Postcards - A Recipe
For the last couple of weeks, I've fallen into a bit of an analog art hole (#TitleOfMySextape) and didn't do a whole lot of digital art stuff. Instead, I started doing more watercolor stickers, which I really like but have zero idea how to price or market, and then when I stumbled on a super-cheap glass plate at Carla, I got back to doing something I loved to do back in school: Monotypes!
Looking back, it's not really surprising how hard I fell for monotypes back when my arts teacher showed it to us the first time: It's a technique that combines artistic intention and skill with, well, a certain amount of physical unpredictability and randomness. It's kinda like traditional media glitchart. It even has that "You're using tools wrong." feel, I mean, a non-reproducible printmaking technique? Drawing, but in a super-round-about way? Painting, but evil?
It's very me.
So I did that a lot and after I had the basic technique figured out again, I figured ... I can make stickers with this, right? Of course I can! It's a messy process and there's still a lot of things that could be improved: For example, while I have shifted from masking tape towards using a mask for monotypes-on-stickerpaper, which means less danger of ripping the paper, positioning the sheet on the mask is still extremely annoying, But still, it's fun and I like quite a few of the results. (It's a bit like I do my glitchart: Throwing loads of stuff at the proverbial wall and seeing what sticks,)
But aaaaaaanyway, this blog post is not actually about any of that. Or at least only marginally, It's about something that has been bothering me for a while and that I have now found a solution for that I like:
For context: I have a deep and abiding appreciation for all things analog and postal: Letters, postcards, the act of sending physical objects around the world, imagining them being handed over from post company to post company and person to person, ...
It fucking rocks!
Now, obviously I'm also a very digital person (#TerminallyOnline), but the internet can't replace the postal service, it just can't. (Miss me with digital postcards and NFT stamps, I hate it and everybody who thought that was a valid way for the post office to stay relevent in the 21st century.) So basically since I started doing glitchart and the whole wider glitchart-but-as-physical-artifact project of Glitchbooks, I looked at letters and postcards and how I can put my stuff on there.
And, in a way,it's super easy ... and super hard. Getting postcards printed is as easy as googling "custom postcards" and finding the nearest printer that doesn't look overly sketchy. They are, generally, pretty cheap, pretty ok quality and absurdly fast, really. I mean, for less than 40ct a piece I can order 300 professionally printed postcards and have them delivered in less than a week. That's, actually, kinda bonkers, when you think about it.
Buuuuut, it comes with a couple of issues: All those postcards would have the same motive on them. Wanna do another design? That's another order. Wanna do 300 different postcards? Better go to moo.com and be willing to spend much more than that. (Never mind that either method needs a substantial up-front investment.) That was, for the most part, never really an option.
So that left doing my own postcards, which comes with a different set of issues. Foremost, the question of material. To actually work as a postcard, ie. both fulfill the emotional, haptic role and the purely functional of "survives transport", a postcard needs to be thick and tough enough. Most postcards you find out there will have paper weights between 250g and 350g per square meter and most are foiled/laminated/laquered on top of that. Getting something like that through most home printers is somewhere between difficult and impossible. (Mine can theoretically do 200g, but for the most part tops out at 160g.) Even the professional laser printers you find in copyshops tend to struggle with paper above 300g, if they take it at all.
So the longest time I had just ... kinda given up on making glitchy postcards.
Bookbinding to the rescue!
Oh, yeah, have I mentioned that I started bookbinding again? Because I'm bookbinding again!
Powered by Youtube, a laser printer and a slighty manic hyperfocus, I bound two A6 notebooks and rebound a shitty paperback into a shitty hardcover booksafe. It was fun and I plan to do more of that in the future. (Update: Since I originally started writing this post I've done more: I've printed and bound "Queer Ultraviolence", an anthology collecting texts around the BashBack! movement of queer insurrectionary anarchism.)
One neat side effect of that episode was that I found my current favorite of book structures, the Sewn-Board-Binding, which is pretty easy and fun, makes a nice and durable-enough book ... and whose cover construction can be adapted to make a pretty solid, tough and remarkably professional looking postcard!
So, without further ado, I present you:
The Postcard Recipe
Ingredients: (Makes 1 A6 postcard with bits left over)
- 1 piece of scrap cardstock, like from a cereal box, at least A6
- 1 sheet of thicker A4 paper, like 160g or so
- 1 A4 sheet of the kind of paper you want on the outside of your postcard
- Something to cut paper with
- Glue of some kind
- The digital template I made
- a printer
Preparing the Ingredients:
- Cut an A6-sized (148x105 mm) piece out of the cardboard. I recommend a box cutter, ruler and a cutting mat for this step, but you can also do it with scissors.
- Cut the thicker A4 sheet in half, parallel to the short side, to get two A5 sheets. Put one aside and fold the other in the middle, again parallel to its short side, to get an A6-sized piece.
- (Optionally) Print the template on the A4 sheet you intend for the outside of your postcard. Be careful to deactivate scaling in the options of your printer and center the printout on the paper, or you'll probably have to cut the other ingredients down in size as well. (And you'll get a smaller postcard.)
Assembling the core:
- Lightly spread a line of glue along the inner fold of the folded piece of paper.
- Insert the cardboard piece into the fold, folding the card over so that it's "sandwiched" in the thinner paper and smooth the fold a bit so the glue spreads inside.
- Trim the edges half a mm or so, if the cardboard hangs out or is otherwise less than neat.
Preparing the covering:
(If using the Template)
- Cut out the two pieces of covering from the printout. You want to cut just inside the black areas, so that the finished pieaces do not have any black edges. The result should be the address part, which is a bit smaller than A6, and the front part which is larger, with tapered "wings" on four sides.
- (Optionally) Pre-crease the fold lines of the wings a bit, remembering that they will fold away from the part that will end as the outside cover. (So if the piece is "image down", fold "upwards".)
(If using some other paper)
- Decide which part of the page will be the front and which will be the "back" (ie the part where you generally write any messages and the address and so on). You'll probably want some sort of image or nice paper design on the front part and the back part should probably be blank-ish, but you do you.
- Cut a rectangular piece of paper down to 147x104mm (ie. just a bit smaller than A6), this will be your "back".
- Cut a rectangular piece from the paper for the front that is A6 + 1cm or so on each side, so 168x125mm or something in that area. If you want some kind of motive there, make sure that it's nice and centered, otherwise it will look weird when finished.
- Put that piece image down in fron of you and place the core centered on there. Trace it with a pencil and put the core aside again.
- Cut the corners of the paper at a 45° angle, a mm or two away from the corners of the core you traced earlier. This should leave you with four "wings" you can then fold back. (ie. away from the image/motive.)
Assembling the postcard itself:
If you did everything right, you should now have the core (a three layer sandwich of paper and cardstock) a front piece (bigger, with corners cut off) and a back piece. (Smaller, no cut corners)
- Lightly glue the edges of one side of the core, just like a 5mm or so line alone all the edges. (This is neatest with a brush and some PVA, but any glue works, really.) Don't worry about getting perfect coverage, this step is actually mostly optional and just helps to hold the core in place when you glue the flaps.
- Place the front piece image-down on your work surface and glue the core at the center of it. This part is a bit fiddly but try to make sure that you have a mm or so on all sides towards the cut corners or the core will show at the edges. Press down and smooth everything out, waiting a minute or so for everything to stick.
- Now, pre-fold back the flaps/wings so that they "hug" the core and then unfold everythin again.
- Lightly glue the flaps and fold them back over the core, smoothing any wrinkles or airbubbles out with your finger or bone folder. You'll probably want to do opposite sides first instead of going around. (Makes it look neater.)
- Take the "back" piece and again lightly glue a thin strip around the edges, 5mm in or so. This is the part where you actually want perfect coverage, because otherwhise unglued parts of the piece can catch on something in transit, tearing the whole thing.
- Glue the pack piece onto the core, covering the glued down flaps and smooth out any bubbles and wrinkles.
- (Optionally) Put the whole thing between two sheets of baking paper and put some books on top of it as it dries. Because we only ever glued on the edges this is not strictly necessary, as there should be only minimal warping, but it does make it look neater.
Aaaaaaand that's it, once everything is dry you're finished and you now have neat-looking, sturdy and haptically satisfying postcard to send out into the world.
Variations and further ideas:
While the results of this guide should be a perfectly cromulent postcard, there of course various different ways to do this, so here are some ideas and thoughts on varying things a bit:
- No (constructed) core:
The idea behind the sandwiched core is that you can use pretty much any kind of scrap cardboard you might have lying around somewhere. If you want, tho, you could use book board or similar thicker cardboard, if you already have it or want to buy some. Just keep it under 2 mm thickness and it should be fine.
- Small hidden surprises
If you follow this guide, your postcard will be a bit ... hollow. Since the "back" is only "tipped on", ie. adhered only on the edges, the space between the core and the back is empty and thus ... could be filled with stuff. Not much, maybe some stickers or a bit of glitter, but maybe you think of something fun to put there.
(Similarly, if you're into hidden messages and/or destructive deconstruction of postcards, the core also has substantual non-adhesive-filled areas that could serve as place to put hide small stuff.)
- No Pillows, No Surprises!
The opposite of variant 2, instead of tipping things on you could glue everything all the way. If you spread glues on all the flat areas (the backside of "front" and "back", the inner parts of the core, etc.) then the end result will be a stiffer card with a more "solid", less "pillowy" feel to it.
But, depending on your paper and cardboard choices you might experience warping as expanding/contracting papers pull the core out of its neutral flat state. If you wanna try this, I highly recommend letting the card dry under weight, which should help control the worst of it. Just put it between some baking sheets and slap some textbooks on it over night.
A note on my template:
The template comes as a zip file with a couple of different files. Two are pdfs: One is a blank template, useful if you want a blank postcard or want to draw your own motive on the front. The other is a glitchart motive I've been using. Then there is a folder with the Scribus files for the blank template. If you want to switch out the design, just put your own image into the Image Frame.
All of the files and the text of this recipe is available under a Creative-Commons-Attribution-ShareAlike license.
Ping me, if you do anything fun with it,