By Christina VanGinkel
ATC's, otherwise known as artist trading cards, are a great way to sample a new technique without putting the effort into a full-blown project. Whether you work with paper, clay, metal, paints, what have you, if it can be reduced to miniature; it is a possible technique to try on an ATC. Even if it cannot be directly made as a miniature, it might still work. For example, if you love to create watercolors, but usually work on a large canvas, but have wanted to try a new technique or two, you could attempt it on a smaller canvas, and then cut the finished piece up into 2.5" X 3.5" sections, the accepted size of artist trading cards. I have heard of some move by a small group of individuals to a larger size, but for the most part, whenever you hear someone reference an ATC, or artist trading card, they most likely are referring to the 2.5" X 3.5" size. This has been the standard for as long as artist trading cards have been being traded and given away.
Artist trading cards are a great format for crafters and artists alike to share a sampling of their work with others. Traditionally, the artist would use the backside of each one to place their contact information and name, much like a business card used by professionals. They were also never sold, only traded, or given away, much the same way traditional business cards are passed about.
Today, artist trading cards are still often given away or traded, but they are also sold as miniature works of art. I guess the process of getting them out is a personal choice, but my favorites are definitely those traded or given. Collecting the cards is also a growing hobby, with some artists and crafters making artist trading cards exclusively, or at least as a major part of their output. Groups and meetings have sprung up where those interested in them can also meet to make, trade, and deal the cards.
If you are interested in making your own ATC's, my first piece of advice would be to browse the Internet to see as many examples of them as you can find. Not to copy them, but to provide you with a view of just how varied they actually are. You will notice that just about any art form goes. To keep with tradition, each artist trading card should also be made the traditional size mentioned above, unless you have knowledge of others who are working and looking to trade in the bigger size. This is for a variety of reasons, but mainly to keep uniformity amongst collections.
Once you have an idea of what others have been creating, it will then be time to make some of your own. Choose a media or even several. That anything goes is one of the best things about making ATC's. Choose a sturdy material for the base of the card, such as cardstock or even lightweight chipboard. Try to consider what types of media you are going to use, and let this guide you in deciding what to use for the base.
Once you have the basic materials, let your imagination roam. Try different techniques, different combinations of both mediums and materials. If you have always wondered how one technique might look with materials different from what one might generally use, take your ATC's as opportunities to try them out. That is the fun of an artist trading card. If something really does not work, the most you have expended is a few materials and some time.
Because ATC's are typically such a small format, they also lend themselves well to lavish combinations that we might otherwise avoid. Keep this in mind as you decide what to create. On such a small area, lavish more often than not equals success. Overlook nothing when it comes to choosing embellishments either. Objects that you might not want to include in typical works of art, or projects such as scrapbooks, can look great on an ATC. Have fun, experiment, trade, but be warned that once you make a couple, it is difficult to not make just one more, and one more after that, etc., etc., etc.