artist trading cards

I’ve been wanting to make ATCs (artist trading cards) for a long time, now. I first heard about them years ago on a crafty message board that I used to frequent. The girls there had organized an ATC swap, and I saw the thread regarding the swap, but had no idea what ATCs were.

Artist trading cards are simply tiny, playing card-size art. The idea was originated by a Swiss artist in 1997 who wanted a way to share what he made with other artists. The idea was to make ATCs representing your work (any medium, any style, any subject…just all made by you and all 2.5″ x 3.5″), and get together with other artists to trade your cards like kids used to trade baseball cards back in the day.

Like most crafters, I find the ATC concept incredibly seductive. The idea of one restriction (the size) combined with limitless other possibilities (style, subject, medium…) is quite simply, delightful. I love it for the same reason I love NaNoWriMo and any other craft-related challenge with minimal (but ironclad) rules. I find the idea of total free reign, but within a set of parameters, to be very exciting, and a good way to exercise creativity. The fact that you are also supposed to share what you make, is wonderful too. Why wouldn’t you want to release more beauty into the world?

Sadly, the urge to make ATCs remained just that…a distant desire…until very recently. My goal to make something everyday in 2010 lends itself very nicely to getting around to things I’ve never made time for before, and ATCs are no different.

Last week I participated in the first craftsocial Twitter chat (hosted by @SisterDiane and @penguintrax), where I thought to ask the participating crafty tweeps if ATCs were still something that people did/traded, or whether I had missed the boat (1997 is a long time ago, friends). I was assured that ATCs are totally not passe, and I was inspired to make my very first one the next day! It ended up being my Day 14 project. Then I got totally hooked, and made three more. Check it:

Inspiration came in the form of tiny reproductions of Italian travel posters that I saved from 2008 and 2009 calendars. I had absolutely no plan for any of these, I just got out my craft supplies and started cutting up things and gluing things and sewing things. Which is why some of them look wonky (can you tell I have never sewed beads on anything before?), but I felt strongly that I shouldn’t think too hard about these or fret too much about them. They are by no means perfect, and I am perfectly okay with that. The idea was to make something, and I did it. It was enormous fun, and I think I will probably continue with this “Italy” series until I run out of the tiny poster reproduction, or I get bored with the theme.

Making ATCs is the perfect craft night craft. They are small and easy to finish, so you get to enjoy that sense of accomplishment when you’re done. There aren’t any rules, and you don’t even have to show anybody what you made if you don’t want to, so it’s totally stress-free. Stress busting if you ask me. I found the gluing and sewing and assembling incredibly relaxing.

Anyway, I’m also hosting an ATC swap for craftsocial participants, but you can join in too! You have until January 21 to join the swap, and then until February 4 to make your ATC and send it off to your partner. When was the last time you got something handmade just for you in the mail? Do it, it’ll be fun. Here’s how to join up.


4 thoughts on “artist trading cards

  1. I've signed up! Making ATC's is addicting, I did maaaany a few years ago but now I haven't for a long time. It will be fun to make a few again! 🙂

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