ATC is an acronym for Artist Trading Cards, with a neat story at its origins: Swiss artist M. Vanci Stirnemann put 1,200 miniature pieces of art on exhibit and on the last day of the show, every single one was given away to the audience with the entreaty to make their own tiny works of art and trade them with other artists. And thus the Artist Trading Card movement was born! Once you delve into the world of ATCs, it’s amazing to see the tiny masterpieces that people can create on a little card – the same size as a baseball card or playing card – and swapping with other artists all over the world.
I found out the history after I’d already become intrigued by a few different sources… my Mom loves a vendor in Alabama who shows up at all the craft fairs with her notebook full of ATCs, and my mom has given me a few over the years that have become my favorite book marks. I’ve also seen references on one of my favorite elementary art blogs, Art Projects for Kids. Then I started looking on Pinterest and youtube (for tutorials)… and wow! There is so much inspiration to explore. Below are two of my favorites from Pinterest.
There’s so much information out there that it can get overwhelming… but the actual 2.5×3.5-inch space isn’t supposed to be intimidating. So I sat down and just started going to town. You can use what you have on hand or you can buy a bunch of fun supplies… either way, it’s addicting!
Artist Trading Cards
Time: Maybe 10 minutes
Cost: Free to Endless (you can use only what you already have, or you can go crazy with embellishments)
- playing cards, thin cardboard, baseball cards, etc. that measure 2.5×3.5-inches
- magazines or paper images
- mod podge or glue stick
- optional: stickers, stamps and ink, paper or fabric scraps, ribbon/lace/paper doilies, markers/metallic Sharpies/glitter, scrapbooking accessories, etc.
You can go at it any way you like. There were a few tutorials I found helpful – this youtube video by Mad Mystical Creations shows how to use magazine clippings., which is what I did for my first batch.
I’m just starting out, and there are a billion different techniques, but I like to start slow and simple. I spent an hour or so going through a magazine and clipping interesting images and words.
I also looked for interesting backgrounds – water or mountains or fun textures and patterns. I used old playing cards as the base for my ATC, but you can cut up any thin cardboard to the right size. I have a bottle of mod podge from an old project on hand, but you can use anything from a glue stick to fancy tacky glue made specifically for paper crafts.
Then… just go for it!
Layers are generally a good idea for some depth – add the background first, then whatever images or words you like on top.
I like to focus on a special word to give meaning to an image, whether it’s cut form a magazine, typed and printed, or written by my own hand on a scrap of paper. Glue everything down, then maybe look for extra ways to embellish your card… maybe a sticker, or outlining an image with a metallic pen, or glitter (I haven’t ventured that far yet…) Turn the card over and trim the edges, so there is nothing hanging over the edge. If you’re using mod podge you can apply a thin layer over the entire card to seal it, but it’s not necessary. If you plan to swap your cards, you can add your name and date and/or contact info on the back – I used stickers with my initials.
I don’t want this new craft to get out of hand… so to corral all the supplies, I’m using a cheap plastic two-pocket folder to stay organized. On one side, I keep bigger sheets/cutouts (mostly for backgrounds), and on the other side all my stickers and a baggie of smaller cutouts. Of course, the playing cards and stamps don’t fit but I already have them stored somewhere else.
I can admit I’m slightly addicted… part of the fascination is the size of course (I love anything mini), but also because ATCs are so collectible AND easy to store… I bought myself a few sleeves of baseball card organizers and I’m officially starting a new collection!
Over a couple nights, I made ten ATCs… the perfect activity to do in a few minutes with easy cleanup. Below are the cards from my first batch… I can’t wait to make more!
Hooray for Pinterest! If you’ve ever been intimidated by collaging or scrapbooking, this is the perfect no-pressure craft to start… I don’t have time for a bunch of fiddly projects, but this is super easy!