Have you ever dug around the history of ATCs (Arts Trading Cards)? I have looked at many, and used the term often without knowing their history and I was prompted to dig around a little.
As objects and format they are a relatively recent phenomenon and I don’t think they would have take off quite the same way if not for the internet. Artists Trading Cards as a project was initiated by artist M.Vänçi Stirnemann who began trading sessions in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1997. ATCs (Artists Trading Cards) measure 2 1?2 X 3 1?2 inch or 64 X 89 mm. Apart from the format restriction this is the only ‘rule’ that applies to an ATC.
Wikipedia describes ATCs as “typically made on a base of card stock. However, ATCs have been created on metal, stiffened fabric, plastic, clay, glass, balsa wood, leather, embroidery canvas, acetate, heavy watercolor paper, and many other materials. The art on the cards can be done in any media: textile arts, pencil, watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, scratch board, mixed media, assemblage, digital art, calligraphy, beadwork, rubber stamps, carved soft block stamps, pen and ink, colored pencil, airbrush, pastels, and many others – anything artists use.”
For any blog reader you will quickly encounter ATCs because they have become very popular as internet swaps. A key concept behind the original project was that ATCs were not made for sale but were traded with other artists either in person or by mail. They are intended to be a non-commercial.
Another key concept behind them, is that they are non-hierarchical. They step outside divisions (real or imagined) between high and low or fine and folk arts. Cards are generally traded one for one between people of all ages and artistic abilities. Artists generally sign and date the back of the card.
A brief history of contemporary Artists Trading Cards describing how the original concept developed and a description of the first Artist Trading Card Session in 1997 can be found here
Art in your pocket has published an article on ATCs and creating them. If you want to know a little more browse the contributions in the Gallery section of the Artist Trading Cards site and there are a number of ATC groups online. On Flickr there is an Artist Trading card group and the Illustrated ATCs site hosts a gallery, forum and swap gallery.
I am constantly drawn to them as a format but so far have resisted embarking upon making any simply because I don’t need another thing to become obsessed with but boy are they tempting!