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Artists' Trading Cards or ATC's, as they are frequently referred to, were initiated in 1997 by Zurich artist M.Vänçi Stirnemann, as a means for artists to share, and socialize with other artists. But with today's technology, internet trading groups have added a whole new dimension. With a modem and ‘snail mail', one can share artwork with other artist from all over the globe.

Essentially ATC's are miniature works of mixed media art. Using a wide variety of materials to create new works of art is not new. We all remember Raushenberg, Duchamp, and Matisse to name but a few. But what makes it fun and interesting is that this is meant for everyone. All levels of work are welcome. The main goal is that they are created with the idea of sharing them with each other. They can be seen as an artist calling card, and can be whatever the artist wishes them to be. It is art after all, would we expect less?

But ATC's themselves do have rules. The only rules being that the small works of art are, (1) exchanged and not sold, and (2) that they must be 2 ½ X 3 ½ inch or 64 X 89 mm in size.

Fig 1 ATC with transparency and watch parts Fig 2 ATC with additional collage items

They can also be an added feature to other altered objects, such as altered books and boxes.

Fig 3 Example of an ATC as part of another work

If one wishes to join the world of ATC's I would strongly suggest you run, don't walk, to the yahoo site and begin searching for a group of artists to begin sharing with. I personally recommend ArtTradingCards, ABAlteredbooks or alteredbooks all Yahoo discussion groups. But you may be able to find one that fits your own needs by doing a search. Overall I have found altered artists to be the most sharing and open with information of any group of artists I have yet encountered. I am constantly amazed at the willingness to share ideas with anyone willing to ask.

Once you have found a group to join learn and share with, the next step is to get in there and begin creating those cards to mail and trade. You will have to start with the card itself. It has to be 2.5 x 3.5 inches exactly, cut from card stock or recycled paper of a similar thickness. Many use the cardboard from discarded cereal and shoe boxes. Many artists will place their cards into plastic sleeves designed for sports card collectors. So be aware of this when considering the thickness of the finished card. You don't want to keep those that wish, to be able to include in with their other cards for showing off.

How you design and decorate your card is totally up to you. It can be as unique as you are, just as in any other art form. One term you will often run into in the altered card circles is Ephemera, which is a variety of paper and or produced items used in advertisement and daily life. Think along the terms of collage items that may have previously been taken for granted, such as stamps, envelopes, clipped images from magazines and newspapers, junk mail, etc… The idea is to use what normally would have been thrown away, and give it new life.

You are free to paint, draw, print, do wax resist, add fibers; trinkets... the possibilities are endless! Now get out there and create art, but be a part of a whole art world of its own.

For more information: Artist trading cards: A Collaborative Cultural Performance Cedar Seed Artist site of Artist Trading Cards Mailart Email discussion group Email discussion group Nita Leland Website

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