And so 2010 draws to a close.  It has been a stunning professional year, growth and development with powerful direction, as well as many unexpected opportunities and gifts.  On the brink of another New Year’s Eve, I am firmly drawn back to the memory of last New Year’s Eve.  I was invited by a dear friend to visit her home to help her run an evening of creativity with a large group of family and friends.  We struck on the idea of creating Artist’s Trading Cards (ATCs).  The possibilities for their creation are endless, they are small and uniform, and so potentially quick to create or alter and add to.  The result was more than a dozen guests, men, women and children;  a mound of crafting supplies in the middle of a very large table; sustenance in the way of excellent food and wine and several hours of pure creation.  The spiral of creative energy rising from that table was uplifting and powerful and renewing. 

Our finished New Year's Eve ATCs ready for trade.

The resulting works were as varied an indication of the personalities around the table as anything could be.  Some were whimsical, some plain beautiful, some thought-provoking and surprisingly deep.  Something about the energy and environment created by my friend in her lovely home seemed to open doors and windows in the souls sharing that table, lowering barriers and permitting us a privileged glimpse at the wonders within each of those  spirits.  This year, I hope to recreate something of that energy in my own home, with an open-house invitation where the entry fee is your favourite craft supply.  I have asked my friends to join me in an act of random creation.  Let the fun begin!

“ATCs are 2 ½ x 3 ½ inch (64 x 89 mm) miniature works of art which artists/designers trade with one another, similar to the way people trade sport cards. ATCs are a relatively new art form which formally began in September 1996. The concept was created by Swiss artist M. Vanci Stirnemann.
ATCs can be in any art media: textile arts, pencil, oil, acrylic, watercolor, collage, scratch board, mixed media–anything an artist would use to create art. ATCs are produced as single originals, in a series, or in limited editions (Not more than 25 copies to any edition).
Among certain art and crafts movements, ATCs are about exchanging art WITHOUT exchanging money, and without the interference of the business side of the art world. Artists trade their work in face to face trading sessions as well as via mail. Artists who trade by mail often make their arrangements online and/or by email. In some artist opinions, trading by mail is a diminished experience when compared to the face to face experience at an ATC trading session. Some artists insist on mailing their cards open through the mail, causing a higher collectible value for their officiated stamp mark.

Some rules for modern Artist Trading Cards:

• The dimensions of the cards must be 2.5 x 3.5 inches (64 x 89 mm).

• The cards are traded, NEVER SOLD. Cards sold are referred to as ACEO.

• The artist should sign and date their cards, and number them if they are part of an edition. Contact information can also be included so other artists can get to know them and their work. (Some artists like to make a personal calling card with a self portrait on the front with their contact information on the back to give out with their trades).

Artist Trading Cards are typically made on a base of card stock. However, ATCs have been created on metal, stiffened fabric, polymer clay, plastic, clay/ceramics, wood, leather, embroidery canvas, acetate, heavy watercolor paper, and many other materials.  Various techniques are then applied to the chosen substrate: collage, textile arts, assemblage, digital art, calligraphy, beadwork, watercolors, rubber stamps, carved soft block stamps, pen and ink, colored pencils, airbrush, photography, and many others. The back of the cards typically includes the artist’s signature, the date and sometimes the number (if the card is part of a series or edition), and title. If part of an organized swap, it is common for people to add the name, date of the swap, sometimes including the name of the swap host or venue.”

I feel excited by the concept of trading where no money must change hands.  It seems so entirely in the spirit of pure creativity. If you haven’t already tried your hand at these little gems, give it a go.  There are all sorts of wonderful resources online, and regular swaps take place all over the world, including our own Calgary.  Hell, if you ask around Canmore, you’ll find enough of us playing with these little stars of the art world to start trading right here in our own community.  If you decide to give it a try, I hope you’ll post some pictures of the results.

Happy New Year, everyone!  May the new year bring many blissful hours of creating.

ATCs created by our Collaboration Group 2009