In Flight, An ATC Tutorial

Arts and crafts have not been a part of this blog, but there’s a first time for everything.

There’s an excellent little arts and crafts store in my neighborhood called Flutterbuys and they have an ATC swap. I’ve always liked ATCs so I decided to join in.

ATC, or artist trading cards, are miniature works of art about the size of baseball cards. The ATC movement has its origins in Switzerland and developed out of the mail art movement, which began in the 1960s and involves sending art through the mail. While mail in general has been on the decline due to the internet and many people join online ATC groups, they still swap ATCs through the mail. They also gather locally.

I love the ethos of ATC and mail art in general. It’s one of openness and inclusion. Anyone can make ATCs using any materials and art techniques – drawing, painting, photography, collage, embossing, sewing, you name it. There’s only one rule when it comes to ATC’s:  it must be 2 ½ X 3 ½ inch or 64 X 89 mm. There are few other loose guidelines:

  • An ATC should be thin enough to fit inside standard card-collector pockets, sleeves or sheets.
  • The back of the ATC includes the artist’s name, title, date, contact information, series, theme, etc.
  • ATCs are only exchanged, never sold.

Additional rules may be set by an ATC swap group you join. At Flutterbuys, the only other thing they ask is that you use three different elements (i.e. stamping, embossing, and  fabric), but they’re not particularly strict about this since it may be challenging for beginners. I consider myself a beginner. I’ve only got a few ATCs under my belt and it’s been over a year since I made one. On top of that, I have very few supplies as a result of my move to Australia.

Flutterbuys has selected the ATC themes for the year. The first one, for January, was In Flight. I quickly decided that I wanted a steampunk hot air balloon against a blue sky. Here’s how I created my ATC for the swap.

Artist Trading Card

I bought a sheet of blue scrapbook paper. It was brighter than I wanted so I mixed some white paint with water and gave it a wash with a foam brush. This also made the paper a little bit stiffer.

Artist Trading Card

After the paper dried, I glued the blank ATC cards on to it with a glue stick and later cut them out.

Artist Trading Cards

I love rubber stamping. I used a gibberish script background stamp on each card. I used Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Vintage Photo.

Artist Trading Cards

Next, I painted some fluffy clouds using white gouache paint.

Artist Trading Card

I took an old map and distressed it with the same Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Vintage Photo; it’s one of my favorites. After it dried, I ripped it and glued a piece to each card.

Artist Trading Card

More rubber stamping fun! I stamped my steampunk balloon to cardstock that is a very light beige color. I cut them out and glued one to each card. I stamped the word “FLY” on each card and was all done.

Artist Trading Card

The most frustrating part of swapping ATCs is waiting for your cards from the other participants. I get excited and look forward to seeing what others create. Here’s what other people came up with.

Artist Trading Card

Have you ever done any ATC? Do you have any artsy craftsy hobbies such as card making, scrapbooking, or sewing?

About the featured image: ATC Trading Show, http://www.artisttradingcards.org.


8 responses

    • Thanks. I got into ATC because I’m not great with long-term projects, but ATCs can be completed in a short amount of time. It’s a good artistic outlet for me.

  • I like ATCs, but I don’t participate in any swaps. Being something of a minimalist, I can’t really justify collecting something that doesn’t have a functional purpose and will only take up space (or worse, turn into clutter). But I do love seeing what other people make. I think yours is the nicest of the ones you collected, my second favourite being the other hot air balloon one.

    I’m glad you finally discovered Flutterbuys. I love the ladies who work there and they have the best craft stuff in Melbourne, IMO.

    • Thanks! I totally understand the clutter issue. I keep to only one shoebox-sized container of ephemera and it is leftover materials. I see so many things I like, but I rarely buy something unless I have a plan for it. Beyond that, I keep my items in a toolbox and buy single containers of things, just one small container of the most versatile Mod Podge, for example, as opposed to a big tub of every single kind. If I had my own studio or craft room, it might be different, and it’s easy to get carried, but I hate clutter as well and it will just end up being a waste of money if the stuff goes bad before I can finish it. My only trouble area are rubber stamps. I love them and, along with the ink pads, they do take up quite a bit of space. I haven’t figured out a good way to store them and just keep them in a plastic container.


Leave a Reply