I have a bit more time on my hands lately, and I want to spend some of that time on more creative ventures. So far, I’ve been cooking a bit more, but I want to do more crafty things, like making papery things. I’ve started playing around with a bit of paper, making a few envelopes and trying to make a postcard or two, and I even dug out the cross-stitch project I set aside in July of last year (was it really that long ago?).
Unfortunately, I am not entirely happy with the results so far, and I think I need something to really jumpstart things a bit. A class or a new craft group perhaps, though it’s hard to find such things around this time of the year, what with the holidays coming up. In the meantime, I decided to finally pick up a copy of Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hindcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler, the women behind Pod Post. Here’s a (ahem) “little” review:
Good Mail Day presents the world of mail art, including the history of this art form as well as how to create your own, including some interesting ideas to get you started. It covers some of the basic tools you’ll need, suggestions on how to get started, and some of the history of this art form.
Most of the book covers the creation of mail art, and the overall message is to just make some already! The authors encourage their readers to just get going, assuring you that there’s not necessarily a right and wrong way to make things (aside from postal guidelines, of course). However, this message did get a bit repetitive when mentioned in one chapter after the next.
Another important point the book makes is that you don’t really need anything fancy to make mail art. Sure, shopping for craft supplies can be fun, but you only need some basic tools (scissors, adhesive, a writing utensil) and some sort of material (paper) to make mail art. You don’t have to invest a great deal though, so there aren’t really any barriers when it comes to getting started.
There also seems to be a general appreciation for simple elements in designs, and for examining everything around you as possible material for your art. The book doesn’t really offer much in the way of specific projects, which offers a nice break from other craft books that only show you how to make an exact project or design. The few step-by-step guides included in this book were pretty open-ended, though a bit cumbersome since a bunch of steps were repeated in each project.
A small portion of the book is dedicated to the history of mail art and various people in the community, which was interesting to me since I wasn’t really aware of most of it. The authors include quotes from and interviews with a number of established mail artists to provide further background.
One of the most important parts of mail art is to have someone to send your work to, and this is one area I felt was lacking in the book. The authors did discuss the idea of a network and how it’s important to built up your address book with correspondents, but they glossed over how to do that. Personally, I know that there are a good number of mail art and swap web sites out there to help with this (Swap-Bot, Send Something, various Yahoo! groups, etc.), but to someone new to mail art, you’d be mostly on your own with the book alone.
My only other complaint — and I’ll admit, a minor one — was that it felt like the book was speaking to an urban audience. It was in little things like suggesting that the reader look for parking stubs and bits of paper while on a walk, or to make mail art while riding a bus around the city, but it was something I definitely noticed. These sort of suggestions don’t necessarily work for people living in more suburban or rural areas, so those readers (myself included) will need to be more creative. Not an impossible task, but it would have been nice for the book to include more variety in the examples and ideas provided.
That said, I really enjoyed reading through Good Mail Day, and it had a really nice, postal feel throughout. It’s not just for us postal nerds who like to be crafty though; I think anyone itching to create and share things with others will enjoy it and find inspiration in the mail art and ideas for experimenting on your own.
Perhaps this wasn’t the shortest of reviews, but I wanted to give my full thoughts on the book. It did inspire me to pull out my paper crafting supplies, though I’m not entirely pleased with my first attempts. After making one postcard I didn’t like, I resorted to making envelopes, my old stand-by. I’ll give it another try though, or try a different approach.