adrienne mason art

glue + paper + scissors = collage


What is Mail Art?

Pamela just did a great post on how to find people to exchange mail art or letters with, but I noticed that a few people said they weren’t creative enough. No, no, no! As I wrote here, the thing about mail art is that pretty much anything goes. No art school required. I’ve been meaning to upload images of some of the mail I’ve received recently because it shows the breadth of things you can send and receive. Here goes. (See the detailed descriptions below the image gallery. And you can click on any image to take a closer look.)

  1. This is one side of a postcard from Torma in Budapest. We correspond regularly and he sends great collage postcards that often include some custom rubber stamps.
  2. Mail artists often use pseudonyms, thus this note from FinnBadger. See how he’s been creative with the positioning of the postage stamps on the envelope?
  3. Sometimes mail artists go all out with the envelope, making them from original art or magazine images or whatever. As I said, anything goes! Kevin also included a note in this “Flairmail” and the curious “Top Five Fives.”
  4. Sometimes mail artists put out calls for art. (See the long list of calls here?) Last year sometime, Frips from Belgium put out a call asking for seeds, which he was going to distribute to people who needed them. And this year Frips thanked us with this little envelope of marigold seeds made from a tiny envelope stitched together by sewing machine.
  5. Artists often use rubber stamps very creatively and can include little gifts. This “Burn on Completion” booklet from Sally is actually a tiny 2016 calendar with matches included so I can burn it when the year is out. Love this.
  6. This is a fun one. Last year, longtime mail artist Anna Banana had a retrospective in a few venues in Victoria. It’s worthy of a separate post, which I’ll try to get together one day, but those who attended the show likely participated in her “Specific Research Survey of Banana Culture” (sometimes mail artists are performance artists, too!) and this envelope included an issue of her newsletter, the Banana Rag. The envelope was (I think) made from a stencil (note the hard-boiled egg shape?) and spattered with paint to create the pattern.
  7. Sometimes mail artists create their own artistamps (see the “Bananapost” stamp?) and rubber stamps (see the custom cancellation — 45 Years of Fooling Around with a Banana!)
  8. And, well, some mail artists just have a way with calligraphy. This beauty is from Richard in France—lovely calligraphy with collage.  Sometimes mail art includes a small note, and sometimes it doesn’t (and you don’t even need to open the envelopes). No rules.
  9. Mail from Dori is always a treat—fabulous envelopes, little handmade books and cards, bits of ephemera to share, a short note. Ever creative. Many of the books I have lying around here have a Dori bookmark inside.
  10. And Taradactyl makes stellar—and colourful—envelopes that often includes fabulous things with folds and pockets and paper mysteries stuffed here and there.
  11. See IUOMA stamped on this envelope from Katerina in Greece? That’s the International Union of Mail Artists and you should get over there and explore. Anyone can join. The website takes a bit of getting used to, but you might want to pour yourself a coffee as you’re about to go down a rabbit hole. Katerina’s collage card also includes hand-cut rubber stamps (Greek Time) and an artistamp (Blue Time Post).
  12. There are some mail artists that seem to have a lot of time on their hands and are very prolific and Cascadia Artpost is one of those people. Every envelope seems to bring a new artistamp (see the Cascadia Artpost stamps on this envelope?) and custom rubberstamps, too. Recently he’s taken on a big (BIG!) project: the Peeps Photo Project, which I participated in. And he’s making a book of the work, so I’ll wait to do an entire post later on.
  13. Sometimes you receive custom art, but sometimes they are printed cards of work from that person. I love this custom postcard from Mail Art Martha, of “Martha the I in coronation robes. Painter unknown.” See the letters in her hand? And see the great custom (I think hand cut?) stamps on the envelope?
  14. Finally, this is another response to a mail art call—Mail Me a Map. Lorraine asked people to send her maps. Then she made a dress from those maps. Then she put the dress on and took a bunch of pictures, which she turned into artistamps.

I hope this gives you a sense of the breadth of what mail artists can get up to. Relax, have fun with it, and don’t think too hard!


Cartography Cardinal

For something completely different, this weekend I moved far away from my usual freeform abstract and made this:

Cartography Cardinal

I think the paper I used for the snow was a mistake (I was trying to pick up on the glitter in the other washi papers I used), but otherwise I think it was a good exercise. It’s a lot of little bits of paper though. I finally just laid the glue down first and added paper on top, rather than trying to apply glue to each piece. I first sketched the image on a piece of transparent film and used painter’s tape to hold it on top of the background (in this case, topographic map) and was continually flipping it back and forth for positioning.

I’ve received from great mail lately. The collages below are from Jack Oudyn—love his stuff— and the laminated tag now has a place of honour on my desk. He makes these great little books, often while travelling, which are always so interesting.

And these are some pieces from regular correspondents, Tofu and Torma. Tofu’s combined two vintage postcards into one (an idea to steal/adapt, I think!; here’s his post on these altered postcards) and Torma always has such interesting stamps (rubber and postage). Thanks to all three of you!


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Paint Chips & Postcards

For something completely different, I’ve been playing with adding a single image to two types of backgrounds: paint chips and postcards. The paint chips haven’t scanned that well because I used a lighter colour (and my scanner clearly needs a clean!), but I’ll continue to play around with this idea. It was quite freeing just choosing one image. Fun (and slightly silly) times in the studio.


Helen’s Mystery Postcards

Not to be confused with artist Tofu‘s project, Helen’s Postcards, I have a little postcard mystery on my hands. I was cleaning up my studio/office in Tofino when I came across a stack of postcards. I have no idea where they came from and neither does anyone else I asked. I really (really) hope I didn’t actually buy them because I have absolutely no recollection of doing so, which is a bit scary. There are some rare beauties in the stack from places in British Columbia, but most are from the States (a lot from New York) and those that are addressed are to Miss Helen Booth in Calgary (& sometimes to her mother, Mrs. A. Booth, as well). Most seem to be from the 1950s. Here’s one of my favourites:


The note from Doris on the reverse is pretty awesome, too:

Dear Helen,

This is the most casual place you could imagine. Run around half the time without shoes on. See people shopping in posh stores in bathing suits. Bought myself a “Miss Hawaii” bathing suit. Ocean perfect for swimming. You won’t know me when I come home — what with my deep tan and sun-bleached hair.

Love, Doris.

P.S. Men are the same the world over.

Is that not the best postscript?