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Paper Crafting and Mail Art in One: Try Making Decos!

Updated on July 25, 2018
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Katharine has loved paper crafts and collage since her teenage years and enjoys mail art exchanges.

Make A Beautiful Deco

Asian themed deco
Asian themed deco | Source

A Unique Form of Mail Art

It is astonishing how many people, even experienced paper crafters, have never heard of decos. "Deco" is short for "decorate" which is what you do on the pages of the deco! These fun little booklets are a joy to create and are suitable for the beginner as well as those experienced in collage and paper crafts. Anyone who enjoys paper crafting and would like to try something unique and versatile should try making this fun form of mail art!

What Is Mail Art Anyway?

Mail art is basically any form of physical art that you can put in the mail! It is meant to be shared with others, and mail artists the world over participate in regular "swaps". Any form of paper crafting is perfect for mail art. An artist simply creates a piece of art and mails it to another artist... as a gift! Of course, you can expect to receive many beautiful works of art from the community of artists that you will develop as well. Imagine the ideas for artwork creations that can come out of art work sent to you through the mail! Not to mention the joy of getting something lovely delivered to your mailbox.

Asian Themed Deco

Collage Deco
Collage Deco | Source

What Exactly Are Decos?

Decos are small booklets of stiff paper or card stock made in a small size, normally between a small index card size and a large index card size. They can be square or rectangle or any other shape, for that matter. There are usually 3 to 5 pages (6 to 10 total sides) in the booklet. The booklet is constructed by binding the pages together in the manner desired. For example, bind simply with a decorative brad (these come in all sorts of varieties!) and fasten the pages in one corner. Holes could be punched along one side and yarn, ribbon or even grasses meant for basket weaving may be used to lace the booklet together. Any creative way that can be found to hold the pages together is allowed, but it's important not to make a binding such that it is difficult to hold the booklet open and decorate a page.

Some Examples of Deco Bindings

Deco bound with grass fibers
Deco bound with grass fibers | Source

Letter C Themed Deco (above)

The deco above is bound along the edge with weaving grasses and a piece of blue tie. Below is a deco bound in the upper left corner with yarn and tassled fibers.

Un-themed Collage Deco

Deco bound with soft fibers
Deco bound with soft fibers | Source

The pages are decorated, often in a particular theme, using all sorts of crafting and collage medium. Some of these are: paint pens, stickers, rubber stamps, stencils, buttons, glitter pens, confetti cut in unusual shapes, sequins, recycled bits of paper and other materials. A background paper may be used if desired.

The fun part is using ephemera that are found everywhere to embellish the page. It could be a colorful candy wrapper, or a fancy business card. Or how about some used postage stamps or one of those little envelopes that tea bags come in? A piece of a page torn out of an old dictionary (leave the edges ragged!) or an image from a magazine are more great ideas. The possibilities are endless! These are put together in more or less a collage fashion on the page and fastened with hard bonding or tacky glue, or a good glue gun.

Winter Themed Deco


How Are Decos Mail Art?

Here is the fun part about decos! They are actually a form of mail art! The idea is that one person creates a deco, decorating the front page of the booklet and adding her information (email address, if preferred, or mailing address) on the inside cover (this page may be decorative too, or left plain). If the theme of the deco is unclear, or if a certain method of decorating the pages is preferred, this information may be added to the inside cover or attached with a sticky note to the back inside page of the booklet.

The deco creator sends her deco out to another person who does deco-ing. She decorates the next page in the booklet and sends it on to another deco-er, etc, until the booklet is full. Each person who does a page should include somewhere in the design or below it their name and state/country. They can also add an email address if space and design permits. Some deco makers attach their info on a little piece of card stock with a short length of ribbon or yarn to their page.

Vintage Themed Deco

Vintage deco
Vintage deco | Source

The last person decorates the back cover and sends it back to the original maker! (if the maker only included their email address, the last artist emails the maker for her address) It is true that they don't always make it back to their owner, but a surprising number do, especially if the deco-ers are experienced and well known to the creator. Once such a group of trusted deco-ers is built, it is simple to include a "flight list" on a sticky note as to who the deco should be sent to. If a deco-er doesn't know the address of anyone on the list, they may email the maker to obtain it.

Some More Examples of Mail Art

Where Do You Find Artists To Swap With?

Finding a network for swapping mail art isn't as hard as it may seem. Many lively deco-ing groups exist on Facebook (search for decos or mail art) and Twitter. Sometimes organized swaps are done, or a group can be a resource for finding people to send private swaps to. After a while it becomes apparent who are reliable swappers and do excellent work, and swaps can be kept to members of this list of deco-ers. It is up to the creator if she wishes her deco to remain in the country where she lives (faster return time) or if she's willing to have it mailed overseas. Once resource not to be missed for anyone interested in mail art is the International Union of Mail Artists, where you are sure to find swap partners too. It can be fascinating and uplifting to receive home a completed deco with art from crafters around the world!

Cats Deco


Where to Find Paper Crafting Materials

Of course, hobby shops such as Micheal's, AC Moore and Hobby Lobby are terrific places to go to look for materials. Anything used by the scrap-booker will be well suited for deco makers. Browsing the aisles can be fun and doesn't have to be expensive, as many items used on decos come in larger quantities that will last for dozens of decos. Be sure to hit the Dollar Stores and Discount Stores too. Look for things like paper shape punchers, brads, dusting powders, fibers, paints. paint pens, rubber stamps, stencils, different kinds of paper, etc.

There are also online resources for obtaining deco-ing materials. One good place to look is .There are many merchants on etsy who sell all sorts of embellishments and ephemera for collage or scrapbooking that will work well. Pinterest is another great place to go for paper crafting resources, and check out public domain images, such as which features beautiful vintage postcards. Or, try a party store or an online shop like

Don't forget to keep your eyes open for ephemera you can use as you go about your daily life too! I've already mentioned teabag packets and stamps, but you can spot little items frequently that can be used for decos and paper art. Different kinds of paper that come in the mail, old books that you can tear words and paragraphs from, magazines, product labels, vintage items you might find in an antique shop such as postcards and old photos, anything you see that is interesting and can be attached to your deco!

Ideas: Materials for Paper Crafting

Letter G Themed Deco


Decos Are Beautiful Mail Art

The key is to get lots of decos circulating so that they will begin to trickle back in, one at a time. Once a fellow deco-er is trusted, it is fine to swap 3 or 5 decos at a time (sent in padded envelope to protect the art). Deco-ing is a great way to make new crafting/ artistic friends around the country or around the world. It is fun to exchange deco-ing materials with them as well, so that a good stock of unusual items can be built up.

It is wise to scan or photograph a deco before it is sent out, so that a visual record is kept. (that way if it doesn't make it back, at least you have the picture of your work!) Buy a few pretty decorative boxes like hatboxes or photos boxes to keep the decos in as they are returned home. They are beautiful to look at and can be preserved to show off to fellow art lovers.

Even a non-crafty person can manage to make a beautiful deco with a few interesting materials, some imagination and a little practise. Why not give it a try? Then log on to a facebook group and find someone to swap with! Good luck and happy deco-ing!

© 2016 Katharine L Sparrow


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