9 x 9 Add and Return Block Project

This is the finished 9 x 9 block collage.
Here is the artist guide.
There are only a handful of places that I find myself in a given day. I’m either at work sitting in a classroom or windowless office, I’m at home on the couch or upstairs making things, or I’m out looking for items. I’m a scavenger. Three days out of the week I’m in a thrift store, namely Monday. On Monday I go to five different places in a certain order. I look for old books, records, movies, and any weird piece of trash I can display or make into more trash. If I go “scavenging” for new items, I like off brand dollar stores. You know…the not-Dollar Tree type places, but ones that are somewhat similar. Places with “dollar” in their name that sell junk that stores couldn’t sell elsewhere for a higher price. They’re hard to find but I love them.
Mighty Dollar is one of my favorite off brand dollar stores. The one I mainly go to is in Thomasville NC but I’ve also visited the one in Kannapolis a few times. It’s a remainder store, a place that sells stuff worth slightly more than a dollar that wouldn’t sell in regular stores. Sometimes you can get real finds there, like real ones. I’ve found Moleskin notebooks (I bought dozens) I’ve found full bottles of Modge-Podge, and to feed my addiction, a ridiculous amount of ugly rolls of Duck brand packing tape. I wonder around and pick out bits for future projects that tend to pile in my upstairs room. I also buy my sunglasses there.
One of the sections in the store is the “craft section,” or at least that’s what it feels like. I often move through that section quickly. I don’t have anything against giant wooden letters per se I just don’t know how to use them. Right at the end of this section I noticed a pile of these square boards. Inside of the square boards there were nine smaller wooden blocks. From the packaging it seemed these boards were used for notes or something, not really sure. Being that they were made into equal shapes, which is something I often feel drawn to (I had that I’m too linear) I picked them up for closer inspection. Without rhyme or reason I bought a couple of them and took them to my upstairs mail-art lair.
The boards rested in a corner until late one night. I picked one up and thought to myself, “Why not an add and return sort of thing?” And that was pretty much it. I put it out to both mail-art friends and to real friends (one’s I see face to face) that I wanted to fill up a board with nine different works of art, anyone interested could join. Like usual, you get a lot of people wanting to fill out a block, mostly non mail-art folks, which was great. I started to send out the blocks and then it seemed that people from all over the world wanted in.
The rates for international shipping are insane? One block and a couple pieces of papers costs $13.50 to mail. That is just the starting rate. Two folks from out of the country raised their hand to say they were interested in the project. I felt obligated to send to them, which made me a little nervous since I wanted everyone to participate that was interested. I didn’t want to exclude. Somewhere in the process I decided to run a different project for those outside of the US. I was going to send them a bingo card that would cut down mailing costs to around two dollars. That’s a big difference when you’re talking mailing to ten people at once.
Out of the blue someone suggested I cut a piece of cardstock to fit over the block and then mail that. Obviously I’m an idiot since this never occurred to me. That game was back on; I started sending to folks around the world after posting on various mail-art centered Facebook groups.
So everyone could see the submissions and stay in touch with the project I decided to set up a Facebook group. It’s always more fun if you feel like you’re part of the process. Someone would send me a block and I’d post an image. When I got nine blocks I asked the group what order they should be in. So that’s where we stand, I have one of these completely finished while I wait for dozens of other blocks to come back. I imagine that I’ll get back about half of the blocks I sent out, which is fine; I know how these things go.
The first completed image was made by contributions from Laura Hortal (Winston-Salem NC) Brooke “Cooks” (Seattle WA) Patricia Landon (Del Ray Beach FL) Kathy Mcintire (Little River SC) Jan Hodgman (Anacortes WA) Camilla Post (The Netherlands) Angie Cope (Port Washington WI) Artista Daily (Taylor MI) and Jennifer + Josh Boyle (Lexington NC).
The best part of this whole thing is that I went back to Mighty Dollar and bought every board they had in their store, which means this project can continue for as long as people send in blocks or pieces of cardstock to go on the blocks. One gets finished and then next one begins. If I make another trip to Kannapolis in the near future I’ll see many of the boards I can get from them. And now I wait for the artwork to come in.