Monday, March 22, 2010

Mailart in the Mailbox

    I was participating in mailart long before I knew there was such a thing. Decorating the envelope or making my own stationery seemed like a natural extension of my letter writing. Actually, many of my letters were  journaling done on decorated pages and sent to my friends. These creations were not especially well done or of the wonderfully colorful and well designed ilke that you see today, but they were original. I would tuck in different flotsam that I found here and there and put aside to share. Things like Cracker Jack toys, theater tickets, pieces of wrapping paper or ribbon. Just something to be a surprise or flutter out of the envelope when it was opened. In return I would get fat letters full of blow by blow stories about "he said, she said", and some blurry photo they took of themselves. It was wonderful! I would take their tokens, except for the photos which I kept in my scrapbook, and pass them on to someone else that I was writing to.
    Actually, I think that a lot of the mailart things that are practiced today were invented by teenagers. The Add and Pass of today resembles the draw something and pass it along, that teens were always passing around in high school. By the time the note got back to the owner, the drawing would have grown to cover the page and would be a collection of doodles, stickers, quotes and I luv's. The Add and Pass of today would be a xerox of something that was interesting to the sender and the sender's address,(on the back of the page). The originator would then put the page in an envelope, seal it, decorate it and mail it off to someone on their mailart list. The recipient would then add something to the page, maybe an impression from a favorite rubber cut, or a used postage stamp or better yet their newest artistamp. After adding something to the page, the recipient would copy the address of the originator (if they didn't have it already), and add it to their mail artist addy list.Then they would turn the page over and add their mailart moniker and address to the back, stick it in an envelope, decorated it and send it on. The idea being that when it was full, the last person to add something to it would mail it back home to the original sender. That is, of course after making a color copy or scanning it for their own collection!
    I entered the present day world of mail art in an effort to de-stress after then death of my mother. I needed something to do to take my mind off my pain and to give me something to look forward to. I started looking for mail art trades online and found some that didn't seem too involved. I made my post cards and decorated envies that I stuffed with hand made mini envelopes, used postage stamps, flyers from music events, and stickers as well as a handwritten note, poetry or quote. I made my way to the post office and opened a P.O. Box so that my return mail would not be coming to my home address. Once that was accomplished, I mailed off the letters and postcards with my new moniker and Po Box address on them and waited for what seemed like forever for something to appear in my P.O. Box window. Actually, it wasn't that long, since I had chosen a couple of "I'll send you one when you send me one", post card trades and an "write me three letters and I'll write you three back", to start off with. In a week or so I had my very first response, a hand made postcard from a trade and the next day two more postcards from another trade. They were humble beginnings, but worked wonders on my heavy heart.
    As time went on I graduated to mail art calls with a theme and started mailing to the people that were on the documentation lists I received from the calls I participated in. With each mail art call there is usually a promise of documentation of the names and addresses of the participants in the call. Sometimes the documentation came at the end of a call, sometimes periodically during an on going call, and then some documentation was to have your piece of mail art posted to a website, where your art could be seen and you could see what else was sent to the call. So my list of addresses grew exponentially and my mail box almost always had something in it when I checked it.
    After my first year of sending and receiving mailart, I had collected so much mail that I had to start recycling some of it. Not every piece I received was actually "art", many of the things I received were add and passes, regular post cards or slightly decorated envies with goodies inside. These were used to create new pieces and sent on to bring a smile to someone else's postal worker as they stuffed the mail boxes. The ones that were truely pieces of art I have preserved in acid free folders or document protectors with the intention of keeping them long term. The beauty of mail art is that you can use whatever materials you have, recycle, reuse, and send on so that soon you can have a mailbox full of fun and interesting mail to brighten your day.

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