Sunday, 1 October 2017

Nigel Bents - Mail Art Workshop

This past Wednesday we started the workshop rotations at uni. We'll be doing these for a number of weeks as inductions to all the various processes and studios. We have to blog these workshops as evidence that we did them and as a kind of way for us to have something to refresh our memories if need be. I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with you guys. So am copy/pasting those blogs as I do them over to here. Up for that?  Let's go.
Nigel Bents - Mail Art Aficionado
For my first workshop Nigel Bents visited to host a mail art workshop. He set us three tasks. The first I took part in was to fill in a form of seemingly innocent questions but they really got me thinking. Things like "What is Your Favourite Smell?" (My Mum's baking on Christmas morning - Christmas has never been the same without it.) "Name a bad habit" (Nail biting) I found questions such as what are my favourite possessions and who would I invite to dinner - living or dead, particularly interesting to answer.
On the back of the paper we were to write a detailed message of where we expect ourselves to be in three years time. Then, for the second part of our task we made envelopes to seal them in and addressed them to our future selves. We will get them back in 2020 when we finish the course. I found this part of the task particularly difficult - did we just include where we hoped to be professionally? Or personally as well? We only had a little time for what turned out to be a soul searching task. I went the route of both personal and professional in the end. I enjoyed this task because it really made me think about things that are happening in my life at the moment but it also made me set long term goals which is always a good and useful thing to have and to aim for. I look forward to opening up this envelope in three years time and seeing how things have changed.
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Letter To Future Me

Typographical Postcards...
We looked through Nigel's postcard collection and were to pick some lettered cards to make our own words relating to us. I chose this word because it relates to my life on many levels at this particular moment in time. I very rarely use colourful language when I talk - never have, it's just a thing of mine. I'm not anti-swearing. I just never started doing it. But it does make me laugh and I do find other peoples use of it very funny. So - in many ways to use this word, right now, at this particular point in time seems very appropriate to me. It describes how my insomnia makes me feel, it describes certain things that are happening in my life and it describes the nervous excitement I felt walking through the uni doors on the first day. Oh...

Other postcards in Nigel's collection were thought provoking and also of their time. These named cards obviously have very different meanings than their original purpose. (Just names) I couldn't resist putting them in this order - had to be done. Criminal not to. And yes, I keep laughing like a child whenever I look at this photo.
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Vintage Typography Postcards - Double Meaning. Dick, Fanny, baby.
Oh, The History...

But then straight away on the flipside - we found a postcard with the Nazi swastika on it. Just a genteel birthday greetings postcard emblazoned with what has become an icon of hate. The message on the back so mundane, chitchat. It beggars belief that this was ok, this was normal. A fascinating collection to flip through - real social history right there in front of us. (Apologies for the blur - a photographer I am not.)
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Vintage Postcards - Social History - Nazi Swastika on Birthday Greeting
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Vintage Postcard message on the back of a postcard bearing a birthday greeting emblazoned with a swastika.
I also loved the postcards featuring the code of stamps and I am going to start using this myself - I do mail art quite regularly with a couple of friends and I wonder if they will notice and query the meaning of my wonky stamps. I think in an age of technological, pretty impersonal and easily deleted engagement, this sort of thing is wonderful. Getting something beautiful interspersed with the bills and Dominos flyers is such a bright spot of the day and anything to add to the interest and intrigue - I'm there. A disappearing art and one I hope to have a hand in trying to keep alive.
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Vintage postcard with the secret code language of postal stamps
Carmen Wing Art Blog - Mail Art - Vintage postcard with the secret code language of postal stamps
Our last task was to complete a pre-designed postcard to a teacher who has helped you the most in your life. A personal message thanking them for all that they have done. We were also to add our own personal touches to the front of the card. (I forgot to take a picture before I posted it.) Teaching is very often a thankless and under valued profession - it's a brilliant idea to let someone, whoever they may be,  know they have influenced you and had a hand in helping you to be where you are now. I took my English GCSE last year and chose my English tutor. I had already thanked him at the end of my course but when I contacted him for an address to post my card to he seemed genuinely touched by the gesture. Thank you are two very powerful words.
All in all I really enjoyed this workshop - it got me thinking a lot about things that I didn't think it would. (And that I'm not putting here.) I loved Nigel's enthusiasm and it was infectious. I was disappointed not to be able to attend his afternoon talk (I have to leave at lunch time every day to be sure that I am home in time to pick the kiddo's up at 3pm) but the workshop in itself has sparked lots of ideas and made me think a lot about personal influences, mail art and social history. Next step - how to incorporate this into my work.
Thanks for stopping by today :)