Illustration of a white bunny peeking out from behind the front of a stamped and addressed envelope with a black moon snail shell in front. Text reads Enveloped mail art exchange in a modern yet retro sans serif font in black.

Stay Home, Make Art, Together + Apart

United Aunties invites you to be part of a new mail art project to foster community connection through collaborative art-making and sharing.

This past year has been bewildering for so many. We recognize how truly demanding it has been in our personal circles and broader communities and that 2021 carries much uncertainty as we all contend with residual challenges and undertake new ones this season.

As sheltering-in-place continues, and as our market remains on a temporary pause, we have been asking ourselves how we might help carve out small but poignant moments of connection with one another. This project offers a chance for just that—some joyful community kinship and collaboration in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland (BC). At the heart of it: Two strangers create art together, as a call and response, while distanced.

How Enveloped works:

1. Complete the participant sign up form below.

We have spots for 50 people to participate in this collaboration and welcome folks from all walks of life to participate. You do not need to be a professional artist in order to take part!

If you channel the auntie spirit of care, wisdom, skill, and guts, and are aligned with the justice and liberation movements we are committed to (read more about the auntie spirit and our solidarity statement on our homepage), then we invite you to apply.

Please note that spots are limited, with priority given for community members in the Lower Mainland. Selected participants will receive an email confirmation from us.

2. If selected, you will receive a mail art package at no cost to you.

It will contain:

  • A blank 5 inch x 7 inch watercolour card;
  • Instructions on how to participate, including the artwork theme and suggested prompts;
  • A self-addressed stamped envelope to mail your completed piece back to United Aunties in Vancouver’s Chinatown;
  • A special 1.5 inch white rabbit candy pin*

3. Create your mail art!

Design a two-dimensional visual or text-based artwork — including, but not limited to, drawing, illustration, painting, poetry/prose, collage, photography, printmaking, or embroidery. There aren’t many rules to this mail art exchange but we’ve designed two guidelines to help give the project some structure:

A) Call and Response Collaboration

‘Call and Response’ is an idea that comes historically from music. It’s a compositional technique that works much like a conversation.

In the case of this project, the first person completes their artwork (Call), and returns it to United Aunties. We then forward it without any identifiable information in a package to the second person, who responds by taking inspiration from elements or ideas found in the first person’s work (Response). As people sign up to participate, they will be randomly assigned to be a ‘Call’ or a ‘Response’.

Need some examples? See highlights from the ongoing mail art project between Clare Yow (United Aunties creator) with German artist Lena Oehmsen here and here.

B) Artwork Theme

We ask that artworks revolve around a theme of IMAGINING NEW WORLDS OR ERAS. We’re thinking of ideas around solidarity, nourishment, care, rest, transformation, ancestors and descendants, the land, and the ‘year of the ox,’ for instance. You are welcome to be as abstract or specific as you like in your interpretation of the theme!

4. Mail your card back to Aunties.

A self-addressed and stamped envelope is already included (but please add more postage if you’ve added heavier elements to the card). You’ll ideally mail the completed piece(s)—either the call, or the call and response as applicable—back to us within a month of receiving your package so that we can keep this exchange going!

5. Follow along at @unitedaunties.

We hope to start sharing completed pieces by spring 2021 on our Instagram account. Every call and response pairing will be published alongside each other (see Privacy Guidelines below for details on confidentiality).

Privacy Guidelines:
United Aunties is committed to protecting the privacy and security of all individuals who engage with us.

– Your personal information (name and contact information) will be kept completely confidential: your email will only be used for the purposes of United Aunties communicating directly with you (or through a BCC email), and your address will only be used to mail the package to you.
– The card for your art piece will not have any identifiable information other than a code on one side, for administrative purposes.
– (Optional) If you consent to being identified as part of this project by name and/or Instagram handle, you may opt-in on the participant sign up form below. By default, your identity will remain strictly confidential.

Please reach out if you have any questions about this project:

*All Enveloped participants will receive a special 1.5 inch white rabbit candy pin. What’s the story behind it?

The white rabbit candy is iconically and nostalgically significant to the mainland and overseas Chinese community since its creation in 1943. After collecting its wrapper on and off for a few years and noticing the artist’s paint palette on it (curious! but love it), it seemed fitting to turn the wrappers into a little token of our appreciation for project participants.

Creating and sending physical mail is one of our absolute passions so we wanted to build a community project around it. We love the contrast of the image of a speedy white rabbit—like from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland—with the concept of slowing down, making art, and sending good ol’ fashioned mail.

Thank you to the Chinatown-based Vancouver Artists Labour Union Cooperative for creating these pins for us!