I have envisioned my children engaged in good old fashioned correspondence by post for sometime now. Snail mail as they call it. Growing up I had a pen pal, granted a West Coast wild child pen pal, who’s adventures always left me feeling like my East Coast suburban days we’re modest,boring even. But for several years, I waited for her letters each day and sure missed them when they stopped coming.
As a teenager I was a very active mail artist. Mail art, simply put, is the exchange of art through the postal system. I started out exchanging art with a few artists I met through zines and fairly quickly I had packages coming from and going to places as far as Greece, Japan and Australia several times per week. For art, there is no language barrier and that’s always appealed to me. I’ve also liked seeing how one adapts to the confinements of the postal system and knowingly creates something to be given away.
From the time she was one and a half I noticed my daughter Charlie was interested in getting the mail from the box each day. It was an event. On the rare occasion there was something addressed to her, she could not contain her joy and sometimes did not wish to even open it. Although, watching her eventually tear open a package or envelope was magical. It made me want to send her secret admirer notes each week although that was quickly forgotten. I imagined for her being on the more timid side that she might like developing a friendship over mail with another little girl. When she was nearly four years old I made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to find her regular pen pals. I had even thought about starting a kids art exchange site, although, realized it would be hard for little old me to safely organize and navigate in today’s world.
Around the time I decided to finally start my own blog and begin a writing project for which I was suddenly online more and more, I began thinking about the networking aspects of the Internet and how someone like me might artfully embrace it with my own proclivities, which are firmly rooted in the tactile world. I wanted to find ways to incorporate giving away my art as I have long done, sometimes to nature even, and I began connecting with other artists, bloggers and occasionally sending and receiving packages through the mail.
Charlie was immensely jealous and as she was now five and a half, I felt perhaps I might try and find someone for her again. I had been following Hanna’s blog for sometime and always felt crossovers in our lives and interests despite her being the Finland to my New Jersey.
Her daughter V. seemed about Charlie’s age and while I knew neither of the girls would be writing long letters to each other quite yet, I figured they could make drawings, gifts for each other, or just trade craft supplies and findings.
I was so happy when Hanna “accepted” and it’s quite special to witness the impressions of these packages on these two girls. They’re conscious of continental distance between them as well the reciprocal aspects of mail. For Charlie, she loves filling the package just as much as taking it to the post office and sending it away.
Of course, she dances the days V.’s packages arrive.
Both girls spend weeks playing with and crafting from their gifts.
I like that a mail art exchange could take part between anyone. Old friends or bloggers might connect their small children; grandparents, cousins, or fellow classmates who have moved far away can keep a mail art correspondence. There are never any rules with mail art and never any expectation. It should just be simple and fun.
V. ‘s packages are so colorfully distinct from the bills in the box, Charlie is so happy.
These gifts from V. are always full of new ideas and inspiration. For me as well.
But my own correspondence with Hanna, the hand written letters to each other, mothers finding small bits of time to ramble on and on to another woman are even nicer. Something I didn’t expect when I took on the matchmaker role but such a lovely companion I have found.