer, both in the tail and the nose. The contest title and address are advertised on the wings when viewed from above.

option 1 again

Here's a small boy creating a lego airplane hangar, complete with the plastic flags, the lego pilot in vintage clothing, and two of his mother's envelopes "borrowed" to complete the imagined scene. I don't think I'd leave my finished envelope within arms' reach of a youngster...

option no. 3

Peter's idea. Billboard for the stamps (his collection of airplane stamps, too), mileage sign for the second half of the address, and a roadway for the pilot to use for a runway, once he's pushed it into position. Wonder what the story is on why he's not at an airport.

option 1 revisited

Refining Option 1 with a more door-like door (now, how to make it look more like an envelope, again?), a more realistic man, a sharper airplane outline.

option 3 revisited

The airplane might clear the billboard this time, the man is drastically improved (as is the plane, though not yet in it's final form), and I've moved the zip code over to a telephone pole at Peter's recommendation. You know how they number the poles with silver-colored numbers? I did one more draft of this general design before starting the final envelope, one last change re: the road. Peter rightly observed that it would be difficult to take off on a road with a curve in it, and he thought other guys would notice that. Note the changes made!

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Wes A (Wednesday, 26 July 2017 17:14)

    I always enjoy the thumbnail and concept sketches most in a project...I'm a big fan of pencil drawings.

    Great work Hannah!