What is Mail Art? Discover the Movement
Around the world, a network of creative people share artistic envelopes, postcards and packages through the postal system. The postal element of the Mail Art movement is the essential aspect of the artwork being produced. Selecting or creating relevant stamps for your piece adds a unique quality to the work that a traditional painting or drawing doesn’t possess. How to incorporate the recipient’s address into your creative composition is also to be considered. Plus, the journey that your postal artwork takes adds a further, uncontrollable component due to the postage marks that will be added en route.
Illustrated envelopes have existed throughout history. For example, see the fascinating Tolhurst letters that were sent in the United Kingdom during the first half of the 20th century. Earlier examples of mail art include 19th century envelopes created by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle. But it was American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) who pioneered the concept of Mail Art as a new creative movement. During the 1950s Ray began mailing and receiving original, quirky, unique postal art to his network which grew and ultimately spread internationally. This vast network was named the New York Correspondence School, and the postal system provided not only transit but a new creative connection between people who would likely never have interacted.
Postcards (like the one sent to the American Philatelic Society) are being mailed around the globe to invite philatelists, correspondence-enthusiasts, artists and mail artists to participate in the creation of Mail Art to be displayed on Facebook and Instagram.
Kevin Gillen, my father, created his first postal art in 1973, exhibiting it at Ferens Gallery, Hull, United Kingdom. My dad and I launched our Mail Art project in 2013. Since then, we regularly invite people, worldwide, to send mail art to us in England, which we exhibit both online and in gallery shows.
Another component of Mail Art is the creation of artistic stamps, often referred to as "artistamps." Although these stamps have no postage value, they allow the artist to literally put their own stamp on artwork. In 2019, we invited people to send us original stamp designs inspired by the theme "Exchanging Mail." We received an array of distinctive stamps from artists in five continents and over 15 countries.
Our Facebook Page is a celebration of international creativity and collaboration, all connected by one key element … the postal system. Since our inception, we’ve received hundreds of pieces of postal artwork from around the globe.
To view our Mail Art project and the wealth of global postal artworks we’ve received in the last seven years, please visit Mail Art Worldwide. Additionally, if you wish to participate and create your own Mail Art, please find details on our page.