It’s been a long time since physical mail like handwritten letters and postcards have reigned supreme, but luckily there’s one group in town willing to give the post office their stamp of approval.
The Portland Correspondence Co-op is a group that embraces correspondence art in the tradition of pioneers like Ray Johnson and Anna Banana. Their do-it-yourself snail mail includes writing, drawing, collage, rubber stamps, faux postage, typography and anything else you can think of.
“Mail art is a uniquely democratic art form,” said Niko Courtelis the founder of PDXCC. “There are no rules, and anything goes as long as it goes through the mail.”
The Portland chapter of the Correspondence Co-op was recently established by Courtelis, with the help of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. The PDXCC establishes a network between Portland and San Francisco, where the founding branch of the co-op is located.
Pollyanne Birge, executive director of the IPRC, said that the IPRC supplies writers and artists a dynamic workspace complete with silk screens, letterpresses and five computers loaded with Adobe Suite 6. These tools give creators the bookends of publishing technology.
When Courtelis first approached the IPRC, the organization was excited.
“One thing I do is send a lot of real snail mail to real people,” Birge said. “We are utilizing a form that is outdated. Exactly the kind of communication that we need.”
Personalization is one of the key goals in correspondence art. No two letters look the same. Each letter has a personality.
“I have always enjoyed snail mail and was delighted to find this way to meld so many of my interests—drawing, painting, paper craft, correspondence and design,” said Marion Kessler, co-founder of the PDXCC.
Kessler said that she felt strongly about the value of collaborative creativity, that she wanted to start a group for creative work which would reach outside the group itself and spread joy and energy into the world. The PDXCC fits her vision perfectly.
Kessler’s passion for the power of written correspondence was recently renewed upon discovering a collection of postcards and letters that her mother had sent when she was living in England in the late 1980s. Her mother included small drawings and purchased specific stamps, bringing her memories of England to life.
PDXCC meets every third Tuesday at the IPRC. Basic materials are on hand, such as scissors, glue sticks and envelopes. A-Z Engravings, a local rubber stamp company, gives PDXCC members a discount. Fort George Brewery has supplied beer in the past.
“Our mantra is: Meet. Make. Mail,” Courtelis said.