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Absurd Patron Saint of Postcards' Work Available in Leucadia

Leah Stephens made more than 100 postcards by hand inspired by the El Camino Motel in Imperial Beach with mountain of peanuts, bunny rabbits, a man holding large slabs of meat and much more.

The old El Camino Motel in Imperial Beach inspired Leah Stephens “for reasons of absurdity.” 

She took a picture of the motel and began inserting random objects in its abandoned pool by hand—a 1970s roller skater, a mountain of peanuts, bunny rabbits with a bride and so on.

“I’m not attached to the place,” Stephens told Patch via Skype. “I didn’t do it for sentimental reasons. I did it for the reasons of absurdity I guess.”

While the El Camino-inspired postcards are no longer for sale, other postcards made over the course of more than a decade include the Wanderland USA collection—still available for purchase at Caldwell Antiques at 1234 N. Coast Highway 101, in Leucadia.

Stephens, 42, had moved to California from the Midwest to fulfill a dream to work for a postcard company. It was a good job, she said, but the repetitive nature of the work drove her away.

In 2008, she says, she quit her job and developed an alter ego named the Patron Saint of Postcards and started producing thousands of her own handmade cards.

Her persona came complete with a crown, cape and apron adorned with postcards.

Stephens then spent her days wandering around Imperial Beach and other San Diego communities meeting people and selling or giving away postcards.

“I wasn’t necessarily going out in the world looking for anything in particular, but I was just going out and resonating with people who really enjoyed the concept of these handmade postcards,” Stephens said.

One day she stumbled on the closed-for-business El Camino Motel, took a picture of the pool and began inserting random people and objects.

Ultimately, Stephens made more than 100 variations of postcards inspired by the El Camino Motel.

The El Camino Motel was demolished last fall. A part of Imperial Beach for decades, people outside IB may know the motel off State Route 75 as a back drop in the short-lived HBO series John from Cincinnatti.

To keep track of who got a postcard, she took pictures of recipients.

“It was this weird business practice I developed,” she said. “There’s not a real logical component to any of this. … Absurd ideas really do fuel my life. There’s no other way to say it. Random is a way of my life.”

Stephens eventually expanded her wandering beyond San Diego to Slab City and Salvation Mountain in Imperial Valley.

"This was a time of freedom, and even though I ended up barefoot and pregnant by the end of this phase, I can honestly say that I lived life to the fullest when I was the Patron Saint of Postcards," Stephens said on her website.

Stephens now lives in Kansas City, MO.

Fred Caldwell March 19, 2013 at 04:48 PM
How cool to see the Patron Saint of Postcards on EncinitasPatch! I've been lucky to be Leah's friend now for over a decade. The more you learn about this amazing artist, the more your jaw drops. I have several of her postcards for sale in the shop. I believe Darrel at Good Morning Cardiff does as well. She's also quite a video producer and you should check out her work on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOahu5XwuQA One of the postcards I carry is "Find Yourself in Oceanside" with some wild blonde with a shag haircut on the front.with downtown O'side's trademark palms.behind her. When she brought them in, I said "WHERE did you find HER?" To which she replied: "That's ME!" On the cause road, Leah has become a force to be reckoned with in her fight against GMO's and raising consciouness about that Frankenstein monster. And no one can channel Frida Kahlo better than Leah. So much so, her unibrow graced the cover of City Beat while she still lived her. I was also lucky enough to have the Frida's visitation one Halloween night at an event at Caldwell's Antiques that migrated to Swive Tackle Circus in O'side . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxa_MKtEOqU Thanks Leah!!! ENJOY people.
Lynn Marr March 19, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Thanks for the video, the information, and for sharing Leah's words and her fascinating art!

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