The World of Interiors For more than fifteen years Erica Van Horn has collected, considered, cataloged, and displayed paper envelope interiors, creating a large-scale, ongoing art project that includes bookworks, collages and works on paper, public installations, and paper ephemera. "The only function of an envelope interior," Van Horn tells us, "is to hide the contents of the envelope." In focusing careful attention on this most invisible example of visual pattern and image, Van Horn reveals the irony of her statement even as she transforms the envelope interior's function. As what she calls "emblems of materiality and tactility" in an increasingly electronic world of information, Van Horn finds the continued use of content-obscuring envelopes "a cause of much surprise and wonder." The works in Van Horn's "World of Interiors" elevates a mundane and daily material to the category of fine art. The value Van Horn places on both the simple visual patterns and the very paper on which they are printed calls attention to the role of beauty in a world of disposable products and objects; by exposing the interiors of printed envelopes and repurposing them in works of art and books, Van Horn upsets our expectations about her seemingly ordinary materials and about fine art, printing, and books. By comparing her project to hobbies such as stamp collecting, Van Horn reminds us, too, that collecting can also be an art form, one that values daily practice, a careful eye, a completist sensibility. Van Horn makes an art not just of the envelope interiors she collects, but also of the activities of collecting and organizing them; the very process of making is part of Van Horn's artwork.

Envelope Interiors

Envelope Interiors, [Norfolk, England: Coracle, 1996]

Describing her inspiration for this book (the idea of collecting envelope interiors was suggested to her by her friend, artist David Bellingham), Van Horn writes, “I felt that such a scrapbook belonged as much in the world of train spotting and stamp collecting as in the world of art.” By extension, Van Horn’s book suggests that even the most mundane kind of collecting might be imagined as a kind of art project. This volume is one in an edition of only nine copies, each hand assembled over time as Van Horn acquired the requisite number of envelope interiors. Describing the edition Van Horn writes, “9 books . . . may take me awhile to finish because I will be filling the spaces as I find the envelopes. I will stay inside the lines.”

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 996E

++ See also Leftovers

Envelope Interior Reference File

Envelope Interior Reference File, [S.l.: s.n. 2007]

After more than a decade of collecting and making art with the patterned interiors of commercially printed envelopes, Van Horn created the Envelope Interior Reference File, a carefully organized index of her collection, including more than 500 letterpress printed file cards, each bearing a scrap of envelope interior paper. The cards are arranged by category, including headings such as “Red Words,” “Very Small Patterns,” “Airmail,” “Triangles,” and “Big,” each of which Van Horn has written on various section markers, thus allowing her own handwriting to become part of the pattern-scape of the file. “The building of the file index box announces the end of trying to keep track of the seemingly endless variations [of envelope interiors],” Van Horn has said of the Envelope Interior Reference File; “finding the descriptive headings to categorize various forms of zig-zags, and subtle differences has made me a bit crazy…. The box is covered with a blue buckram to approximate the colour most often used in the actual interiors.”

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2007E

Envelope Interior Pin-Up Calendar

Envelope Interior Pin-Up Calendar, [Clonmel, Ireland]: Coracle, 1999

For a period of years, Van Horn made small-run editions of monthly calendars, each of which was hand assembled including twelve unique pieces of envelope interior papers. The calendars present a kind of self-referential turn in Van Horn’s envelope interiors projects: the project as a whole celebrates commonplace materials and employs them to make art objects; using these materials to decorate hand-assembled, letterpress printed calendars highlights the “everyday” quality of the papers and the value of art in our daily lives. Additionally, Van Horn is also playing on the more traditional “pin up” calendar, featuring photographs of women. “I thought to use the same term but to display something that I thought was interesting and at least as varied as women’s bodies,” Van Horn writes. “My pin-ups were labour intensive—lots of letterpress printing and pasting in the interiors obsessively one at a time. Every single 12 month grouping was different, while the world of naked lady pin-ups is all about shiny paper and airbrushing and achieving a safe sameness to the commodity being displayed.”

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 999E


Boy Bell's Book of Envelope Interiors

Boy Bell's Book of Envelope Interiors, Docking, Norfolk, England: Coracle, 1994

An artist who often collaborates with other artists, writers, and printers, in Boy Bell's Book of Envelope Interiors Erica Van Horn acknowledges the increasingly public nature of her envelope interior works: “many people have now been alerted to the exciting world of envelope interiors. Friends have allowed me to rifle through their rubbish, or to sit nearby when they open their mail. Without being asked, people started collecting for me, and interiors have arrived by post…” Van Horn lists the names and locations of her sources, which include Ireland, England, and the United States.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 994B

Envelope Interior Art History

Erica Van Horn and Harry Gilonis, Envelope Interior Art History, [London]: Coracle, 1997

In this witty envelope interior album, Van Horn and her collaborator Harry Gilonis see the work of various important artists in a collection of repeated visual patterns; represented artists include abstract and conceptual artists, such as Jasper Johns and Sol LeWitt, alongside more classical artists, such as Gustave Caillebotte, whose famous painting Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877) is represented by a pattern depicting two figures walking under an umbrella.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 997E

++ See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern

Album of Interiors

Album of Interiors, Ireland: Coracle, 2008

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2008A

The World of Interiors

The World of Interiors

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2006S