Monday, April 15, 2013

"Mail Art Month"

Mail Art by Alton DuLaney. April 2013.

April is National Letter Writing Month, or as I prefer to call it, Mail Art Month. It is one of the many times during the year that I try to inspire others to write more letters and send more things via the poste, instead of just 'posting' something on-line. Yes, in this day of instant messaging, texting, and blow-by-blow FaceBook updates, there is still something to be said for the hand-written letter. A hand-written love letter is often a cherished and preserved keepsake. A text message with a smiley face - not so much. :(

Letter writing is a great way to reconnect with an old friend, express your love for a romantic interest, and keep in touch with acquaintances around the world. It takes just a few minutes to write, and costs just a few cents to send, and for the recipient it is almost like getting a gift in the mail, gift wrap (the envelope) and all.  But as well as expressing oneself in what one writes within the letter, there is the blank canvas of the envelope to be personalized, customized, and artistically expressed. Thus the creation of "Mail Art".

"Mail Box" by Alton DuLaney, April 2013.
The first thing to do to ensure success in any crafting endeavor is to gather all the materials. Being something of an organization aficionado, I like to group things. Here is a great tip for keeping all your letter writing materials together. 

Create a "Mail Box", a designated box to hold all your cards, envelopes, scraps of deco paper and other stationery items. I covered mine in a sheet of deco paper which features vintage post cards. Just one glance into my crafting studio shelves, and my box of stationery is readily identifiable. When I am ready to send some mail, I just reach for my "Mail Box".

"Post Office Box" by Alton DuLaney, April 2013.
On a similar note, I also am something of an amature stamp collector. Every time I am at the Post Office, I buy extra stamps of various denominations. Back in the studio, I toss them all in a re-purposed cigar box, which I have covered with washi tape in canceled post mark print. I like to call it my "Post Office Box". Then when it is time to send a letter, I spread out my stamps and choose the one (or ones) that best match the mail art, the mood, or the recipient. (I also have a friend who is a proper philatelist - stamp collector - who occasionally sends me some of his extra vintage stamps, which adds to the variety!) Keep in mind that there is more than one way to arrive at the proper postage to send a letter: you can use 1 44cent stamp or 44 1cent stamps. By varying the postage used, one adds to the artistic statement of the Mail Art. Also note that stamps of all denominations can be purchased on-line, saving you a trip to the post office and a wait in a long line.

Now what is all this talk of Mail Art and how can a person go about turning a letter into a work of art? Simply put, Mail Art is transforming a basic card or letter into art by customizing it and embellishing it with some form of creative expression.  Allow me to share a few simple things anyone can do to become a Mail Artists.

Envelope Liners by Alton DuLaney April 2013.

A quick and easy trick that can dress up any envelope is the envelope liner. You simply trace the shape of the open envelope onto the paper of your choice, trim with scissors, insert and secure with adhesive. When the recipient opens the envelope there is the added surprise of elegance, texture and color of the liner.

Liners for Store-bought cards by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
The envelope liner can be used on bank note cards or stationery, or as a way to dress up cards bought off the shelf. It is just one way to add a little something special to the letter sending process.
Wallpaper Envelope Liners by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
A variety of materials can be used to create the envelope liner. Above, I used wallpaper swatches to line envelopes with corresponding note cards. I have matched the patterns, creating customized sets.

Map Envelope Liners by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
For a more masculine touch, consider using readily available materials such as graph paper, air mail paper or old maps. Maps are especially clever when sending letters from abroad. Ex: When visiting NYC, use a subway map to make an envelope liner and send it to your friends back at home. It makes a great travel letter! A souvenir postcard can even be purchased and placed inside, heightening the experience.

Doily Envelope Liners by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
Another great trick I love to do it using a paper doily as an envelope liner. Packages of plain white doilies can be purchased at cooking supply stores or craft stores or colorful ones can be employed for holiday sentiment. A beautiful red foil doily used as an envelope liner really dresses up any Valentine's Day card. These are also great for weddings, showers, Mother's Day, etc.
Note Card Sets by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
Taking it all one step further, a design element from the deco paper can be isolated, cut out, and adhered to the note card and front of envelope, in addition to the liner, to make an overall creative and customized statement. Within a few minutes, a plain note card and envelope has been transformed into Mail Art!

Mail Art by Alton DuLaney April 2013.
Once the basic concepts of embellishing stationery have been grasped, there is no limit to where the basic letter can be transformed into Mail Art, or where it can be sent, with proper postage of course.

Above, I have used decorative tape from the Scotch Expressions line to create various Mail Art Masterpieces. On some, I use the stamp as the inspiration and decorate the envelope to match. On others I experiment with mixing decorative Washi tape with rubber stamping. I've used masking tape for solid coverage. (Masking, Washi and Magic tape can all be easily written on with permanent ink, making them easy to address.) In other cases I use Printed Packaging tape for a slick, glossy, coverage.(If Printed Packaging tape can dress up a box or parcel, imagine what it can do for the simple envelope!) Again, the only limit to the fun and self-expression one can have, is the imagination.

So during this month of April, National Letter Writing Month a.k.a. Mail Art Month, I encourage everyone to put a smile on someone's face by putting a piece of Art in the Mail. Enjoy!

To buy stamps on-line:

Check out my class on the Written Word as part of PaperArts on

1 comment:

  1. Alton, you are a genius and I am grateful to know you. These are such sweet pro-tips, you've inspired me to up the ante on my letters. And to write more of them.