This blog is about the power of the unknown sender, of the art world’s effect on people outside the establishment, canalized through a scam that I now in retrospect consider being my first mail-art attempt.

In the late 1980s I worked for the Church of Sweden in a church yard in my hometown. I was a gardener but also had inner duties inside the church. I was never interested in Christianity but was fond of architecture and this was nice when working in a historical building. It was a great job where the outside gardening and digging gave fresh air and working inside the church was very calming, I remember polishing the silver in the winter while listening to the soundtrack from the Twin Peaks TV series echoing between the great walls and ceiling. This 18th century church was built almost looking like a giant barn, a style developed as the small and dark medieval churches became too small to host the growing masses of people. They were not only big but also very bright with lesser artifacts than its forerunners. The chalked walls were white inside and out and the windows clear. This was not only cheaper to build but also let the “holy” light being reflected into the church room. The times were enlightened even in the churches. So in this environment I spent my time, it was easy for my mind to wander about in this bright modern museum like environment.

Now we had a priest that was close to retirement and all priests of importance wish to give some kind of legacy. A renovation or a monument bought by the grand funds of the church, but in his name. So one day I opened the church doors for one of Sweden’s most reputable and respected artists and his entourage. He proudly held up sketches for stained glass windows before the bright light.
-NO, I said, but only to myself. The architecture of this bright church would be darkened with painted glass and the 50 000 euros could be spent on better things.
Would the priest had listened to me if I told him my point of view? Would the chairman of the church council hear the voice from an eighteen year old gardener with dirt stained clothes? Both of them had eyes for the famous artist and both wished to be remembered long after their death.

So I sat down and wrote a letter. I decided to write this letter addressed to the church council. And I decided to impose as a fictional art history professor specializing in18th century Scandinavian architecture. I invented Sandra Baervies, that became the professors name. In 1988 with no internet things were harder to check up and no one did, maybe out of fear of dropping their faces, being novices as they were concerning art.

I had no special rubber stamp to put on the envelope so it looked kind of unofficial and I wrote with a graphite pencil and had not much of a writing style so it looked like it had been written by a mad professor. I do not remember the exact words but I strongly recommended to cancel the stained glass windows and that the council wasn't doing any good concerning the history of architecture.


They never proceeded with the stained glass window project. My letter was registered and filed in the safe vault and no one has ever before now been told about this letter. The artist and chairman is dead and the priest still lives his calm retirement, strongly remembered by me. This I call my first and last mail-art scam.

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Comment by Eraser Heed on August 30, 2013 at 8:36pm
My family still have contact with him Angie. Their ties to the church were as strong as my rebellious nature as a teenager.
Comment by Eraser Heed on August 30, 2013 at 4:28pm
@Carina, while tasting the communion wine.. ;)
Comment by Carina on August 30, 2013 at 8:45am

Great story, Niklas! You polishing the silver :)

Comment by Eraser Heed on August 30, 2013 at 6:53am

Note to the text: the name Sandra Baervies is fictional as I wrote and Baervies spells Bärfis in swedish when pronounced (bär=berries fis=fart), Stink bug translated to english. 

Comment by Eraser Heed on August 30, 2013 at 6:46am

Ha ha, wonderful, Viz and Val!!! This sounds more and more interesting, new ideas, new kind of mail! Just remember I asked for stickers (adhesives) and got that sent to me alongside labels from a beer company when I was like ten years old.

Comment by Valentine Mark Herman on August 30, 2013 at 6:41am

It worked back the, Niklaas, and I reckon it would work even better today as the Big Companies say they are responsive to their customers. It worked back then by buying a product (cornflakes, biscuits, etc), eating half of them, and rhen sending the other half back saying that they were stale or tasteless or something. What I always got back was much more than I sent, plus some postage stamps to cover my postage. And with these stamps I could start a new round of 'complaints'.

Comment by vizma bruns on August 30, 2013 at 6:40am

I recently read a blog by some guy who wrote 100 letters to companies, not complaining, but asking for free stuff! He listed all the companies and the ones that sent him things. He got hundreds of dollars worth of stuff! All I recall is a key-ring from BMW valued at $30. Not bad.

Comment by Eraser Heed on August 30, 2013 at 6:36am

Thank You guys!

Nice scam Val, that is something I too would consider doing, push some buttons on the big companies and see their reactions, that one is also prescribated now after some time. I wonder if that would be possible today!

Comment by Valentine Mark Herman on August 30, 2013 at 6:29am

A fantastic tale, Niklaas!

A wonderful scam, too.

As this goes back some 25 years, you must have one of the longest Mail Art pedigrees/histories of we IUOMA folk.

(My first Mail scam -- note not Mail Art scam -- was in 1968 when my flat mate and I had a competition to see who could get the most mail. So we did things like complain to Kellogs about their cornflakes, and got 6 large boxes back, etc. But thisis about YOUR scam, not mine.)

Comment by vizma bruns on August 30, 2013 at 6:20am

Ha ha! I love this, it's brilliant, Niklas! Last? NO! Please, there must be many more to come!!

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