When it seems like junk mail or bills are all that's in the mailbox, a personally decorated envelope or bright, hand-stamped postcard pops right out and brightens the day of whomever you send it to. The direct mail companies who send out that junk mail may not appreciate it, but a personally decorated letter goes a lot further to grab the attention of its recipient.
Decorative Mail Defined
A letter is a message sent by mail to an addressed recipient created with handwritten or printed text. Letters have been around for centuries; artifacts found in Egyptian tombs have found notes etched into ceramic bowls, according to University College London. Before the invention of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press in 1440, letters were handwritten with flourishing touches of calligraphy. Electronic mail may have usurped physical mail in the 21st century, but creative artists, among others, have raised mail art to new levels with decorated letters and postcards.
Considerations of Postal Regulations
In order to be sent through the United States Postal Service, mail must meet certain regulations. Mail art must clearly indicate the recipient's address and the sender's return address on the same side of, and written parallel to, the longest edge of the envelope. Space for postage must be kept clean in the upper right corner of the envelope. Any decorated envelope that is a rectangle between 5 by 3 1/2 inches and 11 1/2 by 6 1/8 inches in size can be mailed with regular first-class postage.
Types of Mail Art
Just about anything can be mailed through the United States Postal Service, but mail that deviates from regulation sizes may require special handling and fees may apply. According to Jeff Van Buren, who was part of a team from the magazine "Annals of Improbable Research" trying to see what they could send through the U.S. mail, the USPS will accept many things.
Among the items the group mailed were bricks, cash in clear envelopes, a football, dolls and human teeth, and the response most received when the participants went to pick up mail was that "all mail must be wrapped." As long as you can affix postage to a decorated envelope, chances are you can mail it.
About the Weather
Decoratively mailed letters need to hold up in all weather extremes so you've got to consider the medium you're working with. Permanent inks and markers will remain visible even if they do get wet, whereas water-color paints and water-based inks will run.
Avoid using water-color colored pencils for the same reason. If you do use water-based coloring methods, consider laminating the addressed side of the envelope or enclosing the entire envelope in a clear plastic mailer before attaching postage. It is important to attach the postage on the outside of any protective casing so that the stamps can be canceled by the USPS.
Three-dimensional elements attached to envelopes and postcards can be sent through the mail with minimal loss of the embellishments, but they require hand-stamping so they aren't run through automated equipment. Homemade envelopes are fine for decorative mailings as long as they meet size requirements; square envelopes, which stand out from the crowd in any mailbox, require additional postage.
For those without rubber stamps, calligraphy or paint, computer programs that manipulate text and photos can be used to add a personal touch to any envelope that can be run through a printer. Failing that, adhesive stickers and rub-on letters can be used by mail-senders of all ages.
- Photo Credit correspondance image by Thierry Hoarau from Fotolia.com
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