My Collections, Part 4: Mail ART!

You can see the other parts of my collections series here:
Part One: Autographs
Part Two:  Zines
Part Three:  Trading Cards

Today I opened up my boxes of mail art from years ago.
Around 12 years ago I traded decos with people all over the world.  What are they?  They are decorative booklets in which each person collages and adds artwork to one page.  After the artist has decorated a page, they send it on to another friend, penpal or artist who swaps them.  I swapped these for years with a large number of people, mostly through the mail.  There were (are) communities online in which to find other people to swap them.  Whenever you send out a booklet in the mail you take the risk that it won't ever return to you.  I have received probably hundreds of these books back.  Thousands of other people's books passed through my hands.  I would receive big envelopes full of deco booklets and then make up big envelopes to send to other people (usually including one or two new ones that I made, but mostly those from other people.)  

Years later, I am still occasionally receiving full booklets home!  I'm sure many of them got lost in the shuffle, or were unable to return to me because I've moved several times since then, but I've connected with a few people from facebook who swapped them.  

It is amazing to look through them and see the variety of artistic styles, the countries they passed through and the little messages people wrote as they signed in.

I really loved to attach ribbons, yarn and little doodads as I bound the booklets together.

Drawings, rubberstamping, lettering, collages....  so much to see.  It is a joy to flip through the books.

I would spend probably at least $50 a month on postage to swap mail art.  Crazy, I know!  And that was 10 years ago.  That's one of the big reasons I stopped swapping.  Postage kept going up and up and my disposable income kept going down.  Now it just wouldn't work in my budget. 

There were some of us online who got to know each other well and enclosed personal letters each time we swapped.  Most have since stopped swapping.  One of my penpals from the Netherlands even managed to take a couple trips to the United States and we were able to meet up with her a couple time!  

While I was swapping decos, I also organized an online group to make and trade postcards.  These were really fun, because then you'd get an immediate result, rather than waiting years and years for deco booklets to possibly make their way home.   I have hundreds of these too.  Mostly people would send their handmade postcards (usually based on a theme) to the swap host and then that person would organize and distribute them so you would get one of each person's cards back.  I started punching holes in the corner of them and then attaching them to a metal ring, so that I would have them in little books I could flip through.

I have so much more I could show you.  Each of the deco booklets are filled with about 5-10 pages of mini collages and art.  So much fun!  Another day I will take more photos for you.

I have other collections too, besides the ones I blogged about.  I used to collect stamps and regular postcards too.  I'll save those for another day as well.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much you can accumulate. Wouldn't it be great to see it all on the walls at once! xox Corrine

Diane ~ said...

Oh my i was involved in something similar about 15 yrs ago. at that time, at least in my circle, they were called FBs or friendship books & we would put a little stamping or sticker with our name on a page & pass it on to another penpal. they were so much fun, i sent out more than made it back but i really enjoyed connecting with people from all over the world. Thanks so much for this posting!! :D

Unknown said...

Wow!! A huge collection!!
I used to trade ATCs last year, but I had to stop because Italian postage costs are high. I'm sorry for that, because I collected many wonderful works from around the world.

carol l mckenna said...

Wow! Wonderful collection ~ I did a bit of trading with atcs and postcards ~ a few booklets but then one got lost as person moved and she couldn't find the book and I stopped ~ life got hectic also at that time ~ thanks for sharing Sweet Saturdays ~ namaste, carol (A Creative Harbor)

Christine said...

thanks for the sweet showing! Lovely collections.

Marcia Beckett said...

They are super fun. At one point, I had a wire thing I rigged up on my wall to display a whole bunch of mail art. Diane, they were an off-shoot of fbs.. I started swapping those and then became introduced to the decos which were so much more interesting to me.

froebelsternchen said...

what an awesome collection!

peggy aplSEEDS said...

what a wonderful collection! so much fun to just look through the different pieces!

Jennifer McLean said...

OOh, thank you so much, Marcia, for sharing your terrific mail art!! I just want to roll in it and pick through the hundreds I see, spending hours just reveling in art! I sure wish sending mail packages in Canada wasn't so prohibitively expensive or I'd start doing Swapbot again!
Thanks again for joining in on the fun in my Mail Art Challenge on IA.
I noticed your an editor of the new Featuring Magazine, what a small world! I just was approved to write an article for the premier issue, so cool when worlds collide.
Jenn of and Inspiration Avenue.

Marcia Beckett said...

Thanks Jennifer! I know, the postage has gotten so expensive. What are you writing your article about?

Ariel said...

Great collection. Isn't it so inspiring to go through this mini-art treasure

Kim Collister Studio said...

Marcia, I am coveting your beautiful collection of mail art. What a treasure trove you have! Thanks for sharing! I have to go and look again closely!


Craftymoose Crafts said...

It is a shame that postal costs all over make this sort of thing so prohibitive. The swaps are gorgeous and I imagine you have many happy hours look at them. I used to collect stamps, too, until the US went to self-adhesive and forever stamps when variety was much harder to find.

Anne Manda said...

Amazing, wonderful collection to treasure! Thank you for sharing, really interesting post! <3

Maggie said...

Oh, I adore your collection of mail art! What a wonderful way to keep in contact with other artists and to exchange bits of creativity! I think the instant contact afforded by the internet and the exchange of "real-live" artwork by people from faraway places go hand in hand and complement each other so well.

Terrie said...

What a treasure trove of mail goodness! These are just amazing. I've only participated in a couple of postcard swaps but wondered about the best way to keep them available and yet together - the rings are the perfect answer. Thanks for sharing your mail with us.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

It's always WONDERFUL to look back at art you have shared and swapped in previous years. Looks like you have a lot of these darling little books. It's fun to see how much you have grown artistically over the years, and how much you still like what you have done in the past.

I made three decos in a swap, and NONE returned home to me. They were all kept by people who must have needed the art more than me. Glad you had a better deco experience.

artangel said...

Wow what an amazing variety of art!

I love the idea of collaboration art like this. I'm actually just about to start my first one, seeing your fab collection is really inspiring!