Monday, August 3, 2015

Parisian Poste - A Fun Summer Mail Art Project

Mail Art by Alton DuLaney July 2015
I am supposed to be in Paris today, though instead I am here at the world-headquarters in Splendora, at my desk, writing letters (and this blog). You see, I ran into a little complication, a cute, little, fluffy complication named Aureleo or "Leo", my dog and travel partner. Apparently there are a few challenges that I hadn't thoroughly considered when traveling internationally with a dog. Next time I'll know better. But I was so excited to create some mail art from Paris, that I went ahead and indulged my Francophilia. I put on some french music, donned a beret, poured myself some champagne, gathered a few supplies, and allowed my imagination to take me to a sidewalk cafe in the Marais, where I wrote a stack of letters.  You could do the same thing with any exotic destination. Here's how I did it...

French Stationery photo by Alton DuLaney July 2015

It is easy to buy, embellish or make your own beautiful stationery from anywhere in the world. I found these lovely french note-card sets a few years back at a stationery store in NYC and have been saving them for the perfect occasion. I always keep my eye open for cool stationery, buy it when I see it, and then save it until I need it. If you are not in a major city, you can also look online for Cool French Note Card Sets.

Customized Stationery by Alton DuLaney July 2015

 I always like to customize my stationery to make it look special and unique. A fun and easy way to do this is with rubber stamps. Cavallini makes several fun Rubber Stamp Kits,  similar to the one I use. Since my theme is Paris, I used appropriate imagery like the "Par Avion" stamp.

A few TIPS when using rubber stamps: 1. Make sure rubber stamp is clean and dry. 2. Get a nice even coat of ink on the stamp. 3. Place stationery on solid, flat, clean surface. 4. Press steady and firm, without rocking the stamp for a clean print. 5. Clean stamp thoroughly and allow to dry completely before putting away. 6. Practice makes perfect!

Custom Embossed Envelope by Alton DuLaney July 2015
Another fun technique to customize your stationery is by using a personal embosser. You can order a Personalized Desk Embosser with your choice of monogram, name, or even return address. I like to just use my monogram, a large A!

Postage Collection by Alton DuLaney July 2015
 Choosing the right  stamp can really set the tone of a letter, especially when you are elevating an lowly envelope into mail-art status. I keep a large amount of stamps on hand so I always have options. The United States Postal Service sells all kinds of designs in various denominations.  Buy Stamps Online

FUN FACT: The value of a stamp never expires!

Mail-Art by ALton DuLaney July 2015

For this particular project I chose these song-bird stamps becuase I liked the simplicity and the color. Ideally I would have mailed these from Paris, France with french stamps, or at least Paris, Texas for the cool postmark ( see note at the end of this blog), so to add a bit of french style to this,  I used my favorite Felt-Tip Pen , which come in a rainbow of colors, to write 'excusez-moi" across the top, as an apologetic nod to the mail-carrier for delivering this letter although I put the stamp on the top left side of the envelope. I did this for creative reasons; I liked how it looked this way, and it did not compromise the hand graphic on my envelope.

TIP: You can use multiple stamps to arrived at the required denomination and give your letter a more vintage feel.

 Now our envelope is ready to stuff!

Vintage French Post Cards photographed by Alton DuLaney
A few years ago at a flea market, I bought a big box of vintage post cards. Now whenever I travel, I try to re-appropriate these cards, up-cycling them into my mail-art projects. I took this book of miniature Paris post cards, and using my Scotch Titanium Scissors to get a crisp edge, I cut them into individual cards, then wrote a cute note onto each card, like "Meet me here!" It's just one more way to make the letter opening experience more eventful.

Parfumed swatches by Alton DuLaney July 2015
Another experiential element to add to your mail-art is the sense of smell. For my Parisian Poste, I took quilting swatches and doused them with my favorite french perfume. I love the smell of  YSL L' Homme  ,  (should you want to send me some as a gift!) but you might prefer another scent.

TIP: You can swing by a Sephora and get a tester if you don't want to buy a whole bottle. Also spritz your fabric first and let it dry; the moisture and oils from the perfume can affect the ink or otherwise stain the note-card or envelope.

Parisian Poste by AltonDuLaney July 2015
When your recipient gets this little souvenir, they will open it to discover the sights and smells of Paris!

Now that I have shown you the fun part of dressing up your correspondence, you will have to chose who to send it to and what to write . Of course you will start your letter with a "Bon Jour" and end with an "Au Revoir" but the rest of the content is up to you!

French Phrase Book photo by ALton DuLaney
TIPS: Buy yourself a handy Phrase Book  for the country or language that fits your theme, and incorporate words and phrases into the body of your text. This will add some "je na sais quoi" to your letter. A  Pocket Guide will also provide images and maps should you wish to collage any of those items into your mail-art.

Parisian Poste Mail Art by Alton DuLaney July 2015

 By taking a few extra steps, and going the extra mile, you can create amazing souvenirs of your travels ( even if you stay at home!) and produce lasting mail art correspondence that your friends and family will enjoy receiving and perhaps even cherish for years to come. So make some art today,  and partake in the "joie de vivre" of letter writing!

(One last TIP: If you want to chronicle your correspondence, or otherwise archive your mail-art, always send a copy of your monthly missives to yourself. Also, whenever I am in a place with a great name, like Splendora, I take my mail to the post-office and have the postmaster hand-cancel the stamps with the official town seal.) 

For more great do-it-yourself art and crafts projects, check out my class Paper Arts on .

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