The Art of Handwritten Letters Part 3

An Interview with mail artist, Miss Thundercat

In Lisa Shobhana Mason's final article in her Handwritten Letters series, she presents an interview with one of her favorite mail artists, Miss Thundercat. You can read Lisa's first post here and the second one here. How did you become interested in mail art and when did you begin? It always interested me to receive fun and colorful mail. I started writing letters to pen pals since I was 12 years old (20 years ago now, yikes 😉 and through these pen friends I came into contact what they called friendship books (FB's).
Handwritten letter

Friendship Books
from Miss Thundercat

It's a sort of home made pen pal magazine that you send on to friends for them to fill out and when it's full it should be send back to the maker. The objective was to get more like minded pen friends through these books, but you sorta had to advertise yourself. Depending on how colorful and expressive your page was, the more you would get noted by and written to by people who were looking for other pen pals! So I think you could say this was the earliest form of mail art I've started with. I also made a lot of those FB's myself (later on they were starting to be called 'decos' - as in 'decorative friendship booklets' so that the element of decorating your page, sometimes in a theme or not, was mandatory) and I've received quite a few of them back in the years I've done them.
Handwritten letters

"Decos"
by Miss Thundercat

I stopped doing FB's, decos and SLAMS (those are booklets with questions in them signers have to answer) almost 7 to 8 years ago because by then I was also doing ATC's ( Artist Trading Cards,
artist trading card

Artist Trading Card
by Miss Thundercat

and I loved the format of this type of snail mail art a lot better. Just making a single unique card and trading that with fellow artists was a more direct and satisfactory way of trading 'mail art' and the one-on-one trade appealed to me, which also reduced the waiting time of getting some fun mail! To get those full decos back in the mail could take years!!  With trading these booklets and cards I always decorated the envelope I sent them in as well. First it was just colorful and cute tape then it became more elaborate with inks and rubber stamps, my hand carved rubber stamps and washes... until it occurred to me that well these decorated envelopes can be considered mail art too! I started putting more effort into decorating the envelopes and even started to send out empty envelopes and collage postcards to mail art friends!
handcarved rubber stamps

Hand-Carved Rubber Stamps
by Miss Thundercat

This year I've joined the Mail Art 365 group at blogger and the objective is to send to as many snail mail art pieces out to as many different people as I can within this year. It's been quite the challenge but it's been great so far! You can follow my process on my Tumblr blog Mail me some art! and see the pieces I sent so far on my flickr set Mail Art 365-2012 project .
handwritten letters

Mail Art
by Miss Thundercat

What are some of the more unusual swaps that you've participated in? Let me start off by saying I usually swap on Swap-Bot (my Swap-bot Profile ) .You can find all sorts of swaps here and there is a section specifically for mail swaps. People all over the world can host and participate in those swaps if the swap is set on international. There are regional swaps too. Also there are several swapping groups dedicated to mail art and I'm a co-founder of the group Zines, Mail Art & Other Cool Stuff. One of the more unusual things I've swapped in the mail, are hand-bound booklets  sent 'naked' (without an envelope) in the mail. That's actually pretty tame if you consider there have been "message in a bottle" swaps hosted as well 🙂 With sending mail art, I'm bound by certain postal dimensions and have to weigh in the costs of sending internationally but trying to send a teacup or a bottle like that in the mail, naked, always tickled my fancy! Do you have any advice or resources for people who are new to mail art? Some practical tips to make sure your mail art arrives unaffected by the weather; When you're making collages and send them out naked (without an envelope) in the mail, make sure you've glued everything down well. I coat it with a layer of Medium Matte or Modge podge for protection. If you're using water solvent inks and want a sealer, try a spray sealer for a water resistant coating.  As for resources; Besides the Mail Art 365 blog that I mentioned there is this great site called IUOMA, International Union of Mail Artists. There are helpful links on that site for people who are just starting off and the site welcomes new members very warmly and encouragingly. I've received some really fun surprises in the mail upon joining the site and the swaps are more 'open ended' than at swap-bot. I would definitely encourage joining this site if you want to have a go at mail art.  Lastly my best advice would be, have fun with whatever you're making! Don't feel like you have to be an "artist" to be able to make mail art. Keep it low pressure and fun for yourself. That's usually when you're in your most creative flow and then just let it happen!    Lisa Shobhana Mason is the author of the North Light books Yarnplay and Yarnplay at Home. She is also a pen pal matchmaker for creatives, aged 25 and older, and works her letter writing magic at creativecorrespondents.tumblr.com. Want more about ways to create with writing? Check out: MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS • Improve your mixed media art with books, DVDs, downloads & from the North Light Shop • Sign up for your FREE Create Mixed Media email newsletter for great tips, projects & more • Get unlimited access to mixed media art instruction ebooks • Download free mixed media desktop wallpapers

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