Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Artist Trading Cards 101 - Tips and Tricks

I've been enjoying my latest passion - creating ATC's. I just can't get enough of these miniature works of art. This past week, Mothers and Daughters Creations introduced these little wonders as their weekly challenge.

If you haven't tried your hand at making one, now is the perfect time. In a previous blog post I discussed what they are in general. In this post, I'm giving detailed start to finish instructions for making them.

To "start", you need card stock cut to 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches exactly. If there is one hard and fast rule, that's it. And you need at least two pieces of card stock to make a sturdy base - more if your card stock is thin - less than 110 pound card stock.

You can get 10 panels from 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper by cutting the paper the long way in two 2.5 inch and one 3.5 inch strips and then cutting ATC panels to size from each strip.

With 12 inch by 12 inch paper, you can get 14 card panels. I cut two 3.5 inch strips and two 2.5 inch strips and then cut ATC sized panels to size from each strip.

In my view, a work of art requires a sturdy and well constructed base. Two layers of heavy card stock is considered the minimum standard base by most card artists. A layer of cardboard (the weight found in cereal or cracker boxes) is also an excellent base and I will occasionally use that instead, covering each side with either heavy weight patterned paper, card stock, or layers of both.

Sometimes I use different colors of card stock in creating my cards and if so, I may cut subsequent layers 1/8th inch shorter and narrower to give a matted effect, but my base is always a minimum of two layers that measure 2.5 by 3.5 inches precisely. The majority of my cards have four or more layers of card and paper stock when I'm done.

Adhering the pieces of card stock can be a headache. After much trial and error, here is my fool proof way to make sure the layers don't separate. I use a permanent bond adhesive on a roll-type dispenser. I use either Tombow or my latest favorite, Memory Tape by ThermoWeb (both available at most retailers such as Michael's, AC Moore, and JoAnn's, as well as specialty craft stores). I run the tape all along the edges of both papers I am adhering, being careful to completely cover the corners. I add a few lines of adhesive across the middle of the card piece. Then I adhere them together and run a brayer over them to bind the adhesive. Successiev layers are added the same way.

If I am securing ends of ribbon or brads between the layers, I find that dimensional adhesive is needed to adhere the layers securely.

After I use the tape runner to apply tape to each piece, I add a small amount of the glaze in those areas with a tooth pick and hold the layers together with a plastic clothespin type of clip for a minute or two until the glaze dries.

I think that edging the layers adds both elegance and a finished touch, and so I generally treat all cut edges of my cards at least by inking and often by either embossing the edges or with glitter. But first they must be evened out.

No matter how carefully you cut and line up the edges, it's almost impossible to get the edges of the cards completely, perfectly even. If I am off by a noticeable margin, I trim first with my detail scissors. Then I gently buff the edges with a sandpaper block and wipe them down with a tack cloth.

I've found special "cleanup" cloths for glitter and embossing powder sold on line but tack cloths are readily available at places like Home Depot and even Wal-Mart for as little as a couple of dollars and can be opened and cut into four smaller and more manageable pieces. You can even make your own tack cloth from cheese cloth, turpentine, and varnish.

Gilting, inking, or embossing the edges of your cards is a finishing touch that sets off the art in a beautiful way and adds enormously to the overall effect.

At a minimum, I will at least brush cut edges with the side of an ink pad. This is especially important if you use white core card stock to cut your panels as it will cover the white and finish the edges in either the same or a contrasting color (such as gold).

If I want a bit more glitz, I'll use Versamark and then edge with embossing powder.

The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle embossing powder along the inside fold of a folded piece of scrap paper to a depth of about 1/8th inch. Drag the inked edge of the card in the powder to coat, and then heat emboss. If you find that there is too much powder in some areas, it can be dusted off with a paint brush. If you miss an area, just re-ink and emboss that area again.

Decorative touches can take many forms. In the cards on the left (click on each image for a larger view), I added punched flowers and hearts, painted and cut out stamped flowers and then layered them over the stamped image, and embellished them with Liquid Pearls.

I wanted to finish the bottom card at left with a Prima flower but the ones I have were too large and too dark to coordinate well with the card. The fix was easy. I simply cut it down with detail scissors, brushed the petals with Versamark and dusted it with Seafoam White embossing powder. After embossing, I finishedit off wtih a center of Liquid Pearls.

Recently, my husband and I hosted a Valentine dinner party. I used ATC's as place cards at each place setting. The cards were made by stamping a lovely swag of roses under a computer generated name. I used the Vivaldi font and adjusted the font settings to give a shadowed effect. In Word, click "Format" on the tool bar and select "Font". You can choose from several options including embossing and shadowing effects.

The roses were stamped in Versamark, embossed in Detail Gold, and painted using Dewalt watercolor pencils. I used patterned papers from two different premium DCWV paper stacks that matched the colors in our china. Each layer was inked in gold and the card was finished with an organza bow.

Placed on fan folded napkins and embellished with some sprigs of baby's breath, these ATC's were a lovely place card and a beautiful keepsake for our guests. The napkins were folded with a simple accordian fold and slipped into silver plated napkin rings and fanned over the plates. I simply laid the cards down over the rings and tucked baby's breath under the bow in front and into the ribbon behind them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Wonderful Valentine's Day - A MultiMedia Event

Winter can be incredibly drab and depressing in the Northeast - it's cold and snowy and generally unpleasant to be outside (unless you are a lover of winter sports... I'm not).

Valentine's Day provides a lovely break from the snow and the cold, the post holiday bills, and the long dark nights, and it's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate love and friendship. My husband and I have a special way of doing that.

We both love to dance and we enjoy fine dining, but we've always disliked going out to celebrate Valentine's Day. Our favorite restaurants pack in extra tables, offer a revised (and much less varied but more expensive) menu, and rush us through a marginal meal and out the door to make way for the next couple. Where's the fun in that?

Several years ago we started a tradition of inviting friends who love to dance in for a private dinner dance. We "hire" our college age son to be the waiter and DJ, and we host 2 or 3 other couples for a very fancy formal dinner and dance. Dress is evening attire, a suit or tux for the gentlemen and evening gowns for the ladies, plus flowers. Think "prom" for the over 50 crowd.

We decide on a menu as a group and each couple pitches in with the cooking. This year, the evening started with an assortment of gourmet cheeses and hot and cold appetizers in the living room in front of the fireplace. After some wonderful conversation, we moved across the room to the dining alcove where dinner began with an authentic Italian antipastos and fresh baked bread courtesy of friends whose origins are in Rome.

We followed that with a remarkable beef tenderloin, a variety of side dishes, and beverages for everyone's palate and culture, a dark merlot, the last bottle of Pino Grigio from our wedding, and some sparkling grape juice from Israel.... all this on fabulous china and crystal laid out on spectacular linens.

I've been collecting Haviland Limoges for years and I
set the table using pieces of this exquisite antique china in a variety of patterns, but all with pink roses. Adding pink candles and napkins pulled it all together. I arranged some small pink roses, fern, and baby's breath in a sugar bowl and creamer to make low but delicate floral table decorations.

I made Artist Trading Cards for place cards. I began by printing the names of our guests in a fancy script (Vivaldi). I used Versamark and Detail Gold embossing powder to stamp a spray of roses underneath each name. I watercolored the roses and then cut each name and rose spray with a plain oval Nestabilities die.

Using some luxurious papers from two different premium paper stacks by DCWV, I cut scalloped ovals in a green print to mat the names and then cut two additional layers of card stock in a pearl pink print and the same green to mount and mat the ovals. Before adhering the layers, I edged each with gold ink. After I assembled the cards, I added an organza bow and embellished them with sprigs of baby's breath.... truly "multimedia".

After dinner, we moved to our great room for dessert in dancing.

We had moved out the regular furniture and carpet and brought in two bistro tables from our garden furniture storage shed. They were the perfect size at which to enjoy Waldorf Cake (Red Velvet Cake) and Tiramisu and cappuccino. The remainder of the evening was spent dancing to all of our favorite music and sharing pleasant conversation.

Consider hosting a formal "dress-up" event for a few friends. (Who doesn't like to get all dressed up?!) It's an economical way to have a million dollar evening. With formal attire, corsages and boutonnieres, it was like being at our own "mini prom".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An Introduction to Artist Trading Cards

Artist Trading Cards, or ATC’s, are limited edition collectible works of art made in the same ways and with the same techniques that are used to create "regular" greeting cards and scrapbook pages. The primary purpose of an ATC is to share a miniature work of art in one’s own personal style with another artist. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Three rules apply to ATC’s: First, dimensions of an ATC are always 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. It doesn’t matter whether the card is oriented in the portrait or landscape lay-out, but the actual dimensions are not negotiable.

Second, by definition, Artist Trading Cards are never sold. They can only be traded or given away. Cards of this size and conformity that are sold are referred to as ACEO’s, or Art Cards, Editions, and Originals.

And lastly, ATC's are signed and numbered by the artist as for any other valuable collectible. Typically, the artist will sign the back of the card with the following information: the name of the art piece, the artist’s name and on-line ID, email or web address, the date, and the individual card numbers.

Most serious ATC artists give their cards two numbers. The first is the actual design number – each uniquely designed card or card set/series receives a sequential number for the design. As miniature collectibles, ATC’s are made in limited numbers and often in sets of either “like” cards or theme-related cards and the cards within a set are also numbered.

When the card is a one of a kind, unique ATC, it’s referred to as an original and numbered 1/1 or 1 of 1. When sets of nearly identical ATC’s are created, they are called editions and are numbered according to how many cards are in the set or edition, such as 1/10, or 1 of 10. Sometimes a group of ATC’s will be created based on a theme. They are not identical but they share common elements that link them in what is called a series. They are numbered as for an edition, but are identified as a series. This information can be written randomly on the back of the card or on a variety of stamped templates including those designed specifically for ATC’s. Small stickers with the information printed on it can also be used, although the artist’s actual signature or initials are usually handwritten.

Making an ATC:

I love to make ATC’s because it provides a perfect opportunity to use up small scraps that I am loathe to discard, and because I can try out new techniques and experiment with different products in a small way. Also, unlike a greeting card or a scrapbook page, ATC’s don’t need a reason or an occasion. They are art for art’s sake.

To start, an ATC has to be created on a sturdy base. The thickness and sturdiness of two layers of card stock is considered the absolute minimum in terms of thickness. You can actually use a trading card or even a card from a standard deck of playing cards if you prefer rounded corners. I have used cardboard from cake mix and cereal boxes, but my favorite way is to start with two pieces of heavyweight card stock and build additional layers of card stock and patterned paper onto each piece, creating a front and back that are ultimately adhered together. I end up with a very sturdy card and this works well for me since I like the back of my cards to be “clean”; any brads or ribbons are secured in between the layers.

My cards typically have four layers of card stock and one or two layers of patterned paper. I start with two base layers that are exactly 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. I then layer a coordinating or contrasting card stock that is 1/8th inch shorter and narrower onto each base to form a front and back of my ATC. If Iadd a third layer, it will be smaller in length and width by 1/8th inch than the preceding layer. This provides an attractive "matted" apearance to my layers.

I usually use permanent roller adhesive such as Tombow and glue dots to adhere the layers. Glue sticks don’t provide a secure enough bond and wet glues cause too much buckling. I use dimensional adhesive to secure ribbons, brads, and other embellishments. If I am adhering layers and securing ribbon ends between layers, I use dimensional adhesive to secure the edges, with small plastic clips to hold the layers together until the adhesive dries.

When designing the layout of your card, it’s important to think of the scale of the card. If you simply “shrink down” the design and lay-out of a larger card, much of the detail will be lost. Instead, lay out the elements you want to include and choose portions of images judiciously. And look for techniques and finishing touches that lend themselves to small canvasses. A single tree branch or a flower stem or two, or a portion of a clock or building can make a wonderful image, whereas a large tree or flower garden, miniaturized to fit, will be lost in the small size of an ATC.

The typical swap will ask for a minimum of “at least two card stock layers and one embellishment”. Any and all techniques and materials can be used in fashioning an ATC. Metal, fabric, paper, clay, and acetate have been used to create ATC’s. Embellishments should be tasteful and securely applied. The only caveat is that whatever is used, the cards must be thin enough to fit into an ATC envelope or sleeve and they must be sturdy enough to be mailed, stored, handled, and used in a variety of ways.

There are a variety of ways that the back of the card can be finished. Many artists simply leave it plain and sign it. Others add a tag or label with identifying information. I tend to decorate the back in a small way to coordinate with the front, and I often use an ATC stamp or other stamp that provides an area to journal on the back of the card to record identifying information. I also occasionally use the back of the card as a mini “business card” and I include one with things I sell, especially when I am selling vintage china or an elaborate album.

Once they are finished, ATC’s that are being traded are usually stored in plastic bags, transparent sleeves, or paper or vellum envelopes. Collectors keep them in a variety of ways; they may be stored in boxes or albums, or framed to be displayed. They can be used to embellish scrap books or cards or altered items, or used alone as miniature cards, such as Valentines. Here are some samples of cards I’ve made.