Monday, May 2, 2022

How Many Collages of Ringo Starr is Enough?

Ringo has always annoyed me and I don’t know why? There’s just something about him. I don’t have problems with his drumming or what I know about him personally. He has an idiosyncratic but interesting way of playing. Compared to his band-mates, you can’t look at his personal life and call him a “dirt bag” like you can the rest. But…he is a bad singer! If he sings lead on a Beatles song, I always fast-forward though it, but he doesn’t have enough songs on record for that to be my main problem with him. The other Beatles knew he wasn’t a singer or a songwriter…they knew it. We all know it.

My annoyance with Ringo grew over the years. My annoyance has been well documented. That annoyance thawed whenever I watched the 78 hour Hulu documentary a few months back. It showed him as kind and compassionate. He was there for everyone. He was funny without being constantly annoying like John. John tried way too hard. Ringo got to the sessions on time and listened. It was clear that Ringo wasn’t the problem.

I first made stickers as a way to formally (I guess that’s formal) apologize to the man. I’m not sure if he saw them. When I started playing around with sticky tape and paper for collages, I noticed a book of Beatles pictures in the corner of my upstairs room. I ripped out all of the Ringo images I could find and started folding him into my collage work. Although I was kind of honoring the man with my collages, I still felt inclined to take small jabs at him. If I know anything about Ringo, I think he could take it. I think he might even join in. I’m sure he’d toss up a peace sign. But yeah, it’s fair to say he truly knows nothing about cephalopods.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

How to Make Money with Mail-Art

 I hate it when mail gets returned to me. It doesn’t happen every week but I’d say about once every other week. Considering the volume of mail, I send out, it’s not surprising that some comes back. Maybe 1/25 comes back. They come back because of a long list of reasons, most notably someone has moved. At least I think that’s the main one. I can also put in the wrong address, which happens a lot. One illegible number and it doesn’t hit its mark. Printing a “one” in the European fashion is a must. Who knows how many are lost in mail purgatory forever!

For four or five years I’ve collected all of my returned mail in one large plastic bin. There’s a lot in there, maybe one hundred items. Each one was at least 58 cents to send, sometimes $1.30 and sometimes packages make their way back. It adds up! My policy is to keep them. I’m not going to try and send them back to the person that was initially supposed to receive them. Returned items become mine. I don’t open them I just put them in the plastic bin. 

Returned From Germany
Quite often they return with fun stickers from around the world, often in foreign languages. I’ve scanned and then printed some of these stickers to use in my own work. Basically me and a foreign post office are collaborating on a project they have no idea about. Hell, it’s easier to get unknowing foreign post offices to come together on a project than other mail-artists. Some of the envelopes look amazing. Amazing enough that I decided to put the more interesting ones in plastic and collect them in a binder. The ones that have the most additions to them are my favorites by far. Who knows what’s in there, but they sure are pretty.

Picking my favorites for the binder leaves a lot leftover. I already have too many plastic bins filled with mail-art and shelves filled with special collections, another project that could go on forever isn’t needed. One day, while uploading images of thrifted t-shirts to sell on eBay, I got an idea. Why not sale some of my returned mail? 

Returned from Japan
If you’ve been around mail-art for more than a couple years, you’ll have a response to the idea of selling mail-art. The original tenants of this non-exclusive club says you should not sale mail-art. “Send as good as you receive” but “don’t sale.” For most of us this isn’t much of a problem because there’s no market to sell to.

As I’ve dug deeper into the network a few names popped up that that were able to sale their work. Being an interested person, one who likes to write and mildly investigate from his work desk, I wrote a thing about this a couple years ago. I asked questions to a few folks and wrote up a big thing about it all, something like this. There was no value judgement in them selling, I just wanted to think through mail-art maxims. Not to ruffle any feathers, or to hurt anyone’s chances on the open market, I never posted my hastily constructed story. 

Returned from Germany
Sale or not, I don’t care. Right now you can get some Al Ackerman stuff on EBay for next to nothing. I’m not bidding, but you could if that was something you were interested in.

I have no cache in the mail-art world. There’s no market for anything I make. I find it difficult to even give away things I make. No one is interested, and that’s fine…most of the time. When you’re proud of something you’ve made and no one cares, that sucks. That takes the wind out of the sails for a short period. So…you take the thing and put it on an ever growing stack of past creations. Stickers, people always like stickers. Make a sticker and people will seem interested.

Because no one is interested in my free works, I decided to sale some of my returned mail on eBay. You know, establish my real worth on the open market place. After hanging out in thrift stores for the past twenty years, I’ve come to learn that idiots will buy anything. Why not get an idiot to buy something I made?

I posted four different envelopes that had gone to another country and returned. I put the initial bidding price as $1.30 and the shipping as $1.30. One for the stamp that was initially used and one or the second stamp. Clearly, I was doing a thing. Clearly I was trying to illicit a response from people. Unfortunately, like usual, whenever you get excited about something and think it’s an original idea that might get a conversation going, it doesn’t go that far. I was convinced that my wittiness would be met with overwhelming praise but only a handful of people seemed to realize that it was all a type of bullshit performance.

Of course Richard C. in Illinois got it. He wrote through he IUOMA website, “28.03.21 Dare Mister Jon Foster & Mister Adam R., ....I think it was the mail artist Lon Spiegelman who stated eons ago that "Money & Mail-Art don't mix." ---but I in turn ask: Does that mean it is worthless or priceless???   (Not to mention that I highly value my meager collection of Spiegelman [as well as my equally valued Foster & R. collections]). ......................I've often thought that a "Mail-Art" subscription service was a practical solution to any & all that might wish to be involved in mail art (each mail artist setting his & or her rules for involvement [well, maybe a standard agreement might work]). .... & I've tried it, but only as a result of a charitable contribution on my part with no reimbursements coming my way.  I suspect that I'm not really confident of any sustained interest in my offerings & also, my lack of entrepreneurial skills are the reasons I haven't pursued this notion. SinCelery, Richard Canard ......Post Scriptum: Go, Jon, Go!!!

Adam R. in Minnesota went a little further and actually bid on one envelope. He wrote, “I am definitely going to resell it Jon! We just need to drive the price up more in order to set a new industry standard for mail art sales, at the very least a standard that accommodates the current rate of inflation. I am going to sell it for a dollar more than whatever I purchase it for though l, because well, i am only in it for the money anyways!” As the kids say, Adam got the assignment. In the end, Adam ended up winning that one bid at $1.80. He had a mild bidding war going with one other person that caused the price to rise slightly. A few days after that initial bid he bid on the other three I posted. Guess what, he won all four bids. His bill came to a little over five dollars, excluding shipping which was $1.30 on each piece. So, for less than $14.00, including shipping, he got all four returned pieces of mail. He has no idea what’s inside.

Of course it wasn’t $14.00 profit for me. I had to mail all four of them to Adam at a combined rate of almost five dollars. I tossed in a few other things to make it worth his time. I also had the eBay fees that took money right off the top. If I wanted to, I could also could subtract the revenue lost on the initial postage for each envelope. In reality, I ended up making one or two dollars on the whole thing. This “profit” confirmed one thing about mail-art to me, you can get rich!

Money, Money, Money. Don't worry, he paid.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

I'm A Serious Collage Artist Now!

 I have no proper art education, either in history or application. I learned about DADA by writing about poetry. From that the world opened up and I’ve tried to make connections ever since. As for proper background, training as it were, in the physical creation of “art,” …nothing. I doodled as a kid. Finding out about DADA mixed with the D.I.Y. ethic of punk rock, inspired me to create stuff without any expectation. The work you create is because you saw something through, because you had an idea and now a thing exists. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, it probably isn’t.

An Ode To Japanese Copiers

Miles Davis and a "dancer"

It took a couple of years of swimming in the mail-art network before I stumbled across the tape-rip method. It just happened one day when I was playing with old magazines and tape. You know, making tape transfers and them putting them together over and over again. I loved doing this. I love doing this. Not only is the activity of creating fun, but I thought I was creating something unique. The process wasn’t new but it was new to me. This was my creation with minimal ingredients. It was my three chord punk rock song.

In my head I’ve wanted to expound my creating knowledge. I thought about going through some books about collage or painting or even drawing. I might have even bought a few at thrift stores. I’d thumb through them and that was pretty much it. Forcing a new technique didn’t work for me. If my process in creating collages or broadsides or board books changed, it happened over time. A small impulse would bring about a massive change, months later. Cut out six months of discovery and compare the old with the new, and clearly something changed. Without consciously saying “I’m going to do something different,” I ended up doing something different. No reason to force it. I’m playing the long game here. I’m not going to stop making my “three-chord images” anytime soon, even if only a handful of people care about them. I have no ambition except to make the next thing.

Let’s back up. On social media I’d see artist after artist sharing their collages. A lot of these fall into specific categories. I’ve made things for long enough that I can identify their source material and technique quickly. The most “ordered” of these paper collages were interesting to me. I could see how they came together, I knew where they got their materials, and could even understand their thought process, but I couldn’t imitate them. Here I was slightly ambitious. I challenged myself to work solely with paper to create a slick collage that someone would charge hundreds of dollars for. Can you believe that? People actually get that much for a collage. Send me your address I’ll mail you one for free. 

Throat punch!

MeeMaw Hanging with Communists


My paper collages sucked for years. They were always too linear. Being too linear is always my problem. Nothing came together until very recently when I felt like a had breakthrough. I made a large stack of tape collages and then sitting beside of those, I had an equally large pile of paper ones. It just happened. I kind of cheated since I used tape…sort of.

Every once in a while I’d run across leftover industrial materials, stuff from stores. You know, long rolls of stickers that stores put prices on? I put a bunch of those together and then stuck bits of paper to them. Gluing them together never made sense, taping them down…did. I cheated. Tape forever! Using old paper ripped from free books gave the collages that “professional” look. Not sure how to describe what I mean by “professional.” Uh, the look of the collage big-shots (I guess that’s a thing) who’s stuff ends up in important places. Important places like sandwich shops in Brooklyn. Clearly I don’t have the language to describe the “nice” paper collages I see online, stuff that could have easily been done over 100 years ago. Braque, Hoch, etc. I did a pile of these really quick and I think they’re pretty cool. I’m going to make a bunch more in a similar fashion and then I’ll work to making them more in my style. There needs to be a snarky joke in there somewhere. These are too serious, too direct, too unambiguous. I’ll fix that. Confusion is next! 

The family doing ATM.