July 6, 2012

my REAL wall presents – The Portrait Room

Following the success of the 5 postcards show, I was asked by the head of the department I look after, Education to put up the postcards in one of our most prestigious rooms in the university, the Portrait Room for an Education department meeting.

Me and Sue were superbly excited by the chance to get that sort of exposure, as the whole department we work for would get a chance to see our project, a project we strongly believe in. So we took the postcards down from where they were in room 122 in the library, and moved them all across to the Portrait Room in the morning.

With 230 cards, we managed to fill the entire room, and it looked AMAZING.

So, with a real sense of accomplishment after spending the whole morning posting the postcards on the wall, we slipped off to lunch.

When we arrived back, we found that some jobsworth properties/estates person had removed all the cards. Apparently the building is a listed building and no blu-tac was allowed on the wood panelling. Hmmmm Thanks. We were going to take them down straight after the meeting. Now, with 20 minutes before the meeting started, we had the task of getting all 230 cards back on the windows, and the cards were now a mess.

We were fuming.

We did manage to do it with a few extra hands, but ultimately the effect was lost and we had to live with the postcards no longer having the impact we expected. Sue has a much more pragmatic attitude than I do (I just wanted to punch someone in the face) and assured me that the unexpected does happen and we need to accept these things sometimes. I still want to punch someone in the face.

The presentation went pretty well and some of the lecturers were really inspired by what we had to say about postcards in education, so we were grateful for the exposure even though some things did go wrong, but I guess that’s how it goes sometimes

June 27, 2012

REAL Social Networking – Your mailart needed for a BIG London showing! URGENT

I’ve been given a public space to display mailart at a new mail project that’s opened in the very centre of London. The project is called Welcome to Real, and bills itself as the physical first network to be run in the post. Regular readers of my REAL wall may have a little something to say about that…

my REAL wall - It's elementary you know

Anyway, the idea of this project, sponsored by Royal Mail, is that they have a public display space in a pretty prominent place in the centre of London and they are giving a number of lucky folk “plots”, which are little pieces of space to display stuff that is to be sent in by post. I’ve been given plot 45 to display in and I shall be running my REAL wall at that address until the end of the show, which runs til the 27th July.

I shall be doing a retrospective/live performance of my REAL wall, showing all the awesome stuff I’ve been sent over the years. You of course can take part and fill up my plot too mailartists and readers, just send all your mail to me this month at my plot address, which is…

my REAL wall, Plot 45, REAL, The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, 1-2 Royal Opera Arcade, London, SW1Y 4UY, UK

If you’ve sent to me in the past, keep your eyes on www.myrealwall.comand http://www.welcometoreal.co.uk/plot/plot-45/ to see if your post makes a reappearance and if you’re sending in you will definitely make an appearance!


June 27, 2012

my REAL wall presents… 5 Postcards exhibition, mailart call and website!

Regular readers of the blog will know that I like to mix business and pleasure and this week I was at it again. As you may know I work at the University of Roehampton as the e-learning advisor to the department of Education. Earlier this year, one of the lecturers in my department, Sue came to me and asked for a hand designing a reflective activity for her course.

The course was delivered to 2 sets of students – one set were leaving teaching, and the other set were entering teaching. The aim of the activity was to get students to think about their experience of school, and to reflect on how their school experience had influenced their lives.

Initially, being higher education, the assignment was a single 1000 word essay on an incident that happened to them that stood out from their school years, but Sue and I both realised that there was something not quite right about this activity.

So we sat down, thought through it and totally redesigned the activity. Instead of a wordy essay on a single incident, we opted to make postcard sized images representing 5 incidents from their school years, either as teachers or as pupils. The postcards were not assessed themselves, as that would have been unfair on the non-artists, but the students had to follow up the postcards with a 200 word writeup on each one.

Given the sensitive nature of the memories, we had to ensure that the students would feel safe to share their experiences and the use of images instead of words was one way that we achieved this. Using images the students were able to use icons and abstraction to build up their narrative, effectively telling their stories often without the need for words. Images were an excellent vehicle for expression of the emotive nature of these events.

In order to maintain this safety, we had another idea up our sleeves. When the students came in to the lesson, we had a postbox by the door and students dropped the cards into a postbox and went for coffee while Sue and I put the cards on the wall.

When they returned, they were told that if they wanted to share the story of their experience with the class they could come up, point to their card and tell the story. This way the students were able to abstain if they wished.

We heard some great stories, some really inspiring ones, some horrible stories and some totally unexpected ones too, like the one about the teacher who called his student Bob for a year.

Students fed back that this unusual activity was one of the most memorable and thought provoking activities that they had ever done.

The exhibition collected together all 230 postcards from all 46 students in both clases. I hand stamped all the labels and scanned each one personally and made them into a book too for the students to see.

The opening event in the library building was wonderful fun and was attended by teachers, teacher trainers and parents with their children as well as other members of the public and Sue provided the postcard-themed snacks and cakes.

Me and Sue are available for consultation on the use of postcards in teaching and learning, so if you are interested in using post in your classroom do get in touch and also check out my REAL wall’s educational offshoot Schoolswaps

This project was the most fun and thought-provoking educational project I’ve run this year, and we wanted to continue to investigate the 5 postcards experiences with YOU – the rest of the world. We couldn’t contain our excitement about it so we went out and bought www.5postcards.com and launch our first joint mailart call to the rest of the world.

The challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to illustrate 5 incidents that you can remember from school, using any media that you wish that will fit in the post 5 postcards. Once you’ve done this, just send them to us, either straight to the blog or in the post by going to this address http://5postcards.com/submit-your-5-postcards-here/ and we’ll share your 5 postcards with the world.

January 25, 2012

Plays the Thing postcard show in conjunction with Escape Artists


At the end of last year, I teamed up with a UK charity called Escape Artists, with whom I helped run a postcard show called “A good day looks like…”

The show was part of a conference called “Plays The Thing“, which was about exploring creative approaches to wellbeing, and so we asked for people to consider what a good day looked like in the spirit of exploring and expressing creatively what wellbeing meant to them.

This was a particularly interesting show for me, because among other things, Escape Artists do a lot of work with prisoners and young people, so this show had many contributions from people I don’t often see in my postbox.

Can you guess which ones were done by prisoners, which by children and which were done by mainstream artists?

I didn’t manage to get too many photos on the days the conference was on of the photos on display, but here are the 2 photos I took on my phone of all the postcards up on display at the conference

Another unofficial REAL wall (www.myrealwall.com) of post put... on Twitpic

My REAL wall put together with @escapeartists for #playstheth... on Twitpic

I’m looking forward to working more with Escape Artists in future and hope to use the post to bring people together, regardless of their backgrounds

All the images can be seen in all their glory on my flickr site, where I lovingly scanned and archived them. I’ll add descriptions when I get a chance.

January 13, 2012

my REAL wall presents…5 picture story

In my day job as an e-learning advisor at Roehampton university, my role is to advise lecturers on the best technology to use for teaching their subjects. Most the time this is something electronic, for example a forum or a blog, or a video camera, but sometimes the best technology is the most basic and I never draw the line at electronic learning tools.


This term I was asked by a lecturer to suggest the ideal tool for getting students to express their feelings about an event that happened to them at school when they were younger. I wanted for the students to be able to reflect on this experience and to use whatever they had to hand to express how the event made them feel, without fear of criticism.

For me, postcards have been an ideal vehicle for learning to express myself. The almost-anonymous nature of postcards (you choose whether to sign them or not) and the idea that the recipient is separated from us by time and distance has this effect of freeing the artist to express themselves in a way that real-time social media and face-to-face interactions can’t, yet it still reaches out and makes a connection. For some applications, like Postsecret, this is perfect, and so I decided to suggest postcards for this project.


The idea is for students to illustrate on 5 6×4 inch postcards an experience or series of experiences which happened to them in school that they can remember. After they have done so, they will send these images in to their lecturer and share the experiences if they wish.

This idea came from a lesson I taught while I was schools, and so I showed pictures from this to the students and postcards which have been sent by you to my REAL wall to illustrate what kinds of stories you could tell using the limited size of a postcard.

Uni talk

I volunteered to introduce the postcard picture story project to the students and on Tuesday and Thursday, I went in to the classroom to present to 2 sets of classes, starting with an introduction to my REAL wall and human-human communications in the digital age and moved on to tales of teaching from my past, finally ending up on the task at hand, which was the creation of the 5 picture stories.

The students were really excited at the prospect of sending post and the talks seemed to go down really well. I was asked by the students for some tips on how to get into sending post and I recommended Postcrossing as a good place to start as well as of course, looking on the sidebar of my REAL wall for some great postal folk. In addition, I’ve added a link to my article “How to make your mailbox more interesting” in the sidebar, so if anyone does want more than bills in their postbox next week, why not give it a read.


Looking forward to seeing what delights the students produce and if I get permission I will stick some of the best right up here on this site.

When I was at school, I used to love writing stories until the day that I wrote a literary criticism of Macbeth for English literature, in which I drew parallels with the Ninja clans of ancient Japan. My English teacher ripped it to pieces verbally and I never wrote again. Perhaps I’ll make a mailart piece about that some day…

July 5, 2011

My Extraordinary Imagination opens at The Penny School Gallery, Kingston

IYAF - My Extraordinary Imagination, on the walls of the Penny School Gallery in Kingston

On Wednesday 29th June, 2011 The Penny School Gallery in Kingston had a special preview of our postcard show, My Extraordinary Imagination as part of the Kingston International Youth Arts Festival. This show was the first to be put on with the educational wing of my REAL wall, which is called Schoolswaps.

The turnout was good, with invited guests from the local area including Robin Hutchinson, the director of Creative Arts, who are the lovely people responsible for putting on the Kingston International Youth Arts festival. He’s the one below gesturing, and he’s gesturing at Zoe Thomas, the person responsible for coming up with the idea of the show and getting the team together to make it happen with me, Andy Hoang of Schoolswaps.

Opening Night 3

The postcards were mounted on boards and hanging strings, roughly in age order around the gallery starting from the 4 year olds in one corner and going up in age to include some work from 17 year olds and included work from as far away as Australia, Germany and Korea among others. There are still artworks coming in to the IYAF offices every day, and the postbox remains open to entry for another week. We will try and get as many of the later entries on the wall as we can, but can’t promise anything. However, I’ve heard a rumour that there is interest from abroad to show the cards on a wall in another show, so watch this space!

For those of you not able to come to Kingston who have contributed from far off countries, I’ve taken quite a few pictures for you to see. OK, I got a little excited, and actually took a LOT of pictures for you to see, but with more than 600 cards on display, make sure that if you can get to the gallery you do, as this is by no means all of them!


And here’s me and Zoe with the address for you one more time…

My Extraordinary Imagination postcard at Kingston Penny School Gallery

June 30, 2011

IYAF mailart outside Kingston Market Square

Some of the received postards for the IYAF show, My Extraordinary Imagination, taking a tour around the historic town of Kingston upon Thames before going on display at the Penny School Gallery for the show, which runs from 1-18 July 2011.

The show was coordinated by IYAF in collaboration with my REAL wall‘s educational postcard offshoot Schoolswaps and has collected in over 600 postcards drawn by students all over the world.

Before going into the gallery, we thought it would be nice to show the postcards a little bit of the local area. Here they are briefly on display in Kingston Market Square, where there’s usually a fruit and veg market and some great food and entertainment.

We can see post here on the sign from Germany and the UK among others. If you took part in the show and sent us something can you see yours? If not, keep watching the site and maybe your piece will be up soon!

If you are aged under 26, and wondering how to get your mailart into the show it’s not too late to enter your piece! If you send it quickly to us we may be able to fit you in! Full details of how to get involved are at our website but do hurry as time is running out!

June 27, 2011

Mailart in AD Magazine, June 2011

AD Magazine is the official magazine of The National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD).

This month, issue 2 is out and my REAL wall makes an appearance, complete with a pic by me of Elena browsing some postcards!

The write up is by a student on the course and is about the mailart project I helped run in my university for the Art and Design secondary PGCE.

You can read more about the project here

(Apologies for the scan quality, I’ll try and get hold of a better one, this was sent to me by email and is horrible)

June 19, 2011

River Thames with IYAF postcards

Kingston upon Thames is the main town in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in London.

Having been sent over 400 postcards from all over the world, it seemed a little sad to just put them in a gallery, so here they are around town as a little preview of what’s going to be on display in the Penny School Gallery from July 1st to 18th, 2011

We also thought it would be nice for everyone who sent in to see a little of Kingston too, so what better way to show you both a preview of the postcards and a little of Kingston all in one go!

Here are your postcards next to the River Thames, just minutes away from the gallery.

Make sure you make your way down to the gallery to see all of the postcards in all their full glory, and if you haven’t sent one in yet, why not! It’s not too late, just get over to iyaf.schoolswaps.net for more information on how to get involved.

Full details of the whole International Youth Arts Festival, which this exhibition is a part of, can be found at www.iyafestival.org.uk/

June 18, 2011

The phone boxes of Kingston get a REAL wall makeover

As part of my continuing quest to get people writing and connecting in the post, I’ve started my REAL wall‘s educational wing, www.schoolswaps.net, designed to make it easy for teachers to arrange postal swaps for their classes.

The first major project of schoolswaps is a collaboration with the Kingston International Youth Arts Festival (IYAF), who called me when they saw the work I’d done with art students at my university and asked if I could help them work out how to get young people making art and sending it to their show.


Now, after a few months of tireless work, the team at IYAF have deservedly received 429 postcards, with a while left to get more.

With all the postcards just sitting around in an office, I figured that it would be a good idea to get them out there, out and about in Kingston, and this is the first “my REAL wall”-inspired outing for the postcards of IYAF, showing the organiser, Zoe Thomas, putting the postcards up on an iconic Kingston sculpture

Out of Order” by David Mach, is in the centre of the town and shows a load of the old iconic red telephone boxes tumbling into one another.