Keith Bates

Pioneer of the Mailart movement

I simply love the idea that there existed a network of artists who worked in physical isolation, but exchanged their work. It seemed a superb social outlet for creativity, not tied up with money and profit; a social function bound up with ideas of mutual respect, tolerance, democracy, the lot. And it was fun!

Keith Bates on his role as a pioneer of the Mail Art movement, 1996

Keith Bates was born in 1951 in Liverpool, England. He studied graphic design at the Didsbury College of Education in Manchester and worked until 2009 as an art and design instructor. Since that time he has focused on his work as a font designer for his own agency K-Type, which distributes fonts such as Keep Calm, Transport New and Sans Culottes via the website www.k-type.com. Bates is one of the pioneers of the international Mail Art movement, which is based on the artistic exchange of work using traditional (and, as of quite recently, electronic) postal services.

In 1983, taking the impressions gathered from a university summer workshop on the subject of Mail Art, he began realising several art projects to present the entire body of work of the Mail Art community to the general public. This included the presentation of self-made post marks, admission tickets, receipts and cheques, in addition to a collection of related essays and multimedia works. As a creative amalgam involving the work of a host of artists, Bates’ 2004 Mailart typeface stands as the typographical centrepiece of the movement.