The ‘Queen’ of letterboxing turns a hobby into a passion
By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – An idea from a neighbor turned into an activity for guests; then it evolved into a hobby and now it is her passion. Melissa Misiewicz to date has found over 5,000 letterboxes and planted about 250 boxes, each with its own hand-carved stamp.
“I wanted something to do when a friend came to visit with her five kids; something inexpensive and entertaining,” Misiewicz said.
She went online and found the website, www.letterboxing.org and took her houseguests to find two boxes in Dean Park. So began her quest for discovering new places and collecting rubber stamp art.? She was completely hooked.
Letterboxing is an outdoor treasure hunt following clues that are posted online. People like Misiewicz, who develop the clues and make the stamps, are called “letterboxers” or planters. They hide small, waterproof containers in public places such as parks and trails.? The boxes contain a little log book, a rubber stamp and ink pad, all packaged in a zip lock bag.? The object is for the finder to stamp his or her sketch book with a brief description of the site and use their personal stamp in the logbook to record the find.
The sport originated in England in the mid-1800s and became popular in the United States after an article appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine in the late 1990s.? Now there are over 20,000 letterboxes hidden throughout the country.
Misiewicz recruited several friends into trying letterboxing.? She went to a craft store and bought the stamp she still uses, a little elf.? She chose the trail name of her initials, MIM.? That was last July. The friends liked the adventure and exercise and found sites in surrounding towns.? Over the summer, Misiewicz's family continued the quest for boxes on their vacation in Nova Scotia, with her son Nicholas adopting the name MIMSON.
By September, she was ready to carve her first two stamps for Prospect Park. She made the clues, which are a series of steps and directions leading to the boxes, and promoted them at the Spirit of Shrewsbury festival.
Since those first stamps and clues, Misiewicz has carved almost 500 different stamps ranging from traditional boxes to special event stamps for holidays, birthdays, and for seasons of the year. She also creates them for other letterboxers who don's like to make the stamps themselves.
“I never was an artist, but I always liked arts and crafts.? Now I have a whole new craft,” she said. Her skill has improved with her many projects, she said, and is similar to fine woodcuts with very intricate details and exquisite lettering.
“Letterboxing has so many facets. You can get as involved as you want. There's the traditional treasure hunt part. There's the collecting of locations and stamps. There's the artistic craft part of carving and the challenge of writing clues. There's the creation and collecting of trading cards, and there's the social aspect of meeting other letterboxers at gatherings and events or interacting online,” Misiewicz said.
Trading cards are to letterboxers like baseball cards are to young players or artist trading cards are to painters.? Misiewicz has designed 80 of her own cards and has collected over 2,000 cards from other enthusiasts.? Events are held in many places, and this year, New England has the honor of hosting the national letterboxing group's 15th anniversary. Coordinators expect about 300 to 400 people from all over the country to attend the August meeting in Groton, Mass.
Her hobby has taken Misiewicz and her family to 22 states and Canada.? She has scrapbooks and log books that overflow with her collections. She emphasized that letterboxers must respect both the hiding places and the environment, being careful to not disturb the area and replacing the contents for the next visitor.
More information and clues are available on the website, www.letterboxing.org.
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