Friday, May 13, 2011

Making Envelopes from Recycled Art

Someone complimented me today on the envelope I sent something in. Aha!, methought, perhaps my peeps would like a blink into my world of recycled art envelopes.

Before the internet took over the world, with email, social networks, e-cards, twitter, and the like, we actually sent cards and letters to each other. Amazing.  Yes, it was slower, costlier, and more tedious, but it also gave one an excellent opportunity to be creative.

Since I love looking at art, browsing through art magazines, saving picture of art, buying art calendars.... I couldn't bear to throw the wonderful images away after I was finished with them.  And because I was trying to recycle more and buy less paper, I made a vow that I wouldn't buy any more wrapping paper - ever - nor any envelopes.

So I began saving everything that could become wrapping paper (used up maps, foil from candy boxes, test runs of my designs, etc.)  I have three drawers of wrapping goodies in the laundry room.  I haven't bought wrapping paper in about ten years now.

The envelopes were even more fun.  Years ago, everything I sent out was in one of my special envelopes.  My children's orthodontist used to save the envelopes I sent with payments (before online banking) on his office wall.  Friends would come over and ask if they could look through my stash and find a nice one to send something special in.  It was a fun, absorbing activity. Here is a tiny sample of my envelope stash:

To make your own envelopes out of magazine art, you should first look at the image and then build the envelope around it.  I find that an oblong style works best.  Envelopes made with triangular flaps for the back often don't fit well when you have a narrative image.

It is helpful to first look up the sizes of standard envelopes, cut out a cardboard template of that size rectangle, and keep envelopes of various types separated by size.


Note that there is a minimum and maximum size the post office will take, so don't  make cute little ones and expect to mail things in them.  Those are for gift cards.

Look at your image, place your cardboard rectangle (template) over the part you want to be the front, and fold the paper around it.  Now you can see what the front of your envelope will be.  Next, fold the rest of your paper into an envelope shape and cut off any overlap.  (I am not giving you a particular template because there are many ways to fold paper into an envelope.  Be inventive. )

Some tips:  
  • Look at the image and think of the main thing you want showing.  Everything revolves around that.  The size of the envelope you can make depends more on whether you can place your main image in the space than on the size of the paper you are using.
  • Don't put anything important in the upper right or it will be covered by the stamp.
  • Remember that your address label (and yes, you do want to use one for readability) will go in the lower center.  Think of what it will cover and plan accordingly.
  • Avoid using magazine photographs. They will look too much like junk mail and people throw them out without opening.  Reproductions of original artwork works best.
  • If you want to use a nude, make sure the wobbly bits will be off the front or covered by the address label.  Many of these special envelopes are hand stamped and there are some prudes out there who might not think that flesh is appropriate to send in the mail.
  • Make sure that it doesn't look like junk mail.  Try to keep words and letters off the envelope, at least off the front.  I have made many an envelope smaller to avoid having words show.
  • Don't use wet glue; it will warp the paper. Tape is better.  But everything dries over time so I prefer leaving my envelopes naked and taping them up only when I'm ready to use them.  Some of them sit in my drawer a long time.
  • Unless it is a very large envelope, don't put a return address label on the front.  It takes away from your image, looks messy, and is less readable.  Put the return address on the back of the envelope.

Have fun!

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