Mail Art lives in a quiet corner of the art world, a genre of works sent through the mail, with the postal journey and markings being a part of the process. And in a corner of Mail Art, you will find artistamps – faux postage – tiny, gummed descendants of 19th and 20th century poster stamps (mostly advertising a product or an event) and “cinderella” stamps that look like postage stamps but serve some other purpose.
Posting artistamps is generally legal, provided the correct, official postage is also affixed to the envelope or postcard, and the artistamp itself is not likely to be mistaken for a genuine postage stamp.
“It’s art that’s meant to be shared, rather than sold; it’s whimsical and surprising,” said Kihm Winship, a Senior Copywriter at ChaseDesign. In the 1980s, Winship dabbled in mail art, decorating envelopes and postcards with rubberstamps and colored pencils, but parenthood prompted him to pause for a time, an artistic dry spell that stretched out to 30 years. But two recent developments have prompted him to pick up where he left off.
“My Photoshop skills reached a point where I could create images I’m happy with, and I found a Fiskar scissors that mimics postal perforations, a discovery of Holy Grail magnitude. Some artists use an unthreaded sewing machine to make the perforations, but I need my fingers to type.”
Early inspiration came from an artist named Donald Evans, who between 1971 and 1977 hand painted postage stamps from 42 countries existing only in his imagination. And more recently, Winship has been receiving artistamps from Henry Denander, a Swedish artist and writer.
“I haven’t a sliver of the talent of either of them, but I enjoy combining classic borders of old stamps with photos and illustrations that have nothing to do with them. And who wouldn’t want a One Centavo Keith Richards in their collection?”
Winship draws from favorite illustrators; the stamps above include the art of J.C. Leyendecker and Robert Lawson (whose Ferdinand the Bull is shown at the moment he's stung by a bee), as well as uncredited artists, and photographers like Michael Donald (just above). Lately he's been on a John Tenniel binge, finding the illustrations from the original Alice in Wonderland to be perfect for faux postage.
Playing with faux postage is part of a larger plan for Winship. "Ideally, of course, I'll start writing letters again."