Mail-Art and Money

"Mail-Art and Money don't Mix" is what Lon Spiegelman wrote in the 80-ies. Are these views still shared by the current generation of mail-artists?

Members: 31
Latest Activity: Feb 6

Discussion Forum

Samples of Mail-Art for sale

Started by Ruud Janssen. Last reply by Ruud Janssen Apr 28, 2017. 4 Replies

When you discover that mail-art is being sold. Please leave a message here with a link.Continue

Cavellini for sale via Catawiki. What do you think?

Started by Heleen de Vaan. Last reply by Richard Canard Jan 30, 2017. 4 Replies

I came across…Continue

Tags: catawiki, Cavellini, mail art for profit?, money

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Comment by Ruud Janssen on March 15, 2011 at 7:11pm
Hi Theo, Nice to see you get involved in the discussion. Actually I do send out a lot of painted envelopes. Never sold them. I do sell paintings. That is where the difference is. Communication and mail-art are what it is about. A Process. Any other process connected to mail-art can be mentioned, but I like to be a purist sometimes too.
Comment by Theo Nelson on March 15, 2011 at 1:57pm
Hi Juri,
I suspect we are arguing apples and oranges here. We are not even talking about money. :)
@Juri: What about pigeon mail (out of postal system)?

If the object sent to someone else is delivered by means other than the Postal System technically it could be considered to not be mailart. FedExart for example. Locally, one could use a courier. I would take the position that neither of my examples is mailart. Perhaps a better statement than "act of mailing is the definition of what is mailart" would be “the insertion into the Postal System is the starting point of mailart”. What gets done afterwards is going to be up to the recipient.

@Juri: Or personal meetings of mail artists? Or different kind festivals, congresses, etc.? If we shall loose all this - we shall loose the most interesting part of mail art as movement.

I’m sorry Juri, I don’t see the connect between what is the definition of mailart and your above example. All of the things you mention are the result of mailart, not the act itself. For example, before there were Star Trek conventions and Trekkies, there had to be Star Trek. Certainly the things you mention add to the vitality and scope of mailart but they are not necessary to its existence. Only the act of someone putting some creation of theirs into the Postal System is required for mailart to be.
Comment by Gik Juri on March 15, 2011 at 7:36am
"act of mailing is the definition of what is mailart" - it's wrong. What about pigeon mail (out of postal system)? Or personal meetings of mail artists? Or different kind festivals, congresses, etc.? If we shall loose all this - we shall loose the most interesting part of mail art as movement. You can read that disser - she has the same ideas.
Comment by Theo Nelson on March 14, 2011 at 11:17pm
I must say, this has been a delightful read. As to my own leanings, I am definitely a purist. As an artist i have never made enough money to even cover my expenses over the 40+ years I have been putting colour down. The transition to not even attempting to make money, as a result, has been fairly easy :). Money, however, would never become the reason for participating in mailart. I do it for one reason only: to bring a smile to the recipient’s face. It is the basis of my “Seasonal Greetings” mailout and I have reached quite noticeable amounts of money in postage and printing costs as it has grown over the years.

I have come to the consciousness of mailart through the backdoor as it were. I discovered ATCs around 2002 and I agreed with the concept that vänçi stirnemann had espoused from his original exhibition. “ATCs are for trade only.” As I exposed myself to the ATC movement I also began to see the broader and much older mailart movement. Not that I had not been aware of mailart, I just never paid much attention to it. I find it interesting that Ruud does not use his paintings as mailart as a rule. Mailart for him is primarily collage. All valid of course. Myself, I send out postcards that are usually paintings or reproductions of paintings. It is only lately that I have started to make collage pieces regularly or participate in “add & pass” pieces using collage. How does this relate to money and mailart you ask? I haven’t a fucking clue. I’m meandering. As I am fond of saying, “I am easily distracted (and amused)!”

Back to the discussion. I sell ACEOs. Supposedly, these are ATCs with a different name. The difference for me is how I sell the card. I sell it with the bleed and crop marks so technically the card is a painting with potential dimensions of 2.5 x 3.5 inches but not as I sell it. If the buyer wants to cut the painting down to those dimensions, that’s their choice. Sigh, I should’ve been a lawyer.

The discussion that Ruud and Juri have had is somewhat along the same lines for me. I agree with Ruud that the act of mailing is the definition of what is mailart. All else can be or not be commercial.

Comment by jeanine ferguson on February 2, 2011 at 5:53pm
This is an interesting group. It never occurred to me that any mail project would be profitable although I have seen this format used for fundraising .  I'm not a big fan of "for profit" projects of any type but yes I agree with Rudd regarding  documentation. Documentation should be comp'd to artists. If it can be sold to others, fine as long as the contributing artists are aware of that possibilty and willing to sign off on it.
Comment by Ruud Janssen on January 18, 2011 at 7:53am

The Thesis that Gik Juri mentiones is available in digital and printed form as well. I made a book out of it (see: which is also available for download for free (with permision by Honoria. A printed format can be bought too. That cost money. But this service (getting someones research) isn't a mail-art project.


Details book:

The Dissertation Committee for Honoria Madelyn Kim Starbuck Certifies that this is the approved version of the following dissertation: Clashing and Converging: Effects of the Internet on theCorrespondence Art Network.

Product Details

Copyright Honoria (Standard Copyright License)
Edition Second Edition
Publisher TAM-Publications
Published April 11, 2010
Language English
Pages 494
Binding Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink Black & white
Dimensions (cm) 15.2 wide × 22.9 tall
Comment by Ruud Janssen on January 18, 2011 at 7:50am

Mail-Art as a process is like Lon Spiegelman describes it. There is also the world outside mail-art. When I write a book about mail-art and want to sell it. That isn't mail-art, but documenting a body of work. When I do a mail-art project, I don't ask others to invest money. I will somehow return something because they invested time, an artwork and postage to send something to me.

Since the mail-art network constantly evolves, these unwritten rules have been interpreted in many ways. Lon Spiegelman made a clear view which I still support.

Comment by ejva:nsva on January 18, 2011 at 5:03am

i haven't done any particular research on the subject of mail-art for profit, but have always taken the nuance that mail-art is by nature non-commercial. if anything, it would be a gift-based economy without obligation.

in such a loose 'society' without particular guidelines, sets of ethos (spoken or unspoken) are often determined by precedent, or influenced by the doings of 'elders' (ie, people who've been involved for a long time, or prominent by merit of contribution).

lately on a google-spree i noticed that mail-art 'subscriptions' from notable mail-artists are for sale on, entitling the purchaser to receive monthly mail-art for a year. does this indicate a shift in the relationship of mail-art and profit? or does the individual artist determine the relationship of mail-art and money independently?

i am interested in how this works in the sense of a community zeitgeist via the artists which comprise it.

Comment by Gik Juri on November 3, 2009 at 7:00pm
Ok, Wilma, don't worry for me.
Comment by Gik Juri on November 3, 2009 at 5:00pm
Certainly, Wilma, all references are here, but it's big text, more then 400 pages. More accurate, please. It's place of discussion, nobody is super-star here and everybody can make mistakes during discussions, me too, it's normal. It's bad idea to trust every word of one person during this open discussion, You must analyze content, have own ideas and argue Your point of view in accordance with declared theme.

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