Mail art pushing the envelope

Artist Jenny England finds inspiration and friendship around the world through mail art

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BUILDING BRIDGES: Jenny says mail art is a great way to make new friends. Pictured: Harbour Bridge mail art by Jenny England.

BUILDING BRIDGES: Jenny says mail art is a great way to make new friends. Pictured: Harbour Bridge mail art by Jenny England.

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From England to the world: How Jenny found new friends and creative ideas through handmade postcards.

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KEEN artist Jenny England hadn't picked up a drawing pencil or paint brush in years, but her discovery of the world of mail art in 2009 gave her a new lease of creative life.

Jenny, from Kiama on the NSW South Coast, was recovering from major surgery and looking for an outlet when she learned about postcrossing - a hobby in which people from all parts of the globe send postcards to strangers.

She enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people, but said the hobby didn't quite satisfy her.

POST MODERN: Jenny England is encouraging Australians to explore the world of mail art.

POST MODERN: Jenny England is encouraging Australians to explore the world of mail art.

"I noticed people were sending ordinary cards. I like to make my own cards," she said.

With a bit of investigation, Jenny, who has worked as a writer, art teacher and illustrator, discovered a website for the International Union of Mail Artists and was introduced to the world of mail art.

It's a hobby that involves a global community sharing handmade postcards, letters and envelopes.

"I got quite involved with it and made a lot of friends," Jenny said. "I was really enjoying it."

She lost touch with the hobby after husband Geoff suffered a brain bleed, but has since rekindled her interest, even setting up an Australian web page for the group to help connect artists here.

Jenny has sent and received mail to and from all over the world and has had work exhibited in countries including England, the US and Portugal.

"The London one was really interesting," she said. "Each exhibition has a theme and the London theme was Little Big Stories.

"We had to try and convey a story on to a little postcard and I started thinking about how you could share a narrative in such a small space.

"When you think about it, a lot of visual art is just a pretty picture which doesn't really tell a story."

Jenny has made great friends thanks to mail art, including one in Nashville and her best friend Denise Hastings, from Victoria.

"We found we had so much in common. We'd both been through cancer, we were both interested in art, writing and Australian history."

Jenny never really thought it was possible to make such good friends over the internet until she discovered mail art.

Art lover

Her love of art dates back almost as long as she can remember.

"Ever since I was a child, I've always been drawing something, painting something or sticking something on something."

She encourages other Australians to join the mail art community and stresses that people do not have to consider themselves highly skilled to join.

"Some people make collages," she said.

"You don't necessarily have to think you're an artist, you just have to feel like doing something creative."

For more information email jennyengland60@gmail.com or click here.

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