Mail-art: picturing kindness

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With everything going on in the world towards the end of last year, I got to thinking about kindness, and what it meant. Why did some people seem to have it in spades, while others could act with such coldness, such brutality, that surely all compassion, all empathy, must have been clinically removed from their souls? I find cruelty – not angry passion but callous cruelty – truly incomprehensible. 

In all this thinking, I started to wonder what “kindness” meant to people. Because I’m fairly sure that, aside from genuine psychopaths, the people who I believed were speaking or doing things of utmost horror probably believed that they were actually good people, at least some of the time. They are not all villains, retreating to their lairs and laughing “BWAHAHA” every time they commit an atrocity. Somewhere along the line, these human beings have either justified their actions due to their beliefs, or have become immune to the suffering of others, because the mind is frighteningly good at self preservation (and nobody wants to admit to themselves “I am evil.”).

I refuse to believe that that people are black to the core. Small-minded, intolerant, cruel, yes. But maybe not evil through and through? I don’t know. I hope not. If you think terrible things cannot be done within the pretext of noble intentions, just ask any religious extremist, ever. 

Where is the kindness in all this? How can a man murder in the morning and let the dog sleep on his lap in the evening? Torture someone one day, and buy his mother fudge the next? Show hatred to an entire race of human beings, but love his children? 

Mail-art isn’t going to solve any global or existential problems just yet, but this was all at the front of my mind as I was painting these envelopes, so I decided to follow it through. I did a Google image-search on the word “kindness” to see what other people saw in their minds when they heard that word. These envelopes are my interpretations of some of the images at the top of that search. 

What does kindness look like to you? What would you draw, if you got “kindness” in a game of Pictionary? 

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ps. If you’d like to make some mail-art of your own like this, my free monthly emails contain at least one printable envelope template per month, and instructions for you to personalise it and turn into your own mail-art. There are also other tips like letter-writing prompts and links for inspiration, and at the moment I’m sending my e-book, Making Mail: 10 steps to writing letters that become keepsakes, as a gift to everyone who subscribes. You can sign up on this page to be in time for the next email, if that sounds like something you’d like. 

Your comments make my day

  1. I’m so excited – I see mail for me!! :-)
    BTW, loved your huntsman story! As an exchange student in Australia, I had three run-ins with them that scarred me: 1) I stepped out of the shower (in the house!) to see one sitting atop my pile of clothes. 2) woke up in the early morning to see one on the wall six inches in front of my sleeping face. 3) sitting on a hotel bed, one ran across my hand. {shudder!!!}

  2. Oh Naomi, your post is so timely for me. Lately I have been reflecting on the fact that it’s almost a year since I lost my Uncle. Mum and I were his only family. And the things society seem to place value on; house, car, career status, possessions… These were of no interest to him. If I had to describe this man with just one word, it is kind. OH how he was kind. And every person he came into contact with in his life, would say the same word. Just last night I asked my son to tell me your top 3 things you love about certain people. His top value and favourite people all had “No.1” thing in common. “He/she is kind”. Your drawings capture it perfectly. I love every one of them. And thank you for sharing your illustrations for mail art with your newsletter subscribers, you could sell them, but you give them away for free. Because you are… Kind. X

    • Your uncle sounds like my kind of person. I’m so sorry you lost him, it sounds like the world is worse off without him. Isn’t it funny how when we give thought to it, we all value kindness so highly in others… and yet of all the things we strive for in ourselves (house, career status etc), it is often overlooked. x

  3. One kind word can change someones day – so this is me saying a big thank you for your lovely blog and to let you know I just received my postcard – yay!xx

  4. So wonderfully beautiful, Naomi! And timely too – tomorrow will be a sad day for many Americans as a new President takes office. Kindness has been in short supply here lately.

  5. Oh these are lovely..! I’m sure anyone will be happy to receive these in the mail, you can tell they’re full of kind thoughts.

  6. Naomi, you and your mail art are kindness personified! You make the world such a better place and brighten so many lives. I treasure the beautiful mail art you sent me.

  7. Hello Naomi, just love your blog and your art. My question is, what type of craft paper do you use for your envelopes? I have been everywhere and it is all too thin, especially to paint on. Help!

    • Hmm where are you from? Mine is pretty thin too, I just buy it from the post office or Officeworks. One tip I do have is that I paint on the rough underside of the paper, rather than the slightly-shiny “top” side. Another is that you could possibly line it with some decorative paper? That would make it decorative as well as more sturdy. I have hand-made envelopes from kraft paper quite a lot, but the envelopes you see in this picture are actually bought ones, that I found bulk and cheap online.

  8. I absolutely LOVE these!! Kindness is such a simple but absolutely earth shattering act!
    Your images are just beautiful.
    I thought I’d draw someone giving someone else a bunch of flowers… but it truly is deeper than giving – I think you nailed it! xx

  9. These envelopes are so lovely. And just think of all the people who will be cheered as they handle them from you to the recipient! This mail spreads kindness and joy far and wide.

  10. I totally LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing your world with me. I am always expanded. love, nancy