NYC-based publisher and general renaissance woman Sonel Breslav, runs her own publishing house, Blonde Art Books. For Valentine's Day this year, Sonel collaborated with fellow publisher Corina Reynolds and artist Cara Benedetto to produce a unique set of Valentine's Day Cards, part of an ongoing project titled "Words With Love". The cards are designed by a carefully selected group of women artists, writers and activists, sold in sets of six and printed in a limited edition of 100. They are, in turn, hilarious and romantic and moving. I have mixed feelings about Valentines Day, but I'm passionate about the power of a good love letter. And I LOVE these cards. So much, in fact, that I asked Sonel if she could tell me and you a little more about the project.
Alex: Tell me about Words With Love. How did the project begin?
Sonel: The project stemmed from a much larger conversation I've been having with Cara Benedetto and Corina Reynolds. The mission of Blonde Art Books has always been to celebrate independent publishing and I've only ever been involved in projects that are highly collaborative. Things that I have questions and curiosities about. I don't know the answers myself and so I reach out to learn through the process of publishing! Words With Love is meant to be read as 'words with' love. Like the expression 'to have a word with'. The cards are direct- urging the receiver to rethink, re-imagine and challenge notions of love and romance.
In large part the project came from my desire to collaborate with Cara. I met Cara through a book she had written called The Coming of Age, an erotic romance novel. Her interest in this genre was really interesting to me - she has a very particular voice, a strong feminist voice. I can only speak for my interpretation and to me the book is very much about coming to terms with the many disappointments that come along with romantic life. About finding ways to find romance within different relationships - with friends, partners, family, and with yourself. I identified with this position. The anger, humor, and sexiness (!!) of disappointment. So of course I wanted to collaborate with Cara. Words With Love came together very quickly but stems from a series of conversations that we'd had over the course of a year. We had a wishlist of artists, poets, activists, with whom we wanted to reach out to in what we saw an an on-going conversation. This was the starting point for inviting these women to contribute to Words With Love.
Alex: When I saw the cards, I immediately wanted to send them to all my girlfriends. Who do you see the cards as being for?
Sonel: I really love this idea. But I also feel like they're for yourself. They're really beautiful and also limited edition, so first and foremost they’re just lovely things to have. But I’ll say that they're definitely for people who think about love in an open and complex way. I hope that anyone who receives one of these cards will see it as something to be kept aside and thought about very specifically. I hope the cards inspire people to write letters and to think about their own vulnerability. They are really genuine and thoughtful- a starting point to a conversation or to a secret or to a relationship. I imagine them to say something that you haven't said before, to express a fantasy. Even just being involved in making the cards has been a unique and loving experience- I’m really moved by the gathering of these amazing women. A lot of the artists I didn't know very well before but I feel close to them now- through their words and artwork.
Alex: You asked the women who designed the cards to send the finished product to you in the mail. I love that. Sonel, is this you engineering a way to receive 30 separate love letters? Solid work.
Sonel: Ha! I felt that having the artists send the cards to me in the mail would keep with the idea of it being handmade and from the heart. That romantic gesture of putting something in the mail. What was really interesting was the care that people had wrapped them in. It was so amazing unwrapping them all.
Alex: Now that the project is completed, when you look at the cards, what do you feel in your heart?
Sonel: When I look at the cards I feel proud. I think of who they’ll be sent to- the women, the friends, the lovers, the colleagues, the co-conspirators. I hope they will also feel this sense of empowerment and joy. A romantic expressioncan be balloons, hearts and chocolate but it can be anything really. For me this is a project about love, whatever you define it as.
Thank you so much to the wonderful Sonel Breslav for talking to me. And run don't walk to get your cards!
Set 1: Mira Dancy, Kayla Guthrie, Jill Magid, Karin Schneider, Christine Wang, and Camilla Wills.
Set 2: Moyra Davey, General Sisters, Suzanne Herrera, Amy Lam, Aura Rosenberg, and Cassandra Troyan.
Set 3: Lex Brown, Cammi Climaco, Sara Greenburger Rafferty, Lucy Ives, Mira Schor, and Danna Vajda.