Mail Art Plain and Simple

I’ve been making a lot of painted mail art pieces. Mostly I’ve used advertising cards I get in the mail as the backgrounds, or else I cut up the cardboard boxes that cereal,tea, crackers and that kind of thing come in. For this current group of mail art, I include no words, no figures, nothing but the colors and shapes. I like the effect of the paint on top of the print – you can see hints of what was there before. And since most of these are done on cards with a shiny surface, there is a lot of room for scraping and scratching, layers and layers.


Here are some examples. These particular pieces are done on top of some postcard-sized cards that came with a gift of some coffee in the mail, except for one – it came from a cereal box I cut up. Keep your eyes open – your junk mail has possibilities beyond the recycling bin, and all those cardboard boxes are exactly right for mail art.


I decorate both sides of the card – since both sides are seen as it goes through the mail. One is the image side and one is for the address. I decide just as I am getting them ready for the mail – I don’t plan it out before. Here I just presented my favorite side for each postcard. I always do like one more than the other.


7 thoughts on “Mail Art Plain and Simple

  1. Elephant

    I would like to see larger images of these! Do you use a sticker to address them? Do they ever come back or not get delivered? Does the post office ever object?
    Very nice work,

  2. Claudia McGill Post author

    Hi, and thanks for liking these – they are very free and fun to do, there is no plan and therefore nothing to go wrong! Yes, when I address them, I use a sticker, or else write the address on a plain piece of paper and glue it on – maybe I tear it or cut it oddly, just to make it more interesting-looking, but I always make sure that it is very clear that this is the address. I do the same with my return address (I have pre-printed stickers that I use most of the time). I have had a couple come back to me – and I remember both were ones I sent to Brazil, where I think they have a very quirky mail system. Nothing has come back to me in the US or Europe. I think the vast majority of the time they are delivered safely – with IUOMA we also communicate via the internet and so people let me know the mail has made it there. The post office, in my experience and in what others say to me, will deliver whatever you put in there, pretty much, as long as there is the right amount of postage and the address is complete. In fact, from what I can see, they go out of their way to make sure all the mail art all gets there, as best they can.

    My mail is pretty standard-sized, but I have received very odd things – a book taped up, decorated, and shipped – items mailed in plastic freezer bags – you see what I mean – so the post office really does the job, I think.

  3. Little Bird's Dad

    If you promise to keep my real identity a secret (my blog is anonymous), I’ll send you one of my business mailers so you can make a painted mail art piece. Email me at dad at littlebirdsdad dot com No strings, obviously; I’m just really intrigued by your art.

  4. Elephant

    Dear Claudia,

    Thank you for a very complete and wonderful answer to all my questions. I appreciate your time and your precise answers. You are really someone very special!!!!

    I like the notion that the US Post Office tries to deliver everything! What a great Post Office! Once in college I got a burnt up stinking partial letter in a plastic bag – my letter had been in a mail truck fire and weeks? months? later they got the charred remains to me. The post office was valiant and still seems to be! We have all got to love that!

    Thank you again for your details – I am reluctant to get lured into anything as potentially addictive and endless fun as mailing art around. With one more obsession my ship will be sunk!


  5. Claudia McGill Post author

    Glad to be helpful. I can see your worry about the addictive nature of mail art and adding another pursuit. I havefelt it myself. I think it is possible to rein in an enthusiasm like this but it takes a strategy. For me I found that some people will mail things a couple of times and then drop off – there are a few who will stick with it. So the thing for me was to gradually build up that latter number to the level of correspondents I wanted and can keep up with, and then it doesn’t get out of hand. It’s not volume, for me, but the quality – of the work I get, but mostly the nice personalities that go along with it.

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