Monday, February 2, 2009

Time for Some Art Artist Trading Card Style - ATC

So far I've been focused on things to help make us more sustainable. What good is being sustainable if there isn't some artistic expression involved. One of the ways I like to express myself is with art and one of my favorite ways right now is by making Artist Trading Cards (ATC). ATCs are a great way to make little art. Sometimes, the thought of having to fill up a whole canvas is too much and you don't even know where to start. Measuring only 2 1/2" x 3 1/2, ATCs are the perfect size canvas.

If you are not familiar with ATCs, they started in the mid-90's in Europe and have been catching on like wildfire ever since. There are only two official rules to ATCs. The first is their size. They must be 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", the size of other standard trading cards, like baseball. The second rule is they are for trading only, not for sale. With the popularity of ATCs there has become quite a market for buying these little gems, they then go under the acronym ACEO (Art Cards, Editions and Originals).

With only two rules to stick to, you are only limited by your imagination. I have received cards that have been handdrawn, collaged, stamped, made out of polymer clay and fabric. I even have one with little computer pieces on it. Last year for Valentine's Day, my daughter and I made cards out of chocolate to trade. We even mailed one to England for a trade.

That brings up the best part of making ATCs, the trading. Many cities have live trades. These are a lot of fun. You get to meet the artist and trade with them in person. This is a great way to meet other people who share the same interest in art as you. It is also a great way to learn how to use different techniques with your cards. It can be a little challenging to find local trades. Check with your local arts and crafts store, not the big box ones like Hobby Lobby and JoAnn's, but the fun little locally run one. Ours has a live trade once a month. Once you have become totally addicted to Artist Trading Cards, you may set up one locally yourself, if there isn't one all ready available. Your local library is a great place to do this. You can also check on Meetup. Many cities have started either mixed media groups or atc trading groups and their may be one near you.

Another great way to trade is online. This is the way I trade most often. I have received cards from all over the world from some incredibly talented artists. One website that is easy to navigate is ATCsForAll. This website allows anyone interested over the age of 18 to join. Everyone I've met there is incredible nice and helpful. There are several ways to trade, you can either set up trades with people individually or you can join swaps. A swap is hosted by someone usually in some kind of theme, such as cats or collage. Then everyone sends the host their preagreed upon amount of cards. The host will sort the cards and in a few days you will receive a package back with the same amount of cards from different artists in the swap. Nothing is more exciting than going to the mailbox and on top of all the bills is a fat envelope filled with new atcs. Most of the time I can't even beat my daughter to the mail, we're both so excited to get these packages.

If you are a more advanced artist and are up to a challange. You can check out the site IllustratedATCs. There are some incredible artists there. They are a juried site, which means that you have to be accepted by their panel to join the trades. But it is a great place for anyone to go and look around for some inspiration.

If you enjoy making art, or think you might love making art. Artist Trading Cards are a great way to find out. If this sounds like something you'd like to try, I highly recommend checking out the ArtTrader Magazine for tutorials, interviews with artists and some incredible artwork.

So, grab your favorite media, whatever that is and grab some paper and give it a go. Stick around, in upcoming posts I'll have some tutorials and talk about some supplies that will be helpful to get started.


  1. I could not agree more. It isn't about the newest "green" gadget or "greenwashing" for that matter. And think how much more connected we would feel if we actually had potlucks, etc. I love potlucks and wished we went to them more often, or had them ourselves. Yes! More potlucks!

  2. What a great post. I always wondered what was involved with ATC's. Will check out the links.
    Thanks : )