2021 June

FREE Mail Art Take-Home Kits!

We’re giving away Mail Art Take-Home Kits! Starting Thursday, July 1, 2021, you may pick up your kit from one of three places inside Joplin Public Library:

  • The Reference Desk (adult/teen kits)
  • The Teen Department (teen kits)
  • The Children’s Department (children’s kits)

Although the kits differ slightly, each contains everything you need to create one piece of mail art to mail in for the Post Mail Art Projekt: Show Me Mail Art exhibit, including a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art (PMAP2021) is a collaboration between us, Connect2Culture, and Joplin Public Library. PMAP2021 is endorsed by Missouri 2021, an initiative of The State Historical Society of Missouri. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

MAIL ART KIT CONTENTS

Adult Kit (collage postcard kit):

  • Five pages of magazine paper for collage material
  • One postcard with postage
  • One pair of travel scissors
  • One glue stick
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Teen Kit (watercolor postcard kit):

  • One watercolor postcard with postage
  • One set of washable watercolor paints
  • Extra watercolor paper
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Children’s Kit (hand-colored postcard kit):

  • One postcard with postage
  • One package of crayons
  • Exhibit coloring sheets
  • One “Happy Mail” sticker
  • An instruction sheet

Book Review: Good Mail Day by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

In 2014, we put out a call for entry for mail art. The idea was to create a one-off exhibit of mail art received from all over the world to introduce locals to the medium and encourage their participation. At the time, I was myself somewhat new to engaging with mail art and my experience with the world-wide mail art Network – yes, that’s a thing – was limited at best. Yet there I was, helping to coordinate a mail art call for entry and co-curate the resulting show. Enter Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art.

This book differs from other mail art books that I’ve read (such as Mail Me Art by Darren Di Lieto and Correspondence Art, edited by Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, both of which are wonderful) in that it’s not only a gallery of mail art, but a sort of mail art workshop, as the authors offer oodles of advice for how to make mail art, start a mail art project, and navigate the mail art world. Plus, it introduces readers to mail art terminology and, perhaps most importantly, mail art etiquette.

But what’s mail art? A basic, common definition of mail art (a.k.a. correspondence or postal art) is that mail art is when people send small-scale works of art to one another through the postal service, often with the package itself being considered the work of art. Frankly, that definition falls flat and fails to describe the vibrancy of this decades-long movement. In my experience, the best way to describe mail art is to hand someone a stack of it. The only sure thing about mail art is that it is, as Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler write, for everyone: “Anyone can be a mail artist, regardless of skill level or style of artwork.” The mail art itself is all over the place and all mediums are welcome. (The authors remind us, however, not to send anyone anything that we don’t want to deal with in our own mailboxes, such as perishable items.)

Although mail art is for everyone, the Network, like any other, has some basic rules. Namely, that “every piece of mail art that comes into your mailbox should receive some sort of acknowledgement in return.” That is, send something back! In the mail art world, this reciprocity is known as documentation. “No returns” is another tenet of mail art exchanges, meaning that each piece you receive is yours to keep, just as each piece you send out is someone else’s to keep. I appreciate that Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler tell us the rules and “Time-honored Traditions” of mail art culture at the start. It’s as if they’re telling us that if we cannot respect those rules, then we needn’t read further or participate.

Of course, there are non-Network rules that mail artists must abide by, such as those of the postal service (or services, when mailing internationally). As such, we’re reminded to become familiar with our local postal regulations and to keep in mind that mail is categorized based not only on shape, but on thickness and weight. For example, if an envelope exceeds the maximum dimensions or thickness, then it may be categorized as a package and, accordingly, require more postage. The chapter that touches on regulations also includes “The Ten Commandments of Mail Art,” “The Seven Sins of Mailing,” and “Seven Suggestions for Shepherding Your Mail Art Safely to Its Destination.” You’ll also find tips on wooing your mail carrier and becoming friends with those who work in the post office.

The bulk of the book isn’t about defining mail art or mail art rules, but about having fun and making mail art. A few pages cover turning everyday objects, such as produce stickers, wrappers, leaves, and bird feathers into mailable mail art. What to do with those old dryer sheets? Mail them! As the authors discovered, they make for durable mail art. The point is that you may creatively make use of whatever you have nearby and whatever you find laying around, like found objects, old catalogs, junk mail, etc.

Ideas for decorating and illustrating envelopes, whether ready-made or those you create yourself, are included in this title, as are other techniques, such as paper-folding, texturing, and creating patterns, as well as stenciling, faux postage and artistamps, refining your handwriting, finding pen pals, and developing your postal personality.

My old friend, Chapter 10, details how to start a mail art project of your own, including writing a call for entry, creating documentation, and developing a correspondence register, which is more involved than keeping a list or address book of mail art contacts because it has more information. For example, a correspondence register might have columns for name, address, what you received, when you received it, what you sent back, when you sent it, and any other tidbits that you’d care to include. Trust, when coordinating a mail art project, which involves sending documentation (i.e. mail art thank yous) to those who send to you, a register is handy!

“You Can Take It with You: The Traveling Mail Art Kit,” is one of my favorite chapters. In the chapter, the authors emphasize that “mail art can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any place.” Think a waiting room that you’re stuck in, when you’re on hold making a phone call, or utilizing public transportation, or some such situation. The idea behind the mail art kit is that it’s possible to make mail art even when time is limited. The “Suggested Items for a Well-stocked Mail Art Kit” list is great, though your kit may contain whatever you like. What’s in my kit varies from time to time, though at minimum it includes stamps, stationary, and a few envelopes.

Peppered throughout the book are mini-interviews with mail artists from around the world, as well as great visuals, with the book ending with a mail art gallery followed by a contributor’s list, further resources, and an envelope template. Interestingly, the authors became friends when getting to know one another through mail art after meeting at a book arts event. Thus, the mail art that they’ve exchanged is a visual account of how their friendship developed—so cool!

So, is Good Mail Day a good primer for aspiring mail artists? Indeed, as it continues to guide me through what started as a one-off mail art project in 2014 and has since turned into an ongoing project for our growing collection. At the time of this writing, we have 300+ pieces of mail art from around the world in our collection and we’re about half-way into our third mail art exhibit, which is accompanied by an active call for entry. Visit us at www.postartlibrary.org to learn more about Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art and check out Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day to learn how to get started.

As always, happy reading. And happy mailing!

By Post Art Library Director Jill Sullivan

Art Exhibit: “C is for Color” by Connie Miller

We’re glad to present Connie Miller‘s “C is for Color” exhibit in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library from Saturday, June 12-August 31, 2021. Although enjoyed by people of all ages, “C is for Color” is an exhibit especially for children, as it’s hung at their eye-level and consists of a series of colorful acrylic paintings of animals–just in time for the Tails & Tales summer reading challenge! Starting Saturday, June 12, 2021 artist-provided take-home kits will be available in the Children’s Department on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

Artist’s Statement

Color is all around us, but not everyone sees color in the same way. One person might see a very loud red, while another person will see the same color as pink. Color comes into your eyes as light. All eyes accept the light and allow it to travel to the brain and be seen as color. Since some eyes accept more or less of the light, color will appear differently in each brain.

Studying the Color Wheel and how the colors work together will help you understand how color is used in Contemporary Art.

Colors can represent feelings and be associated with different feelings according to how each person has experiences that color. Cool colors are thought to be calming, but sometimes they can also feel like sadness, anxiety, or fear. Most people think warm colors represent feelings of love and kindness, but sometimes they can look like anger and danger.

Color choices are always uniquely your own. If you love the color green and you love your cat, it is perfectly acceptable to use a green paint to represent your cat. It is also okay if your cat doesn’t look like a cat, but just feels like a cat to you. The best color choices are the ones that feel right to you.

When I do artwork I begin by exploring colors, seeing how they work together. Some colors will make other colors seem brighter, while other colors will stand back and let the color next to it do all the work. The best way to experiment with color is to begin with one color, then choose another, and continue choosing colors until your space is covered. Finally, stand back and look at your art to see if it feels right to you. Each person will make color choices depending on how they have experienced color in their life.

Like any other creative activity, working with color requires practice. I’m still playing with colors, shapes, and forms and learning something new everyday. I hope you will be encouraged to experiement with colors to create Contemporary Art for yourself.

Connie Miller | forconniem@gmail.com | Connie Miller’s Art on Facebook

Photos: “C is for Color” exhibit in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery inside Joplin Public Library.

 

2021 Summer Reading Art Challenge

It’s time for our Summer Reading Art Challenge (SRAC)! This year, the theme for summer reading is Tails & Tales. In keeping with that theme, the prompt for SRAC 2021 is:

“Tell Your Tale with Art! What’s the story of you?!”

Starting June 1, 2021 you may pick up your artboard and entry form from any public service desk inside Joplin Public Library. Entries will be accepted for three categories: Adult (ages 18+), Teen (entering 6th-12th grades), and Kids (birth-5th grade). Entries must be returned to any public service desk within the library by 5pm on Sunday, July 31, 2021.

All SRAC 2021 entries will be exhibited in the Genealogy, Local History, and Post Reading Room wing inside the library from August 14-September 25, 2021. People’s Choice ballots for each category will be collected in the library during the exhibit. People’s Choice winners will be announced on October 1, 2021 and those winners will receive a prize when they pick up their artwork.

Participation is FREE and open to the public. A library card is NOT necessary. SRAC is an annual art challenge and show meant to encourage exploration of the visual arts through creating art based on Missouri’s state-wide theme for summer reading. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.