This year, the theme is “Pushing the envelope”, which is very exciting as it leaves room for all kinds of artistic interpretations. The organizers explain how this motto embraces two concepts at the heart of the contest:
The first meaning dares you to take your creativity beyond your comfort zone. “Push the envelope” and find new ways to use graphic design, hand lettering and postage stamps to enhance your entry. It may be a small canvas, but you are capable of big ideas.
The Graceful Envelope Contest also celebrates the significance of writing, sending and receiving letters. In this era of email, tweets and emojis, seeing a hand-addressed envelope in your mailbox can make any day special. So your entry should “push the envelope” in the sense of promoting the exchange of letters. Depict the joy of letter writing. Or salute an American tradition as old as the U.S. Constitution, which empowered Congress “to establish post offices and post roads."
One of the previous contest’s judges revealed that they’re not simply looking for the best calligraphy or painter… in the end, what really matters is the winning combination of all elements in the envelope (ie, design, calligraphy and stamps) and how they work together to reflect the year’s theme. The contest is open to entries from all around the world (as long as they arrive before March 27th 2017) and there are separate categories for children too, so do encourage your little ones to participate!
The contest is held every year by the Washington (DC) Calligraphers Guild and open to worldwide entries. Participants of all ages are invited to use their calligraphy and artistic skills to interpret a given theme on an envelope, which is then mailed to the Guild. Bonus points for using stamps that fit the topic!
This year, the theme is Communication:
“Ever since Benjamin Franklin became America’s first Postmaster General, many of our most important messages arrived inside an envelope. Now your challenge is to design the outside of an envelope to highlight this—or any other—mode of communication. Your Graceful Envelope could honor the mail or the internet; the telegraph, telephone or television; person-to-person conversation or whatever kind of communication inspires your imagination.”
The deadline for 2016 is March 28th… so gather your stamps, envelopes and colouring pens, and give it a go! :)
Making Mail, the movie about mail art that was started by a Kickstarter campaign last year, has just been released and you can watch it online! It’s one hour long, and filled with mailart loveliness and inspiration.
Don’t you feel like grabbing your crafty supplies and some old magazines to dress up that plain envelope? Go for it! :)
The other day, while randomly browsing the internet for inspiration, I chanced upon this Tumblr, where I noticed all the beautifully decorated postcards… which upon further inspection, proved to be actual Postcrossing cards!
Look how pretty they are:
My jaw dropped at all the detail on the back… from the stickers, to the decoration tapes, to the carefully chosen stamps… even the address labels and Postcard ID bubbles were pretty! :) After much oohing and aahing, I decided I had to get in touch – and luckily Amiko (aka amiko_h) who comes from Japan, kindly agreed to do a mini-interview about her art! :)
Here’s what she had to say:
Can you tell us a little bit about your decoration process? What inspires you? Where do you start?
Firstly I choose a postcard for the recipient after checking his/her favorite or wishlist. Then I pick up the main theme such as color or motif. Sometimes I connect the theme with the postcard image, sometimes I pick up the other motif from the recipient’s favorites, or sometimes I just connect the theme with the stamp I want to use at the time. At this selection phase, you should also remember your taste. Enjoy yourself. Actually I never use my dislikes.
Next I choose material from my collection, and try this or that combination on the card for the color and total layout including message area. Usually it takes me the most amount of time to fix the layout.
When you have the feeling of interlocking pieces, go on to finish it!
Which materials do you use to decorate your postcards?
Mainly I use washi tapes and ready-made stickers for my decoration. Sometimes I put in some cut-out from origami, my hand-made stickers, scraps from magazines and use my hand-carved rubber stamps. Of course, you should remember beautiful postal stamps!
I am apt to buy on impulse those small material as well as postcards whenever I find them…
What are the member’s reactions when they receive your postcards? Do they appreciate the extra effort?
There is either some appreciation or nothing. Half and half. But it doesn’t matter so much either way… I think the decoration is just decoration. And I myself enjoy the process more than anything! :)
I think the most important thing in Postcrossing and penpaling is a kind of hospitality. I always consider the recipient as my guests or friends I haven’t met yet. Without any decoration, people would be happy when they get warm message and consideration.
And finally, can you show us your workstation… where the magic happens?
Thank you Amiko, that was lovely! Though now I’m sure I’ll have dreams of stickers and washi tapes…
Do you decorate your postcards too? Leave some tips on the comments – we’re always looking for inspiration! :)
Send one postcard every day for a year. Sounds like fun? A group of Postcrossing fans decided to do just this, but to make it a little more interesting they will make a piece of art every day to send through the post over the course of the year!
But who better to tell you about Mailart 365 than Andy himself? Here’s what he has to share with you about his new project:
"Since taking up Postcrossing 2 years ago, I found that occasionally, I would get some awesome handmade artworks from other members. This sparked my interest in the mailart movement and I’ve since become heavily involved in the global mailart movement, sending and receiving postcard sized artworks.
I realised recently that I send so much of it and get so much fun out of making mailart, that I wanted to challenge myself to a year of mailart, and Mailart365 was born.
I’ve seen many people take on 365 challenges on the internet. The idea of a 365 is that you make something every day for a year and this is often so big a challenge that many people give up. I decided that the best way to keep myself motivated was to invite a few more mailartists to join me, so I blogged about it, not expecting anybody to join in. Today, only 2 months in (we started on December 1st, 2010 so that it wouldn’t be a new years resolution) Mailart365 has 50 members actively posting to the blog at www.mailart365.com.
The blog has room for 100 members in total, and if any postcrossing member wanted to join they’d be more than welcome to start any time, as long as they are committed to producing, on average, 1 piece of mailart a day for a year. It’s easy to apply to join us, just drop into the website at www.mailart365.com and go to the “Get involved” link at the top of the page.
I personally read every application and will email participants with instructions on how to get started and how to post to the blog. Everyone is in charge of posting their own cards onto the site and I’ll email full instructions on signing up.
We’ve formed a lovely vibrant and supportive community of mailartists, sending to each other and outside of the group too. It’s been a really wonderful experience. Many of us are Postcrossing users too, and are overjoyed when we see people that are willing to receive mailart and handmade cards and will usually make postcards that completely fit the profile.
Since discovering mailart, I’ve discovered artistic skills I never thought I had. I work as a science teacher and was always rubbish at art as a school so grew up thinking that was it, I’m a scientist and nothing more. The beauty of mailart though is that nobody judges your artwork against set rules to give you a grade. You are totally free to express yourself, and when it’s sent the person receiving it will appreciate your art. It beats getting a bill in the post any day!
In addition, criticism is very rare in mailart. As a way to learn and build your confidence as an artist it’s perfect!
However, before anyone decides to embark on Mailart365, I have to warn you – It is a tough challenge, I’m already seeing that I have had to sacrifice some other things to make sure I get my daily artwork done, and often find myself up late at night to complete the artwork for the day, but it’s always worth it!"
If you really love mailart, this is your perfect challenge! And even if you don’t plan to participate, don’t forget to check out their website for their work.