FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does the P.O. *allow* non-standardized addressing?
The P.O. has guidelines requesting a standard format, but most postal workers enjoy seeing mail art
and as long as the information is clear, the
envelopes seem to reach their destination without any problems.
They have very specific requirements regarding what they will deliver when the amount of postage is the current 1-ounce rate. The mail must fit within a template that allows a range of sizes that must be in a landscape orientation. There is a surcharge for square envelopes and/or addresses that are not level with the bottom edge of a landscape oriented rectangle.
you can tell that it will take extra work for someone to figure out the
address, it is a good idea to add extra postage to the envelope. I
have only had one envelope returned: You can see it if you go to the
archives and click on 2010, then June, then the 28th. Or click on the
label [postal regulations] in the right hand column of the blog and
I have heard that the P.O. scanners read the addresses from right to left, so it is helpful if the zip code
is near the lower right corner.
I have also noted and done experiments that *prove* that the only information the P.O. really
needs is the street address and the zip code. If those two bits of
information are correct, the mail will reach that destination. They only look at the city and state if there is the street and zip do not indicate a known address. The city-state is helpful when there is a typo in the ZIP. I have a feeling they completely ignore the name.
How do postal workers feel about artful addressing, especially ZIP codes?
There are people who work for the P.O. and their job is to decipher addresses. Most of the time they are trying to figure out poor penmanship. So, I am guessing that when they come across *mail art* it is an enjoyable experience because
it is something a little different from their normal duty. I know many
postal workers personally who are happy to see my mail and appreciate
the business. I have also had polite postal
workers tell me that I should conform to their standards. I thank them
for the suggestion.
The USPS has recently posted an article about mail artists on their website, so it looks like they are welcoming mail art.
How did Jean find her way to mail art?
was taking calligraphy classes and the instructor brought examples of
decorated envelope to class. Most of them featured the name as the focal
point of the envelope. I tend to use the name as the focal point, but,
sometimes there is a reason to relegate the name and address to a small
space on the envelope. If you Google mail art, you can see many
historical examples of mail art. People started adding little drawings
to envelopes a long time ago. Many mail artists have no interest in
calligraphy or decorative lettering. I use the postage stamps as
Is mail art a good way to make a living?
No. I have very few requests for mail art.
money, I address envelopes for weddings and other events. Luckily, I
enjoy addressing wedding envelopes and the mail art is what I do at the
end of the day to satisfy my own need to be creative. The two types of
envelopes are a perfect balance for my right brain and left brain.
Would you recommend envelope addressing as an occupation?
if you have a passion (sick obsession) for penmanship and very tedious work. I tell
people that they have to do a few envelope jobs before they find out if
they like the work. I recommend doing a few jobs for a nominal charge,
just for the experience. When I was studying calligraphy, I always said
that I would never address envelopes for hire. It sounded like a
horrible job. Later, when my instructor decided to retire from
addressing and asked me if I wanted her to refer people to me, I said,
"OK, I will give it a try." I was pleasantly surprised to find that I
really enjoyed the jobs. For me, the best part is
the response from the clients. They are so happy and they frequently
report back that they have had so many compliments from their guests.
have learned over the years that people feel very special when they see
their name written beautifully. Sending an invitation in a beautiful,
personalized envelope clearly indicates that the guest is an important
part of the event.
Can you make a lot of money addressing envelopes?
know a few people who have made quite a bit of money. I can see how I
could have built a pretty nice career if I had not had a family. Many of
the most successful calligraphers do not have children. It seems to be a
career for people who like to eat, sleep and breathe the activity.
Although there are some very successful calligraphers who have families.
Most calligraphers augment their income through teaching and graphic
design. The internet has been a wonderful way to network with clients
and calligraphers are now a-dime-a-dozen on websites like Etsy. It would
be challenging to compete with the prices that are offered and make a
decent living. IMHO the people who are doing well are creating websites
where they offer both a custom invitation as well as the envelope
If you live in a community
where you could
offer your services through a stationery store, you might be able to
build a good business. However, many of the stationery stores offer
addressing by machine, so they are not interested in helping a
calligrapher generate clients.
It is a perfect job for a stay-at-home mom, if you have an area where you can meet clients and also keep the envelopes safe. Clients spend a lot of money on their invitations and you probably don't want to talk to them at the kitchen table. They need to have confidence that their envelopes will be handled with great care.
How hard is it to learn calligraphy and fun lettering?
is very easy to learn the fun lettering. Traditional calligraphy can be
a little more challenging. While beautifully flourished script looks
*free* it is really very regimented. It takes time to establish the
muscle memory to make all the letters the same size and keep the spacing
very symmetrical. Then, it takes a while to learn fluid flourishing.
But, it is like riding a bike. Once you go through the work of learning
the moves, you never forget them.
Can anyone learn calligraphy or do you have to have a special gift?
Anyone can do the fun styles of lettering. Adding polka dots, flowers, shadows, do-dads, etc requires no skill whatsoever. Traditional
calligraphy, especially the script styles can be very difficult to
learn if you are over 70 years of age. If you have been writing the same
way for 60 years it is usually too difficult to change your muscle
memory. I am not saying it is impossible, I am just saying that in my
experience, most people who are over 70 do not have the fine motor skills to
make progress fast enough to sustain their interest in traditional
calligraphy. They do, however, enjoy the flowers and do-dads very much.
have had numerous students over the years who have developed a strong
interest in mail art and it has been gratifying to hear them talk about
how much they enjoy mail art. The focus of my blog is to help people
with no formal training to find ideas that look easy enough for them to
try so that they reach out to
friends and family with mail and spread a little sunshine.
Most people like the look of calligraphy, but they usually do not have the patience to do the ground work to advance to the next level. Fun lettering is a perfect alternative.
Is your house really pretty?
It was surprising how often this question came up when I was teaching. Many people think that because my envelopes are so pretty it must carry over into other areas of my life. I actually don't spend much time on interior design, wardrobe, or personal grooming. But, my preferred style in envelopes (minimalism) does show up in other areas so sometimes people think my house looks nice. I restricted my wardrobe to black and white (and khaki). Then I let my hair go gray so now I am swapping out all the black for gray and I will probably choose more pink, because it looks nice with gray.
Are your kids artistic?
None of them chose art as a major. My daughter is a CPA and I have noticed that we have very similar taste in interiors and wardrobe. The boys were drawn to skating and skiing and many other sports. I can tell that sports is a very right brain activity for them. So, I always encourage people to understand that applied art is very similar to many other activities. My boys approach cooking like an art. Penmanship and doodling is something that everyone does. So it is IMHO a very easy door-opener to being creative with paper and pens. It is very accessible.
If you have any other questions, please email me at
jmwilson411 (at) yahoo.com