Creator Q&A: Mysterious Letters

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It wasn’t just Michael and Lenka’s recent addition of some interesting rewards that made The Mysterious Letters project catch our eye. The two have been arousing our curiosity from the beginning - which, actually, seems to be their speciality. Just ask the 467 people in the small Northern Ireland town of Cushendall who each received a personalized, handwritten letter from the pair on the same day in April of this year. Puzzling? Yes. Inspiring and even a little thrilling? Definitely. 

Now Michael and Lenka are determined to take their project world-wide, and they’re using Kickstarter to make it happen. Even though we imagine it takes a lot of time to write individual notes to hundreds of people, Michael and Lenka we’re kind enough to spend a little bit of time writing us some letters of our very own. Read what they had to say about their project below. Support it here

I think your project is so amazing! I was wondering how you guys came upon this idea? What made you want to do it? 

We came up with the idea in the British Library in London, which has one copy of every book, newspaper and magazine ever published in the English language. We went there a few times to look through stacks of books and come up with ideas. Once, over tea we in the cafeteria, I saw that Michael had written in his sketchbook; “Write a letter to everyone in the world.” I remembered having exactly the same idea, and writing it in my own sketchbook. We decided to honour the coincidence by doing it as a collaborative project. We started with the village of Cushendall in Northern Ireland (all the letters we wrote are on our blog). We were interested to see how it would be to write to hundreds of strangers and what we might say.

How do you feel about the responses you’ve been receiving so far? Any stand-out experiences?

We didn’t put a return address on the letters. We wanted to just imagine what might have happened when each household received a personal hand-written letter on the same day as every other household in a remote village. We imagined the postman with his unusually heavy bag, being forced up each path to each front door for the first time. We imagined the discussion that would take place at the breakfast table between the parents and children. We imagined on meeting neighbours over the fence, the realisation that they too had a letter, a different one, from the same unknown senders. We imagined the realisation, and the questions (who? what? why?) that would spread across the village, causing comparisons between the letters and reactions unique to the recipients. The project arrived on each person’s doorstep and gave everybody a reason or excuse to talk to their neighbours or strangers for a few days. It poses the question whether that happened, and doesn’t attempt to answer it.

How are you guys going to be using the money you raise from Kickstarter?

We’ll use the Kickstarter money to buy envelopes, hundreds of stamps, to fund research and travel and to rent a studio for the Mysterious Letters part 2 that will start in a mysterious location in November.

Where do you work from and what is your creative environment like?

Michael works in London (in a scribbly mess), I work in Pittsburgh. The place we write the letters from depends on where we’re writing to. The first 467 were written from a tower in the middle of the village. The second batch (the ones we’re writing in November) will be written from an old Barber’s shop in Pittsburgh. I am in the middle of sweeping it out and fixing it up at the moment.