mail art diaries: what is mail art?

Advice, Mail Art Diaries

I’ve had some folks ask me what exactly mail art is and how it is different from other similar things like mixed media, art journaling, or collage. It’s a hard question to answer, only because art is so subjective. Art is interpreted and created in so many different ways. I also did not go to school for art so my knowledge of art is very limited and I’m “self-taught”.

So, what is mail art? In my view, mail art is when you send something different through the mail. It can be a decorated envelope, a decorated letter sent in a plain envelope, or something unusual, like a flip flop, sent by post. I’m not too keen on sending weird things by mail, mostly because I don’t see the point, but that is what makes mail art so unique. It can be, and is, interpreted in different ways. It’s up to the person creating or sending the mail!

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When I first started sending letters (fifteen years ago!!), I didn’t do much in terms of decorating as I wasn’t even aware it was a thing. I was young, not even a teenager, and had only been exposed to letters from my grandparents. I ended up exchanging letters with one of my AOL pals and she always decorated her envelopes and did different things to her letters. She would write every line of her letter in a different color ink or add doodles or pictures to her plain, notebook paper stationery. This inspired me as a kid and I tried to decorate my letters the same way. It all kind of snowballed from there. If you’re looking to start making mail art, I think the best thing to do is to find creative folks to exchange with and see how they decorate their mail. You can, of course, browse the internet for inspiration and ideas (hello 2016) but it’s more fun, I think, to see something in person.

There are so many ways to create mail art, as well. I used to only collage envelopes but I’ve since branched out to other techniques. These days I use paint, rubber stamps, collage, washi tape, die cuts, and more to decorate envelopes and make flipbooks or pretty stationery. In the simplest terms, mail art is created using other art techniques to send something unique through the mail. I know there is a whole history of mail art and mail artists but, to me, that doesn’t matter. That might be an unpopular opinion but I didn’t start creating mail art because of Ray Johnson. I started creating mail art because I appreciated how much fun it was to receive something colorful in the mail, something other than a plain envelope. I create mail art to brighten up someone’s mailbox!

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outgoing

Mail, Mail Art, Outgoing

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Ever since I made the little booklet for my missive mission mail, I’ve been into making little mail booklets for everyone. It’s so much fun! I like that it’s kind of like mail art within mail art. I do like to include bits and things in the stuff that I do send out, although not all the time, but the booklet is kind of it’s own thing. They are a little more time consuming though.

I put this together for Supa’flous, or Sam. She sends me really unique mail so I thought I should return the favor. After she received it, she praised it on her instagram, which made me feel nice! I’m happy that it was well received. She deserves the best mail!

Currently, however, I’m sitting on 7+ letters. I can never seem to keep up! I had a nice momentum going at the beginning of the year but I quickly crashed and burned due to other life happenings and laziness. I think I really need to start making to-do lists! I can never remember all the things I’m trying to accomplish or complete when I don’t write them down.

new stationery in the shop

Mail, Mail Art

Dactyl Borealis Stationery Set

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Autumn News Stationery Set

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I’ve been a busy bee adding some new stationery sets to the shop! These sets were all made from some mixed media pieces I did. This is probably one of my favorite ways to make new stationery sets! I’ve been having a hard time collaging since getting more into paints and stuff. With these pieces, I do a little something-something on a 4×6 blank cardstock. I actually buy those blank watercolor postcard packs and they work so well. From there, I use paints, stencils, alcohol inks, stamps, and basically anything I can find. Sometimes I add scraps of paper but most of the time I don’t. After I finish with the postcard, I scan them into my computer and manipulate them in Photoshop to fit my stationery templates.

Another thing I have been doing with mail art pieces is the same process but using that as more of a background for a collage. I finish the mixed media pieces in record time. Collage seems to take me 30 minutes to an hour, depending on inspiration and motivation. I love just throwing paints everywhere and not really caring how it turns out. Sometimes it’s terrible but most of the time it’s pretty cool!

incoming: supa’flous

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art

Sometimes I am just completely in awe of the natural creativity of folks. For instance, this pen pal I met at the first Portland Correspondence Co-op, Supa’Flous. She wasn’t familiar with the world of mail art until that day, although she was familiar with sending and receiving mail. I chatted with her about the community that I have basically grown up with, the mail art community. I showed her some examples of mail art, letters that I had brought with me, and she seemed instantly hooked! We exchanged addresses and that was that.

The first thing I received from her, all I could think was that she was a natural! Her drawings are unique and she has some really awesome ideas of non-traditional mail. Here are some examples of the awesome mail she sends my way!

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incoming: steph d

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art

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The majority of my pen pals are letter writing pals but Steph fits in a different category: mail art pal. I think she’s the only one (hmph! I need more). I received this amazing package awhile ago but it’s too good not to share. Steph has serious style. Like I-wish-I-could-be-her-style. Ok, maybe not that creepy. Specifically, her use of neon paints and bright colors is fantastic! She pulls everything together flawlessly. I don’t know how she does it! If you’re looking for eye-candy or inspiration, I definitely suggest giving her instagram a peek.

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I can only imagine what her collection of images, ephemera, bits and bobs, scraps, and art supplies looks like. The various peeks she shares on instagram look overwhelming in the best way possible. Steph always sends a really great selection of papers and images. It’s always a treat getting mail from her!

what’s in my mailbox: pie post

Incoming, Mail

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I get a lot of amazing mail from my dear pen pal, Emilie. Not only does she send me really cool things, she also writes me the best letters. She is one of those people that I totally relate to (which is super hard for me to find these days!). Her letters always cheer me up and her thoughtfulness is just downright amazing.

Emilie and I have also met quite a few times. That seems to be a pretty common occurrence these days with pen pals. I can probably thank social media for that as well as just being an adult and being able to do things. Then again, even when I was a kid my mom drove me to California to meet a pen pal/online friend. Thanks, Mom! Anyway, I first met Emilie when I moved out to Rhode Island and she was living in Massachusetts. I think our first meeting was at an event at a local typewriter store in a suburb of Boston. I think! Correct me if I’m wrong, Emilie 🙂 After that, we met up once more when she hosted a letter writing social at a Boston bookstore. Now THAT was fun; it was just a few of us hanging out, cracking jokes, eating cookies and pretending like we were going to write letters. Emilie also opened up her home to me and my boyfriend when we drove across the country from Rhode Island to Oregon. Simply put, she is the best.

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One of my favorite things about receiving mail from Emilie is how creative she is! I feel like she doesn’t use traditional envelopes often. She puts things in boxes, photo sleeves, chocolate wrappers, and bags. This package was no different! In addition to a very awesome letter, she sent me some rubber stamps, tree bark, stamps, washi tape, ephemera, and a pterodactyl! I’m pretty lucky, guys. Maybe one day I’ll convince her to send me one of her pies.

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what i’m working on

Mail, Mail Art

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What am I working on? Stationery, of course! I’ve been straying a bit away from digital collage these days in favor of physical mixed media pieces. I’ve been buying little blank packs of postcards to make my creations. After I finish the piece, I scan it in and turn it into envelopes and stationery. As much as I love the convenience of digital collage, there is nothing quite like getting your hands dirty!

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One thing I’m super into lately is patterns. I dunno what it is but I can’t stop stamping patterns on everything. I think it might be because of the ink pads I recently purchased through Stampin’ Up. Thank goodness for birthday money! I can’t get over the quality of those ink pads though. They are amazing.

I am, however, having trouble coming up with names for these designs! I’m calling the donut pattern “donut you love writing” but that is about as creative as I get with titles. Anywhoo, these guys will be in my shop soon! You know, once I get off my bum and take photos…

mermegs in my mailbox

Incoming, Mail, Mail Art, Personal

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Here is a really great incoming missive from one of my best pals, Mermeg. She really knows how to pack an envelope and collage one! I think Megan is my longest-running pal at the moment; we’ve been exchanging mail since 2008. We have kept in touch over several moves (for both of us), different relationships, and other life happenings. It’s really amazing to think about. We’ve also had the pleasure of hanging out at least three times. It could be four but my memory is hazy. Most recently she came to Portland at the beginning of this year and we watched mail art videos on youtube. I’ll make it out to Wisconsin one day to hang out on her turf!

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Megan always seems to pick the most perfect items to send my way. I’m not sure if she just knows me really well or that we just have the same style. I don’t care either way because it just means I end up with loads of ephemera. Yes! Also, recognize some of those stamps? They were featured in Monday’s post!

Mail Artist Spotlight: Kate I

Mail, Mail Artist Spotlight

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I receive a lot of amazing things in my mailbox almost daily. I thought it would be nice to feature some beautiful mail art here and there.

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I received this amazing piece from Kate, my first piece of mail art from her! She actually ordered some goods through my shop and that is how we ended up exchanging mail. One of my favorite things about the internet! I’m never surprised at the creativity of folks but I’m always amazed that I’m the recipient of these missives.

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I absolutely love everything she included in her letter. Her handwriting is fab and lettering on the Tara stickers is spot on. I wish I could be that talented! I can’t wait to start incorporating the bits she sent me into collages. I love it all!

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Kate has an Instagram dedicated to her art. I suggest you give it a peek!