Mail Art with a Heart


The South Gallery of the Museum is bursting with correspondence from the collection of Stuart Copans and friends. For decades, Copans has been exchanging images, ideas, and objects with fellow artists and conspirators through the U.S. mail. Sometimes, he’ll start a conversation by placing this little guy in a section of a blank sheet of paper, giving him a speech bubble with an open-ended query. He’ll seal the letter and let the addressee fill in a response or follow-up question and send it back through the mail.


Create your own character and let it voice your cares, hopes and dreams.

Sometimes he’ll start an exchange with an artist using a simple postcard format:




Or fold a half sheet of paper accordion-style, fill in the first page with an image or a prompt and send it out for a response:



Local postal workers have gotten used to seeing the non-standard-sized (or -shaped) mailings that bear Copans’ Brattleboro address.

Chuck Welch, curator of Postcards to Brattleboro: 40 Years of Mail Art” and a fellow mail artist, explains:

Stuart Copans’ postcards and philatelic “first-day covers” are festooned with rubber stamps, whimsical doodles, eloquent cut-outs, drawings on birch bark, poems, ditties, and Rorschach-like silhouettes, cut with fantastic agility and speed. All of Copans’ mail art appears under the mysterious pseudonym “Shmuel,” a name that has come to personify something beautiful, weird, and unexpected. For nearly fifty years, recipients have welcomed Shmuel’s sendings in anticipation of objects that are fascinating, intriguing, mysterious, provocative, and humorous. Opening his mail is always an event!


Start a mail art exchange with a friend 

Make your own “rubber” stamp to jazz up the page. You can buy “fun foam” sheets at the Dollar Store, cut out a design and glue it to a block of wood, a big plastic lid, or sturdy cardboard to make your stamp. Remember that images will be reversed when you print them, so make sure you flip any letters.

Brighten up someone’s day with some mail art of your own. Since the postal carriers are already doing heroic work these days, let’s not add to their burden by sending stamped coconuts or individual pistachios through the system, but here’s a fun paper fold that you can place in a standard-sized envelope and pop in the mail.

And if you’d like to send a note of cheer but don’t have someone in mind, send your arty mail to me and I’ll make a special delivery to local folks at area senior residences to brighten up their days.

Linda Whelihan
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
10 Vernon Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

While you’re working on your art-full post, click on any of these links for some letter-themed background music. 

The Box Tops – The Letter
RB Greaves -Take A Letter Maria
REO Speedwagon – In Your Letter
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Love Letter

Sending you lots of love and looking forward to seeing you in the galleries!