I love all the colorful tape, stamps, and textures on the gorgeous mail you photograph but, doesn’t the post office HATE all the excess? I thought their guidelines were super strict. And are you using old stamps for decoration isn't that a no-no? Sorry, but I just don't want to make a beautiful envelope and it be rejected. Thoughts?
Thanks for the query. Your concern is a valid one. You’re right that there are a number of postal regulations that dictate what can and can’t be mailed and how it should be handled. The glorious thing about mail art is that even with those rules, as long as something has the proper postage* and is addressed correctly, odds are good that it’ll get delivered.
For fancy mail, there are some basic points to keep in mind. Items under 13oz. can be mailed with regular stamps from a blue mail box. You can avoid any kind of counter interaction/rejection that way. That’s why we recommend it with our Pigeon Post. While our pigeons are not “liquid, fragile, perishable, hazardous and do not contain lithium batteries or perfume” and they are under the 13oz. weight limit, sometimes P.O. Clerks can be less than amused by them. This is the peril of the counter when engaging in experimental mail.
There are minimum and maximum sizes for letters to be processed in the postal machines. The minimum is 5” long X 3.5” high and 0.0007” thick. The maximum is 11.5” long X 6.125” and 0.25” thick. The maximum weight for a letter is 3.5oz. A letter will be charged a non-machinable surcharge if it’s a square letter, 5" x 5" or larger, it doesn’t bend easily, has clasps or similar closure devices, has an address parallel to the shorter dimension of the letter, is lumpy, or the length divided by height is less than 1.3 or more than 2.5. If the letter is over the maximum dimensions, it will be charged at package rates. This section of the USPS site is handy with this sort of info. *PRO TIP: I post all of my large letters at package postage rates. When in doubt, add more stamps!
When addressing your mail, keep in mind that the postal sorting machines scan from the bottom right-hand corner of the letter up. The scanner is looking for the Zip Code to properly route the letter. If you don’t write the zip clearly or write it up too high on the letter, which can result in the letter going astray. Also, if you write your return address on the back of the letter, the machine may scan your address instead and route the letter right back to you. I keep my return address small and in the upper left corner for the most part. PRO TIP: Always use a return address, even on postcards.
When using glues and tapes, remember to go for permanent adhesives. Duct tape is forbidden because it melts in the machines. Modern washi tape is OK, but make sure you’re using the good stuff, not the stuff that comes off too easily. Using old, canceled stamps and artistamps for decoration is OK as long as you don't try to pass them off as stamps for postage. Technically, the P.O. wants you to put artistamps only on the upper left side of the envelope, but I've never had a problem. PRO TIP: Enclose your delicate pieces in clear bags or packing tape before mailing. That will keep it all secure. Remember to apply postage to the outside of the tape or bag.
We encourage you to push the envelope. If you are really concerned, mail your creation inside a separate cover, but doesn’t that sort of defeat the point? Creative mailing takes a bit of faith, a bit of luck and a lot of stamps. The worst that can happen is that it disappear into the ether. The second worst is that it’ll come back to you. Neither is the end of the world.