Discover Mail Art: A Global, One-On-One Art Show

comments (1) August 29th, 2008     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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This piece of mail art was created by Angelica Paez, who mails pieces of her work all over the world.
Mail art often takes the form of collaged postcards or letters. This example by Angelica Paez also incorporates a dash of crafty.  
In mail art, the little marks made by the postal service during mailing become part of the art. This postcard was created by Angeiica Paez.
If you want to get started with mail art, you can buy kits like this one from the Ephemeral Mailbox Museum.
This piece of mail art was created by Angelica Paez, who mails pieces of her work all over the world.

This piece of mail art was created by Angelica Paez, who mails pieces of her work all over the world.

Photo: Angelica Paez

If you're a paper-crafter, you've likely heard of Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs). But have you heard of mail art?

In the simplest terms, mail art is a piece of art that you make and send to someone in the mail, although it goes deeper than that. Mail art has a long history, but it took shape as a movement during the 1950s, when artists, frustrated with the difficulty of getting their work into galleries, decided to skip the gallery altogether and mail their work directly to art lovers.

The beauty of mail art is that it can be anything. Some mail artists make collage postcards. Others make and illustrate small books. Still others mail decorated letters, or artistamps, which are tiny works of art that resemble postage stamps. Some adventurous mail artists even stick postage on things like shoes or bananas and drop them in the mail.

No matter the medium, when your art makes its way through the postal system, it picks up various postmark stamps and stickers along the way. These markings become part of the art. So mail artists design their work to embrace postal markings—often, the pieces are mailed without an envelope, or if they do have an envelope, it's also a piece of art.

Mail art also offers a way to have unique "art conversations" with other artists around the world. A mail artist will put out a "mail art call" to other artists, asking them to send mail art that expresses a particular theme. One mail artist I know asks for mail art about birds. Another might ask for mail art that expresses a political cause. Portland, Oregon's main library put out a mail art call in 2007 for art with a "library" theme. (You can see some of the 100 pieces that were submitted in an online gallery.)

If you'd like to become a mail artist, you can find open mail art calls on several websites. Send your art to some of these calls, and eventually you might want to put out a call of your own. Here are some resources to begin your adventure:

A giant collection of mail art links at the Open Directory Project.

An excellent history of mail art. has this nice primer on mail art.

. . . And if you want to introduce a friend to mail art, you can find mail art kits at the Ephemeral Mailbox Museum or from PodPost.

posted in: artist trading cards, mail art

Comments (1)

paperrain writes: Well, as someone who has been blessed with mailart from others in the past two years of my crafting life, I will attest to the power of receiving mailart to lift your spirits and open your mind and imagination! Give someone this gift! It can change things, and I'm not exaggerating!

Posted: 1:04 pm on September 2nd
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