ATCs (Artist Trading Cards, to the uninitiated!) are something that have intrigued me for a while. The concept is simple: an artist decorates a card (specifically sized 2.5″ x 3.5″), adds their contact details and any other information they want to, to the reverse, and then trades (never sells) this card with other artists. It’s a highly personalised business card, in a way, building a community feeling among artists. But also a huge online community has sprung up, creating and trading ATCs – and just in case I’ve given the wrong impression, this is a world open to any crafter/artist, not just ‘professionals’.
I think ATCs are a wonderful creative outlet. They allow you to try out different techniques on a small scale, and the mixed-media cards I’ve seen can be quite stunning. It’s one of those all-encompassing ideas that means whatever background you have, or medium you work with, you can play, too! But I guess it’s the fact of communication, and the fact that it’s a personal, not mass-produced/commercial thing that makes it feel like a little oasis.
Although not commercial in the sense of trading rather than selling the cards, an industry has sprung up selling related materials to decorate and store your ATCs, and cool stuff like labels and rubber stamps to add your details to the reverse. Being me, of course, I just look at the labels and then make my own. I had the idea for a woven ATC, and while working on a design for the reverse, came up with a way to make a loom directly out of your ATC blank. As I speak, I’m having rubber stamps custom made. At the craft fair, I will have funky little (alterable) tins containing an ATC kit, with ATC blanks, 2 different ATC backs, needle, ‘shed stick’, instructions, etc. You may have noticed, I’m really pleased with this idea. I just want to get people weaving (another post will be coming shortly with more DIY ideas), and ATCs are a brilliant, sample-sized way to get people hooked!
In addition to the ATC kit, I will be (literally) giving away an ATC loom as my business card – the front has all my contact details, the back has instructions to turn the card into a loom. The weaver, of course, is not obliged to mke an ATC, if they don’t want to; they also have the option of just slipping the weaving from the (re-usable) card once complete, and framing/mounting as they choose.
I can’t claim that weaving an ATC is an incredibly original idea, but it’s certainly not common. Putting the concept out there in the hands of a wider audience of creative types, though, opens up all sorts of possibilities for combining weaving with ther media. I think it’s just something that hasn’t really crossed people’s minds, but once the idea is there, it’s a very viable, adaptable option. I’ll leave it up to the ATC community to explore further…!
The only person I currently know who is experimenting with woven ATCs is artist/tapestry weaver Laurie o’ Neill. You can see her processes and some completed cards here. I love this idea for using ‘thrums’ as an ATC background. I’ve been using thrums to stuff the little Oddballs I’ve woven for the fair. I think this is a far more decorative use for them, though, and you can still be just as creative with exploring colour combinations.