Creative Correspondence

Although I make my living as an artist, sometimes I like to try things that are outside my usual style or that aren?t commercially viable to help me clear the cobwebs and think outside the box. Creating mail art is one way I accomplish this.

Artists rebelling against the idea that the only true “art” was hung in galleries and museums started mail art in the 1960s. It?s meant to be a direct exchange of art between people who understand the need to create and accept the art without judgment. Mail artists run the gamut from professional artists—Yoko Ono, George Brecht, Robert Watts and John Cage—to absolute beginners.

It may include sketching, collage, painting, poetry, rubber stamping, computer art, custom postage stamps (called Artistamps), etc. sent through the mail. Some mail artists have even tested the limits of the postal system by mailing rocks, plastic fish and shoes. Mail art typically doesn?t have an envelope, but it could.

In terms of subject matter, mail art has no boundaries. It?s often irreverent, sometimes political and occasionally beautiful. The only rules are that the item must be sent through the mail (that is, meet postal guidelines), it must be free (no charge) and there should be no expectation of something in return (although you?ll usually get added to people?s list once you send mail to them).

To get started in mail art, you simply have to find other people who are in the “network.” The network consists of people who send mail art. You?ll find that mail art artists share their network list with others, so once you start your name and address will spread. You can also answer a mail art “call.” A call is a request from an artist for mail art entries on a specific topic. Once again, the art?s free, but you?ll usually get documentation including the name and addresses of other mail artists to help you expand your own network. When you become part of a network, you create individual works to send to each person in your “network”. Sometimes artists photocopy their “serious” work and create a parody of it in their mail art. What you do is really up to you.

The joy of mail art for artists is the opportunity to share your work with other artists who will appreciate it. Creating art with no rules and no expectations can be wildly inspiring. Give it a try! For more information about mail art (also known as correspondence art), simply search on the Web for the term.

Donna Baspaly’s interest in art surfaced early in life, nurtured by her father who taught her how to draw cartoons. After stints as a dental assistant and a flight attendant, she enrolled in a fine arts program and ultimately studied at Kwantlen College and Langara College in Vancouver, British Colombia. Baspaly’s work has appeared in a wide range of juried shows, garnering numerous awards, and can be found in such corporate collections as those of The Royal Bank of Canada, Nissan Canada, Ltd., Ernst and Young Accountants Inc., and Meridan Hotels. She’a a signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and the Northwest Watercolor Society. An active instructor, Baspaly live in Vancouver, British Colombia, and is represented in her home providence by a number of galleries, including Araki Gallery International and Linda Lando Gallery (both in Vancouver), Hampton Gallery Limited (Kamloops) and Surrey Art Gallery (Surrey).

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