Trading cards a hit with quilt artists
As a child growing up in the 1960s, I wasn’t into trading baseball cards like the young boys of that time.
But since then, I’ve become a collector of miniature works of art that are similar in size. Known as Artist Trading Cards or ATCs, these are 2½- by 3½-inch original pieces usually made from paper or cloth and traded person-to-person by artistic types.
A fairly new phenomenon, ATCs were popularized in 1997 by artist M. Vanci Stirnemann of Switzerland. Stirnemann had organized a conference of artists in Zurich that year and came up with the idea of attendees exchanging tiny examples of their art, rather than the traditional business cards.
The practice fanned out across the world, through conferences, mail and the Internet. Purists hold that the cards should be traded only, with no money changing hands. The value is in owning a card itself.
However, over the past decade ATCs have turned up on auction sites such as eBay, further driving demand for them. Books and magazines have published galleries of the little cards and guides for making them.
Recently, I entered a reader challenge and ATC swap sponsored by Quilting Arts magazine and was thrilled to see my art, titled “True Love Stories Never End,” in the pages of the February/March 2013 edition. Mine was among 24 chosen to be featured from the many entries received. Others are displayed on the magazine’s website.
The recent ATC swap had a February theme, “What’s In Your Heart?” Readers were asked if they were hopeless romantics, fools for poetry, keepers of old love letters or fans of juicy novels or Hollywood heartthrobs. Whatever the case, please send us your heartfelt art, the original article asked.
My small entry, backed with card stock, started with stamped and quilted fabric patchwork cut in the requisite size, a layer of glitzy Angelina fibers and a salvage sticker photo depicting a fresh-faced, sweetheart couple in sepia from the ‘40s.
Salvage stickers are adhesive-backed nostalgic images from the past. The one I chose came from a booklet produced by artist Tim Holtz of Idea-ology. I particularly like Holtz’s work and products.
I framed the sticker photo by stitching bugle and seed beads around it, then added more beads centered in sequins on the card and glued on the appropriate text snipped from a discarded advertisement: “True Love Stories Never End” (all in lower-case letters). Finally, I glued decorative metallic threads around the card edges.
Some have asked if the photograph is that of my parents or if it has some personal meaning, but my intention was to portray a universal message of unending love, so the faces can be interpreted that way.
Hearts figure prominently in many of the other cards chosen for the magazine, as well as words such as “Dream,” “Love is the Point” and “Be Lovely. Be Kind. Be True.” Many, like mine, are heavily embellished, a tribute to Feb. 14 as gushing as the gentleman who pops the question on that auspicious date. The ATCs were sent from all over the U.S., as well as from Australia, the Netherlands and the Virgin Islands.
Next came the swap. All of the cards were distributed, with each participant receiving an ATC from another artist. In my mailbox not long ago, I was delighted to find an Artist Trading Card titled “Crow Remembers” from Steve Bowley of Denver.
A black fabric crow standing on a rocky surface with a starry sky in the background held an actual silver locket in its beak.
On the back of the card in parentheses, Bowley had written “be sure to open the locket,” which I promptly did to discover a miniscule silhouette of another crow, obviously the mate for which the bird was pining. Because crows mate for life, this sign of fidelity was most appropriate for the Valentine season.
Bowley signed the card and added his contact information. I emailed him immediately and learned that he was the recipient of my “True Love Stories Never End” card. Quickly, we became Facebook friends.
It’s been fun to share our artistic backgrounds with one another. Bowley, a high school librarian in Denver Public Schools, began quilting in 1990 and belongs to two Front Range quilt guilds.
He just completed a term on the board of directors of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. In the most recent men’s exhibit at the museum, Bowley displayed a half-square triangle quilt and a triptych of small seascapes in frames. Usually, he makes quilts with traditional patterns but gives them a contemporary look.
“I’ve recently started branching out and have become a lot more interested in art quilts,” Bowley says.
In the past year, he has made about 10 Artist Trading Cards — all crows holding crystal beads in their mouths. When he saw the challenge theme, Bowley thought he would substitute a heart in the beak. Then he found the teensy locket and knew just what he wanted to do.
Sharing art in this ATC format cultivates new friendships across the miles or sends a creative remembrance to someone special in our lives.
Let me wish you all — near and far — a happy Valentine’s Day.