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Archive for the ‘mail art happenings’ Category

KWP_03

I can’t quite remember when Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press first found her way to my mailbox. However, I do remember that feeling of “holy cow! What is this beautiful printed thing here in my hand?!” The postcard was a little dinged up (that’s what happens when you send soft printmaking paper through the cruel machinery of the postal system) but the scritches and scratchings only added to the mystery of the card itself.

hope_book_01

Through a handful of addresses and cities, Hope and I have always managed to keep in touch postally. Her artists books and prints are a world unto themselves: beautifully printed, lovingly bound together, thoughtfully written. Her “Keep Writing Postcards” project is a natural extension of fine art works, a call-and-response with friends and strangers, using the medium of the post office.

datebooks2

Oakland-based gallery E.M. Wolfman is exhibiting “To Get A Letter, Send A Letter: Selections From the Keep Writing Postcards Project” through the month of August. Graciously, Hope took a bit of time to answer some questions for Red Letter Day readers about her process, what the “Keep Writing Postcards” project means to her, and the future of the project itself.

postcards_on_wall

Jennie Hinchcliff: In general terms, can you describe for RLD readers what the “Keep Writing Postcards” project is all about?

Hope Amico: It started as a way to keep in touch with friends as I moved away and began college. I started printing one postcard a month, using the handset type and presses at my university, mailing about 60 to friends on a mailing list. Within the first year I began collaborating with friends on the cards and began offering subscriptions to strangers. By the time I was finishing up school, it had evolved into the thing it is today: each month I letterpress print a folded card, consisting of two postcards. One postcard is something I’ve designed, illustrating a story or a quotation that I like. The other half has instructions for the recipient, usually somehow related to my design. Recipients fill out their half and mail it back to me. I post it online and sometimes share them in gallery shows.

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JH: Describe an average month (from start to finish) for “Keep Writing Postcards” (i.e. what’s your working process like?)

HA: Ideally, on the first of the month, all the cards for that month are in the mail.  Usually they make it to the post box a few days later and sometimes get mailed as late as the middle of the month.  I spend a few days working out an idea, drawing, scanning, searching clip art, writing text and revising.

Then I spend about 2 days towards the end of the month making plates and printing.  I trim the cards, bring them to my home studio and spend a few hours listening to radio shows while scoring and folding, taping and stamping.  At some point I remember to print mailing labels from my subscriber list spreadsheet.  Sometimes this takes a minute; sometimes, on bad computer days, it can take hours, during which I reconsider the time-saving measure of printing labels. (ed note: HA! indeed…)

The last step is best.  I write at least “hello” and sign my name on all the cards, writing longer notes every few cards.  Sometimes I bring a stack with me if I am going out to eat alone.  Then I drop them in the mail box and start again.

all the tools

JH:How do you decide on each month’s theme?

HA: I have a list in my journal of potential ideas. Some months there is an event or holiday I would like to highlight or work with but sometimes I have a technique I want to work with.   I try to mix it up so that some months ask for a story, followed maybe by a fill-in-the blank image or sentence and then maybe a drawing-friendly idea.  That’s the ideal.

But sometimes I plan a few months ahead only to think of something more appealing to me at the last minute.  I like the month to month variety but sometimes I print everything in silver for two months in a row.   I want to plan two months ahead but I also like having a thoughtful but open enough prompt that many people want to respond. There is a balance between offering enough guidelines and specifics to inspire and be clear while leaving room for all the creative answers.

And some months I just want a break or want to give everyone a break or have an idea for a card without a response so I print that. Everyone needs a break from obligations to keep them fun, right?

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JH: Each of the postcards that you send out are beautifully letterpressed and oftentimes incorporate an image you’ve collaborated on with another artist. Can you talk a little bit about the nature of collaboration, both in the postcards you’ve created and the works you’re receiving from participants?

HA: When I started the project, the first year was just a single postcards that I printed.  Then I thought I’d try a year of collaborating with a different artist friend each month.  A few of my friends are printers and they sent me 150 cards partially printed  leaving the rest for me.  Those were fun but took a lot of coordination.  If someone was late, then I was behind schedule. And some of my friends are not printers at all and had wild ideas about what to make.  Collaborating every month was fun but not practical.

bicycle postcard

I wanted a way to hear back from people, so that it wasn’t just my story being told but my part of a story, my point of view.  So I began these cards with a tear-off response card, allowing people to choose to participate but the project continues even if some people never send cards back.  But sometimes, when they do, it adds something unexpected.   One month, I drew a map of my neighborhood in New Orleans, as I remembered it, and asked recipients to send me back a map of anything. One of my favorite responses was from my best friend and former neighbor who drew the same neighborhood from their perspective.  It was lovely.

Having a card with my address already printed and a question to be answered meant I would hear back from people, sometimes people I would not expect to write back.  My best penpals do not necessarily send the most postcards, but my little (now 30 year old and married) cousin had an amazing streak of responding to every single card.  It often surprises me who I hear from the most often.

all the tools

JH: Did you find that it was an easy transition to think about the work you were receiving at your mailbox in relation to a gallery show? Did “Keep Writing Postcards” start out with the intention of an eventual exhibition?

HA: This started out as a personal project but I was spending so much time on it while in school for my printmaking degree,  I realized that it was worth getting credit at school.  But I was so protective of it I didn’t share it much until its 3rd year, entering my final year at school. By that point, I knew I wanted it to be part of my senior show, that I wanted to spend all my time making postcards.  This is when I started printing the cards in the form they are now, an interactive piece with responses to share.  So, from that point I knew they would be shared.

When I graduated and moved to Oakland, I knew I wanted to have another show and share the work again.  I also work in other forms, but this project is definitely what is most dear to me — it is the one that is easiest for me to be excited about and to share and explain. I like creating environments in which people want to sit and read the cards, where it is clear that you can handle the art work and participate.  I like that intersection of function and involvement in a gallery space. I want it to feel like home, so I have included a lamp, a desk, a writing utensil and even a tape player with headphones to listen to music written especially for the show (another kind of collaboration!)

KWP_01

JH: I’m super excited to see the show at E.M. Wolfman! What sorts of additional activities will there be, in relation to the show itself? How long will the show be running?

HA: The show is up through the end of August. There is a box with this month’s postcard so gallery-goers can participate. I am taking the responses from this card (about neighborhoods) and making a map for people to give themselves a self-guided tour at the end of the show.  I want to do this every few months: have a mail box stationed at a certain place, asking for input from whoever comes by.
Also, every Saturday in July from 1-3 pm I will be there writing letters. You can join me. There are postcards and stationery for sale and I think I’ll bring a few other fun surprises to share. On July 22nd, I’ll be giving a brief talk about the project too during the Post A Letter Social Activity Club event at E.M. Wolfmann.

for more information:

“Postcard Artist Trusts the Message Will Be Delivered”, SF Gate, July 1st, 2015 (Evan Karp, author)

— Hope will be vending her lovely wares (including subscriptions to the “Keep Writing Postcards Project” at this year’s SF Zine Fest, September 6th at the SF County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park.

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typewriter header

January 20th will be a thrilling day for Portland, Oregon folks who are fans of mail art, correspondence, letter writing, typewriters, old ledger paper — heck, anything that has to do with sending things thru the posts.

pens for writing

Why’s that, you ask?

It’s the inaugural meeting of the Portland, Oregon Correspondence Co-op!

passports

Spearheaded by Niko Courtelis (a.k.a Philatelic Atrocities), this monthly event will take place at the IPRC. As you can see from the above photo, there will be some super-foxy passports for newly minted members to fill with rubber stampings, artistamps, and all manner of delicious postal ephemera.

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“Meet/Make/Mail” is the PDXCC’s motto; with a call-to-arms like that, how can you possibly be anywhere else on Tuesday night?

Details for January 20th’s meeting can be found here; if you’ll be in attendance, be sure to take plenty of snaps and send us a postcard! The membership of the SF Correspondence Co-op sends heartfelt wishes to the PDX Correspondence Co-op for a creative and inspired “first meeting”, as well as full mailboxes for all members!

Viva le Mail Art!

–JH

 

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Summertime is always filled with the kinds of things I like: ice-cold beverages, a place in the shade for book-reading, and plenty of postal adventures with friends. This year, the unusually warm San Francisco days seem to stretch on forever; the fog is nowhere to be found.

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Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival  (a quintessential summertime “to do”) – courtesy of the USPS! The USPS was unveiling their new Janis Joplin stamp, which is part of the “Music Icons” series. To be hinest, I felt a bit like one of the kids in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, once I found out that only fifty tickets were issued by the USPS. Lucky girl!

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So you guys know how it goes: I stayed up until 2 a.m. on Thursday night, putting together commemorative postcards to mail out to some of my postal pals…

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…and then the next morning (after fueling up on coffee) I headed over to Golden Gate Park. The Festival is spread out over a fair amount of GGP; since it was my first time attending, I didn’t realize that I’d be hoofing it into the middle of the Park, only to backtrack to Hellman Hollow – the scene of the ceremony. Whew – good thing I had all that coffee in my system!

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Once I arrived, everything seemed to fall into place: there was a beautiful display of Joplin stamps and a wooden table in the corner became my perfect out-of-the-way work desk. The “hard-core” philatelists had arrived early, armed with their own ink pads and agendas. Many of the stamp collectors I met had arrived from somewhere else – L.A., the east coast, the pacific northwest.

06_postal cancel

I always worry a little bit when I attend first day ceremonies: will the postal employees let me cancel my own mail? Will my stack of -ahem- multiple postcards be too much of an imposition? Will I have enough time to get stamps on everything? My anxiety always amounts to energy wasted: the postal employees are gracious, interested, and (often) a-ok with me canceling my own mail.

 

I ran into SF philatelist (and XPF attendee!) Branton Burke and he let me capture some video of him in action…

08_michael joplin

…and then it was time to get down to the music part of the ceremony! Once Megan Brannan of the USPS had officially debuted the Joplin stamp,  Janis’s brother Michael came onstage to say a few words. He was visibly caught up in the moment, stating that “the recognition of her legacy and persona on such a permanent and iconic symbol as a United States postage stamp is truly humbling”. Musicians Mary Bridget Davies (A Night With Janis Joplin), Kacey Musgraves, and Nicki Bluhm each performed incredible renditions of Joplin songs that got the crowd movin’ and groovin’.

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Postcards canceled, postage stamps purchased, ceremony witnessed: the rest of the afternoon was mine! And because I was at a summer music festival, of course I hung around to see the sights. Wandering through the mass of music lovers and festival goers, it became apparent how festivals of yore – the same festivals that Joplin had performed at – were an incredible experience for so many. For a few hours or a few days, a person can forget all worries, sit on the grass in the middle of Golden Gate Park, and listen to a favorite band – a classic summertime scenario remembered long after the season has changed.

–JH

If you are interested in obtaining a first day of issue postal cancel like the one pictured above, head on over to the USPS website. Scroll to the bottom of the article for detailed instructions.

 

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RLD bookshelves

It’s been a great summer so far, if you’re looking to beef up your bookshelves with items related to mail art. Two of my all time favorite postal correspondents have recently published beautiful gems, and I’m here to share them with you.

 

Mud Bath by Allan Bealy, published by Black Scat Books

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image: Black Scat Books

First up is Allan Bealy, a collage artist based in Brooklyn, NY. I first met Allan via the mails, when he sent an amazing sheet of artistamps my way: they were brightly colored, digitally printed, and practically leaping out of my PO box. From the get-go, I knew that Allan and I would get along splendidly, postally speaking.

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image: Allan Bealy (tumblr)

Mud Bath (published by Black Scat Books) perfectly captures the humor and “wow!” factor of seeing Allan’s work in person. Weighing in at just under 70 pages (68 to be exact) this is a lovely, full color addition to your bookshelf, especially if you are interested in contemporary collage artists.

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image: Allan Bealy (tumblr)

Allan’s artist statement for Kolaj magazine states that he is “most interested in discovering new ways to tell an old story, with humor, irony and a dash of anarchy!” Looking through the variety of work in Mud Bath his personal credo shines through, leaving this reader inspired and awed.

 

Philatelic Atrocities by Niko Courtelis, published by Kat Ran Press

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Niko Courtelis is atrocious and he does unmentionable things to postage stamps. With a rallying cry of “Forgive Me For What I’ve Done“, he takes vintage stamps — mainly heads and faces — and creates something entirely other. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing his work in person, you know what I mean.

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When Niko told me that Kat Ran Press would be publishing a selection of his work as part of their Essays in Philatelics series, I was incredibly excited, both for him and postal freaks everywhere! Kat Ran is a small press publisher with a focus of typography, philatelics, and graphic design. You can view their current titles here.

via Kat Ran Press website

via Kat Ran Press website

In a nutshell (and via Kat Ran Press): “Philatelic Atrocities contains seventeen full-color details and reproductions of Niko Courtelis’s stamp collages. A brief introduction by Courtelis explains why it’s OK to chop up stamps.” Perfection.

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It’s no secret: I’ve been a longtime fan of Niko’s work. His typewriter/typewritten artistamp sheets and collaged atrocities are sophisticated and inventive, incorporating both philatelic history and a keen sense of design. Atrocities is a volume that has become an important part of my artistamp library; additionally, it makes a great gift for postally passionate friends.

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And here’s a bonus for all of you RLD readers in Portland, Oregon: on July 10th, Reading Frenzy will host an opening reception for “Cut Here: Niko Courtelis, Eroyn Franklin, and Mark Searcy”. This collage and cut paper show will be on display at RF through the month of July;  now’s your chance to see Niko’s work in person! I bet if you ask nicely, he’ll sign a copy of Atrocities for you…

And with that, I’m back to my summer reading list! Be sure and let me (and your fellow RLD readers) know what you think of these two postal-ish publications; if you make it to the opening at Reading Frenzy, I’d love to hear about that too!

In all things postal, I remain —

–JH

 

 

 

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envelope and artwork by Carl Chew...

envelope and artwork by Carl Chew…

The Italian Cultural Institute is currently hosting the exhibition “Guglielmo Achille Cavellini : 1914 – 2014” in San Francisco.

I stopped by last week to take a look.

title: "stamp homage to picasso"

title: “stamp homage to picasso”

title: "heirloom (text on felt)"

title: “heirloom (text on felt)”

From the art-agenda website: “In 1971, Cavellini coined the term auto-storicizzazione (self-historicization) after he designed sixteen different museum posters each featuring the years “1914–2014″ and the date of a solo exhibition celebrating the centennial anniversary of his birth.”

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Also: “On view are 14 pieces among which are two pivotal series “Crates with Destroyed Works” (1966–1970) and “From the Page of the Encyclopedia” (1973). “Crates with Destroyed Works” is a collection of works Cavellini made by destroying the pieces he was creating and subsequently encasing them into crates. These works originated from an internal and emotional source, revealing an attitude brought about by a deep and obsessive self-search.”

title: "int'l postage 33" (close up)

title: “int’l postage 33” (close up)

And: ” “From the Page of the Encyclopedia” is a series of works originating from a theoretical and linguistic code Cavellini invented as a direct consequence of self-historicization. Starting from actual biography, Cavellini expanded his own life story to temporal hyperbolic appropriations. Fabric, objects, clothing and living bodies would become a direct canvas for Cavellini to “paint” his story.”

GAC artistamp...

GAC artistamp…

The works of Cavellini will be on display until June 8th; a comprehensive, 70 page catalog of the exhibition (published by Colpa Press) is available at the gallery. For more information visit the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.

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Celebrating Art's Birthday on January 17th, 2010 -- thanks to Robert Filliou & the Eternal Network!

(edit: it’s becoming somewhat of a tradition that I post this particular article on January 17th. Read further to see why!))

You may or may not have known, but today is Art’s birthday.

You remember, you’ve met Art before: the last time you snatched up a fountain pen, inked a rubber stamp, or folded a snazzy envelope…that’s Art.

is this Art? yes -- I believe it is...
is this Art? yes — I believe it is…

The idea of Art’s Birthday was introduced by Robert Filliou in 1963. The idea goes something like this: 1,000,000 years ago, there was no art. (!) But one day, on the 17th of January to be precise, Art was born. (!!) According to Filliou, it happened when someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water. (!!!) And thus a new holiday was born. Art’s birthday is celebrated in a wide variety of ways throughout the world; there are accounts of musical/noise recordings, get-togethers in which artists build/exchange “gifts” to/for Art, or all-night birthday parties/celebrations.

ask yourself a question...
ask yourself a question…

Mail artists feel a special affinity for Art’s Birthday; Filliou and Fluxus artist George Brecht introduced the term “Eternal Network” to the art world (circa 1965), and mail artists have adopted this phrase for their own usage. Filliou himself believed that art didn’t have to express itself as an object (i.e. a painting/sculpture/tangible something-or-other). He saw art as a form of play that could even occur as unrealized notions, which is a view which stays with us today, stronger than ever.

tools of my trade...
tools of my trade…

One of the important ideas attached to the Eternal Network, (or “La Fête Permanente”/ The Constant Festival as it is also known) is that “the artist must be aware that he is part of a larger social network, part of the “Constant Festival” which surrounds him everywhere and elsewhere in the world.” For mail artists, this notion is always at work — creating, sending, and receiving in return are the gears that keep postal machinery running and mailboxes full.

Filliou went on the travel the world, as well as conduct interactive art experiments and events. His constant study of Zen Buddhism led him to incorporate many of it’s core beliefs into both film and art works. In 1987, after creating his final piece (Time is a Nutshell), Robert Filliou passed away.

hand carved, hand perfed, hand stamped!
hand carved, hand perfed, hand stamped!

We are left with a yearly celebration, a time to consider how important this thing named “art” is to us. Take a moment to create, to reflect, to share. How do you live with your art/works? What promises do you make to Art, and yourself?

Making is doing. Creating is learning. Art is all around us, in big things and tiny glimpses.

–JH

PS: the recent book “Felt: Fluxus, Joseph Beuys, and the Dalai Lama” by Chris Thompson is a fascinating look at the way western art met eastern philosophy when Robert Filliou and Dutch artist Louwrien Wijers arranged a meeting between avant garde artists and the Dalai Lama in 1982. Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in avant garde art history and it’s intersection with eastern philosophy.

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skulls, stripes, and pirates...what's not to love?

skulls, stripes, and pirates…what’s not to love?

Halloween: it arrived in a bustle of candy corn, glitter pink eye shadow (for the costume, I swear!) and a small size, petite pumpkin. “When did that happen?!” I asked myself. “It seems like May was just last week…”

perhaps you need a dental plan?

perhaps you need a dental plan?

San Francisco loves itself some Halloween – if you’ve lived here for even a couple of years, you’ll learn that important lesson. We take it seriously. This is a holiday not to be taken lightly.

the perfect envelope!

the perfect envelope!

I never really need an excuse to purchase accessories involving the colors black and/or orange, cats with huge eyes or CANDY. All the more exciting if those accessories can be used to mail Important Halloween Documents!

a box of BOO!

a box of BOO!

I grew up on the spooky side of the street – literally. (my goth street cred is pretty high.) Add to that the fact that my mum’s birthday is on Halloween and you can probably see how this whole thing ended up: by sending a celebratory birthday box of mystery! (there was even some acknowledgment of the box’s “coolness” when I took it to the PO – a different one from my usual spot…)

look at that fabulous orange paper!

look at that fabulous orange paper!

I made sure to whip up a few eerie postcards and was thrilled to be using some new seasonal rubber stamps in the mix…

I find I'm appreciating the neon more these days...

I find I’m appreciating the neon more these days…

But wait! The festivities weren’t finished! This past Sunday, the SF Public Library and SF Correspondence Co-op hosted “Gone But Not Forgotten: Correspondence Calaveras” at the SFPL. What’s a correspondence calavera, you say?

but I also love the red and blue...

but I also love the red and blue…

It is an opportunity to write a message, memory, anecdote, or poem about a loved one near or far. Attendees were invited to decorate their postcards using a variety of different techniques, and then post them in the Co-op mailbox at the event.

some Posada rubber stamps I had made especially for the event...

some Posada rubber stamps I had made especially for the event…

Co-op members will affix postage and mail these calaveras within the next week or so.

in the moment...

in the moment…

I had silkscreened two hundred postcards; by the end of the event, only a handful remained. Regular Co-op members were in attendance, but library patrons also drifted through – some staying for the whole of the event, others watching silently for a few minutes and then leaving.

a bit of down time...

a bit of down time…

What brought them to this particular event? Some were simply curious, others wanted to write a postcard to remember a loved one. A few were stymied by the concept: “Who would I send a postcard to? And why?” After some guidance and explanation, I could see the “aha!” moment happen. These were the folks who decided to sit down and stay for awhile.

still life, with Posada...

still life, with Posada…

When things were all wrapped up, it was incredibly satisfying to look inside the event mailbox and see all of those postcards filled out, waiting to be stamped and sent out into the world. From where I’m standing, that’s a true measure of success: each postcard represents a person who took the time to brighten another person’s day with the simple act of writing a message down on a piece of paper.

perfectly perfect...

perfectly perfect…

While the holiday of Dia de los Muertos is primarily about remembering those who have come before us, we should also recognize those who surround us every day – and remind ourselves that we have the best of both possible worlds.

–JH

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