Feeling creative?

I just found out that my friend, Misti Ko, is organising an ATC exhibition in Vancouver (Canada), running from March 1st to 21st.   If you would like to participate, all you need to do is submit 9 ATCs in a clear 9-card sleeve, with a theme along the lines of: friendship, solidarity, peace, fair play, optimism, inspiration and empowerment.  Other possible themes include ‘personal best’ or ’10’.  All ATCs submitted will be traded on the closing night of the show, and if you include return postage with your submission, you will receive 9 assorted cards in return.  What a cool way to expand your ATC collection!

Submission deadline is February 28th,

and the address to mail your submissions to is:
Vancouver 2010 ATCs
c/o RubyDog’s Art House
623 Kingsway
Vancouver
BCV5T 3K5
CANADA

Click here to visit the website for full details.

P.S. Be sure to pass on this info to any arty/crafty friends you have, who you think might be tempted to get creative with some ATCs for this cool event!

P.P.S.  Misti is also the host of another fun (ongoing) ATC Mail Art project,
It Starts With a Pencil, so be sure to check that out, too! 🙂

Happy mailday to me!

I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself over the last few days – just recovering from a killer cold (definitely not swine flu, I hasten to add!) & single-handedly keeping the tissue industry afloat.  But happily, my post-lady has been going above and beyond the call of duty bringing me lovely things from the outside world to cheer me up. 🙂 (there will be lots of smile-y faces in this post)Arteth's woven postcardFirst and foremost, I have to say a HUGE thank you to Arteth Gray, one of my original D.I.Y. Weaving Club members, for the most awesome piece of mail art.  She actually wove one of the cards from the Postcard Recycling Kit, and dared to trust it to the postal service.  There’s a bit of a gap in the weaving, and I can feel dried glue there, so I do strongly suspect that perhaps an original part of this mini-masterpiece is missing, but still, I was so happy to receive it.  🙂  It’s one of the most exciting pieces of post I’ve ever received!  I’m so impressed that it made it through, relatively unscathed.  I haven’t been weaving much lately (although I have still been working on Telaic Fantasy #4, so do keep watching this space…!), but this has really motivated me to get weaving and mail some art out into the world :-).Another fun piece of unexpected mail art also came my way today – a mail art game from Misti Ko called ‘It Starts With a Pencil‘.  The game starts with an ATC blank, printed with a pencil, and the sender’s name and address on the reverse (I should really have scanned the blank ATC to show you, but I was so eager to start playing the game, I had already drawn on it, before that thought occurred to me…).  The first recipient (in this case, me) adds something to the design on the front of the ATC, adds their own name and address to the reverse, then forwards the ATC to a 3rd person.  The 3rd person adds a final element to the overall ATC design, adds their own name and address to the reverse, then returns the ATC to the first name on the card (in this case, Misti Ko).  Misti is compiling a mail art mini-zine showing off the completed cards, and each person who has filled their name & address on an ATC will receive a copy.  How cool is that?  You can check out the completed cards online here.

I was almost (but not quite) as excited about receiving this game as I was about the handwoven postcard!  I was just finishing off a zine about doodling (more on that to follow shortly) while the pencil game ATC was sitting on the arm of my chair, and in the end I just had to give in and play.  mail art gameI started of with an inkblot & a couple of stray inkspots (I know it’s a pencil, but I was using artistic license 😉 ), then doodled around the shape to fill an area of the card.  It was a completely random inkblot & doodling, but now it’s finished, don’t you think it looks kind of like a fish face, with a pencil-dinner in mind…?  But perhaps more importantly, what do you think it will look like once it’s finished?  And perhaps more relevant still, which of my correspondents will be the one to make the decision?  I’ll be sending it on this weekend, so watch your letterbox!

And as if that wasn’t enough (!) I have also just received the August Issue of Craft Leftovers.  I’m totally loving it!  The zine is themed all about drawing, and includes a pattern to sew your own ‘Pencils to Go’ pencil wrap.  My favourite part, though, is the complete kit to bind your own sketchbook, with boards, papers, binding thread, and the cutest mini-zine, ‘Stitch n’ Sketch – how to bind your own sketch book codex style’.  If you’ve ever thought about binding your own books but not known where to start, buying this issue of Craft Leftovers is definitely the first step you should take!  Honestly, subscribing to CLM is so much fun – every month just seems to get better and better! 🙂

Anyway, get thee hence & go and create some mail art of your own – it’s certainly cheered me up! 🙂

Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook

I don’t know why. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, when my mind flickered to the uneaten packet of jelly sitting in the kitchen cupboard.  I wasn’t hungry, but it wasn’t leaving my mind – suddenly, I could visualise the potential of this innocent little packet of jelly.

So I got up, found the jelly, removed the actual jelly,  and took the box upstairs.  A bit of glue, 2 small snips, 1 piece of paper and 2 staples later, and I had a funky re-purposed matchbook-style notebook.  I scanned the process (only 4 steps) as I went along, and have written up instructions to make your own as a PDF freebie.

The only thing I would change if making another (& why wouldn’t I?  My husband loves jelly, so I know he won’t complain!) is to position the paper slightly higher before stapling.  I think this is such a cool notebook!

Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook
Jelly Packet Matchbook Notebook

N.B.  I also noticed that this kind of jelly packet is exactly the right size to store ATC cards.  You can’t tell me there’s not potential there…!

ELF

No, I’m not talking about small magical beings akin to fairies & pixies, nor have I mis-spelled a reference to that hairy alien from the 80s sitcom.  ELF is short for Envelope & Letter Folding.

My motto if is, ‘If it tangles, I’ll craft it’, so you might wonder why I’m about to show you how to fold an envelope out of a single piece of paper (no threads or yarn in sight).  Well, I’ve been thinking about practical options for re-packaging my kits – options that minimise cutting and labelling. I thought it would be very handy to be able to fold a packet for a kit from a single sheet of paper, as I would then be able to print any packaging info directly onto the paper, rather than printing separate labels, cutting and sticking them onto envelopes (etc) which can all get very time-consuming.

So, here’s my lovely little envelope:  atc-envelope-pic
It’s just the right size for an ATC, but just think of all the other possible cool, crafty uses –
gift cards, invitations, seeds, buttons, anything!

I made it out of giftwrap, which worked really nicely. You could use anything, from standard printer paper to the page of a magazine.  It’s a great way of using up any old papers you have lying around.  If you work from my printed template, just make sure you trim your paper to the right size for your printer, first.  If you decide to fold without guidelines, don’t worry about what size it is, just fold/cut the excess length to turn it into a square.  Of course, origami or scrapbook paper would be ideal!

I’ve made a template that you can print directly onto the paper you want to fold.  This is really just to help you out to begin with – once you’ve made a couple, you’ll be able to do it blindfolded!  But I think the guidelines are useful.  Some of the sites I came across while I was researching were not very easy to follow!  You’ll also find step-by-step photo instructions, for the envelope in the pic above.

The first template is carefully sized so that it is just right to fit an ATC, but of course you can use it for anything.   Unless you specifically want to house ATCs, though, try out the second template, instead. This fits 2 slightly smaller envelopes to a page, which is obviously the more economical approach.   (N.B. You can vary the finished envelope sizes by ignoring the templates entirely, or increasing/reducing the print scale, or just by varying one or two of the folds. Experiment!)  I should mention, the second template fits 2 envelopes to a sheet of A4 size paper (standard UK size).  Standard US copier paper is slightly shorter, so you will need to adjust the scale a little to fit the 2nd template fully on one page.

Click here for the ‘How to Fold an ATC Envelope’ PDF freebie link

In case anyone else wants to find out more about ELF techniques, or the odyssey that brought me to this one, this is the (condensed, honestly) account of my search for the perfect envelope:

A quick google search will reveal hundreds of envelope templates free online, such as this seed packet site I have mentioned before, and Mirkwood Designs, who offer a wide range of cool templates (not just envelopes) to cut and fold.  But cutting out around lots of little corners was not on my agenda.  I also found this site, which is really pretty cool, and has lots of different directions for folding lots of different envelopes, out of single sheets of paper.  I thought I had found what I was looking for, but…

I sat down with a stack of paper scraps (my room is full of them – half-printed, patterns that went wrong, misprints, paper jams, etc), and I worked my way through the list of envelope-types.  Having no background in origami (I think this would have helped) I had difficulty reading some of the diagrams – but I also think a lot of the diagrams were just plain confusing.  Anyway, to cut a medium-length story short, some of them worked, some of them didn’t, some were too fiddly to recreate lots of times over, and some weren’t the shape I was looking for.  I also realised that the one that I liked most/found easiest (the Fern Letterfold) was actually completely impractical in terms of an actual envelope – it had no inner pocket!  You would have to completely unfold the entire sheet of paper to get to the inside, ruining the whole envelope ‘effect’.  Admittedly, you could tuck a folded letter behind the sealing flaps, but as envelopes go, that’s not especially secure.  (It could work nicely as a place-setting at a dinner party with the right accessories, though…)

A different site had another design that appealed with its nice, securely folded nature: The Pocketbook Letterfold – unfortunately, it’s another design that is really more of a securely folded letter rather than an actual pocket/envelope.

I tried out a folded seed packet design (I’ve found the same instructions on a couple of different sites, but this one has good, clear photo step-by-steps & I like the fact that it re-purposes a page from a seed catalogue rather than using ‘normal’ paper).  This design does work, is very secure, and you can put something inside it.  However, I thought it was a bit fiddly to open and close if you didn’t want to store seeds in it.

Hmm.

I found the answer by mistake.  In my continued scouring of ELF techniques, I discovered another design that I didn’t think worked very well.  There’s a variation here and a variation here.

But when I didn’t follow the instructions, and folded the envelope together in a marginally different way, I finally discovered an ELF technique that met my requirements (the one pictured above) – not only does it have a functional inner pocket, but it has at least one, potentially two additional inner pockets, depending on how you seal it.  That’s its downside: the flap isn’t self-sealing. But seriously, I can live with that.  It’s a sturdy, secure envelope that I can fold from a single piece of paper.  I’m not claiming to have invented this variation – my investigation showed me just how many variations there are out there, and I’m sure I’ve not discovered them all (yet); I’m just happy to have found what I’m looking for. 🙂

All this research has left me with still more envelope ideas brewing, so watch this space!

Weaving ATCs

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!

This was my prottype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures.
This was my prototype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures; and a far simpler, more meditative weaving, currently half-complete.

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’ Jazzcat 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.