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2013 Graceful Envelope Contest

by Gini Ogle




Download 2013 Graceful Envelope Contest call for entries (pdf)


2013 CALL FOR ENTRIES: Calligraphers and artists from around the world are invited to participate in the 19th annual Graceful Envelope Contest, conducted by the Washington (DC) Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers. The contest is open to all ages, with separate categories for children. There is no entry fee.

View winning envelopes from past years:


“Scripsit” magazine of past winning envelopes

Themes of past contests

This year's theme:
"A World of Change"

Times change, seasons change, tastes change. Your challenge is to create a Graceful Envelope by pondering a change from the past or looking into the future to the kind of change you would like to see in the world. Winners will be chosen based on artistic hand lettering, creative interpretation of the theme and effective use of color and design, including incorporation of postage stamp(s).

Address the envelope to:

The Graceful Envelope Contest
100 Indiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001

POSTMARK DEADLINE: Monday, February 25, 2013

The contest was created in 1995 by the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum, which administered it until delegating responsibility to the Washington Calligraphers Guild in 2001. Beginning in 2003, the National Association of Letter Carriers agreed to partner with the Washington Calligraphers Guild and exhibit the winners.

In addition to promoting the art of calligraphy, the Graceful Envelope Contest celebrates the role of letters in binding people together and serves as a reminder that the people who deliver the mail are career government employees who take pride in their work and care about the communities they serve. [See also note to schools, below.]

Questions? Contact Lorraine Swerdloff, contest coordinator for the Washington Calligraphers Guild.

Contest Rules

1. Entries must be postmarked no later than Monday, February 25, 2013. There is no entry fee. Each contestant may submit one entry (if more than one entry is submitted, only the first entry received will be judged). Your Graceful Envelope entry must be addressed in hand-executed lettering to:
The Graceful Envelope Contest
100 Indiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Only the front of the envelope will be judged. Do not put your name on the front.

2. Legibly print your name, mailing address and email on the BACK of the envelope. STUDENTS must indicate their GRADE and may use their teacher's email. Judges will consider entries in the following groups:

  • Adult
  • Grades 9-12
  • Grades 5-8
  • Grades 1-4

3. Due to limited display space, entries may not exceed 7x9 inches. Standard #10 business envelopes are also permitted. You may construct an envelope from your paper of choice or use a manufactured envelope. See below for important postage rate information.

4. Entries must be delivered through the United States Postal Service and must not be enclosed in a separate envelope or in any protective covering. Postage stamp(s) must be canceled, either by hand or machine (entrants often take the envelope to their local post office to make sure it has appropriate postage and to hand cancel the stamps). You can use postage stamps issued in any year, as long as the total postage on the envelope meets or exceeds the current rate. NOTE: If you reside outside the US, use your country's postage in the denomination required for mail going to the States. Do not enclose your entry in an outer envelope or use a private delivery service.

5. Use hand-executed calligraphy or artistic lettering to address your Graceful Envelope. You may use paint, ink, pencil, handmade rubber stamps, or other standard media for illustration or embellishment. Not permitted: computer-generated lettering; stickers; clip art; printed, scanned or computer-enhanced images or lettering.

6. Impartial judges from the postal, calligraphic and arts communities will select the winning envelopes in April 2013. Among the criteria the judges will consider are: artistic hand lettering; interpretation of the contest theme; effective use of color and design; integration of postage stamps into the design; and the overall creative transformation of an ordinary envelope into a work of art.

7. The contest will not acknowledge receipt of entries. All contestants will be notified in May 2013 as to the final status of their entry. Although no prizes will be awarded, winners will receive certificates and possible media publicity.

8. In addition to being viewable online at www.calligraphersguild.org, the winning envelopes in the adult division will be exhibited at National Association of Letter Carriers headquarters (100 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001; 202-662-2851) and may also be exhibited elsewhere. Non-winning entries will not be displayed. All entries become the property of the Washington Calligraphers Guild and will not be returned.

PLEASE NOTE: To help the envelope reach its destination (the Contest's post office box), make certain the zip code (20001) is easy to find and read on the front. If your design is particularly complex, you may want to repeat the contest address in print on the back (in addition to entrant's name, address and email as required in #2 above) -- but clearly note which address is "TO" and which address is "FROM." If your envelope is returned to sender, please contact Lorraine Swerdloff.

REGARDING POSTAGE for your Graceful Envelope: Standard first-class postage is 45 cents for envelopes weighing up to one ounce. Envelopes that are unusually shaped, square, thick or very rigid or are otherwise nonmachinable (e.g. containing clasps, string, glued decorative elements) OR envelopes with the address parallel to the shorter dimension of the letter require 20 cents additional postage. TIP: If you take your envelope to a post office to verify correct postage, ask the clerk to let you hand cancel the stamps.

NOTE TO SCHOOLS: Not only does the contest allow artistic students an opportunity to compete internationally, but it teaches such disappearing life skills as addressing and mailing an envelope. Schools can also use the contest to introduce students to the network of people and technology that collects, carries, sorts, and delivers the mail, thus helping them better understand the intricacies of the current debate on the future of the US Postal Service. Additional information from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum.

Themes of Past Contests

1995--no theme
1996--Mother's Day or stamp-related
1997--Pushing the Envelope
1998--National Postal Museum's 5th Anniversary
1999--The Beauty in Nature
2000--Significant Events from the Past Century
2001--25th Anniversary of the Washington Calligraphers Guild
OR Celebrating 200 years of Washington as the Nation's Capital
2002--Greetings from America
2003--The Written Word
2004--The Weather
2005--the letter P
2006--A Fine Line
2007--A Mailable Feast
2008--C's the Day
2009--Address the Environment
2010--A Stream of Letters
2011--Time Flies
2012--D-liver D-letter D-sooner D-better (the letter D)