In June of 2011, I launched The Elevated Envelope Exchange – a project where creative strangers from all over the world send each other artistic snail mail. It’s been PRETTY GREAT.
Does this sound fun to you? Keep reading…
Remember pen pals?
If you’re lucky, you might still have one or two. Well, The Elevated Envelope is an ongoing artistic pen pal project designed to bring back the fun of checking the mail. You’ll sign up here. Two or three times a year, I’ll gather the sign ups, create and distribute lists of 10-ish participants, and assign a “theme.” Once you get your list and theme, you’ll have about 4-6 weeks to create a work of art in envelope form, execute it 10-ish times, and mail them out to the people on your list. Those people will do the same, each sending their own creation to you. So – you send 10 of your own design, and you get 10 different ones from others (well, 10-ish).
I’ll always be on your mailing list so I can document the most creative / beautiful / poetic / bizarre / otherwise-original submissions right here on this blog. Oh – and give out some prizes…
Why do it?
- Flex those artistic muscles – for those of us who are designers, sometimes we get in a bit of a rut designing for others. Here, your own creativity is the only limit. Experiment with new media. Go crazy or keep it simple. Whatever you like. What’s been on your mind? Here’s your chance to get it out.
- It’s fun to send and receive mail, but so much better when it’s pretty. Or bad ass? Or hilarious? I promise every time you get an envelope, you will smile. Sometimes you might even be jealous, but that brings me to reason #3:
- Seeing what other people do will probably inspire you. (For example – whoa.)
- You will make new friends.
- It’s satisfying. You’ll get out of your own head and not only finish something, but literally SEND IT OUT into the world.
- And you’ll be glad you did.
- I did mention prizes, didn’t I? Now, it’s not really about the prizes… but the prizes are pretty cool. But they are also kind of sporadic. It depends how many people participate, and how amazing the envelopes are!
There are a few rules:
Rule #1: A subject / topic / theme or prompt will be assigned. Other than that, make whatever you want…
The size, shape, media, colors, imagery, etc. – are all up to you. Just make sure the mailman can read it, and that it is, in fact, mail-able. Remember that certain media smudge or may not be waterproof, so take precautions to preserve your work where necessary. (This stuff is great.) If you’re in the US, you can calculate postage here. Be sure to double check this – certain sizes, orientations, thicknesses, etc. will increase the rate.
Rule #2: It must be more handmade than not.
What I mean is that while it doesn’t have to be a 100% hand-drawn project, please don’t use your computer too much. This is not a design-something-on-a-computer-and-print-it-on-an envelope project. This is supposed to get you off the computer. You’re supposed to get a little dirty. But it doesn’t mean computers are forbidden. In the same vein, please remember this is not a “scrapbooking” project. If you have some reason to use a particular rubber stamp or something, by all means, use it – but don’t let this be about how much stuff you can buy and stick onto paper. Truly be creative. You’ll have more fun and get more out of it (and so will the people on your list)!
Rule #3: Enclose a surprise in the envelope that complements your design and tells us why and how you made it.
- A recipe?
- A joke?
- A present! (My favorite) If you do this, it should be something small, inexpensive and easy to mail. Maybe you make cards and can spare 5-10 for your recipients. How sweet of you! Just remember to triple-check postage requirements if it starts to feel a little heavy or rigid.
- Anything that complements your design. A magazine article? A comic strip? You’ll think of something.
- Or you could keep it simple. Just write a note to introduce yourself – you may end up with a new pen pal.
Rule #4: Envelopes must be postmarked by the deadline (whatever that is).
Once you get your list, you’ll have about 4-6 weeks to complete the project. Getting a bunch of beautiful artwork in the mail and not sending any in return would be Not Cool! So, before you sign up, be sure you can commit to completing the project within 4-6 weeks. If you’re too busy, you can catch us later – this is an ongoing thing.
Rule #5: You’ve gotta BRING IT!
To participate, you don’t have to be super artistic – you don’t have to be into calligraphy or drawing or graphic design. Anyone creative can join, and all confidence levels are welcome.
You knew there was a but!
But, you do have to be willing to put in some serious creative effort and work hard on it. In the past, many participants went WAY above and beyond – I liked that. Someone wove envelopes. Someone else quilted them. Another one recycled old envelopes and made them into new paper and then turned the paper into an envelope. (That one made my brain kind of explode, but in a good way.) Everyone blew me away. I know a lot of you who are participating again were wanting to step it up. I welcome this!
Questions? Leave a comment below.