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Another month, another ATC swap! Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are small crafts that are freely exchanged between individuals, around the world, usually via snail mail, as an exercise to interact with other artists and experience/collect samples of their work. Basically, you "claim" the most recent participant before you, select one of their listed themes as the subject matter for the card that you'll subsequently make for them, and then post your own preferences for an ATC, so that the next person who comes along can do the same for you.

This time, rather than participate in the "official" monthly ATC swap at Craftster, I just did a "private" swap with a fellow Craftster member from Georgia, "Pottermouth", after she mentioned, in a message, that she'd like to have one of my ATCs.

For the first card, I chose Pottermouth's "bugs and insects" theme. After leafing through several volumes of insect books at my local library, I settled on this long-legged fly as my subject matter, both because I found its shape visually interesting and its side view was proportioned to fill out an ATC nicely (in my opinion, many bugs wouldn't look too great framed in a small rectangle like this, as I feel you'd have to crop out parts of their legs/antennae/wings and/or end up with too much empty space surrounding them).

For the second card (well, technically, I finished this one first, but the bug above was what I started with), I combined Pottermouth's "body parts" and Harry Potter themes to get this nasty thing from The Warlock's Hairy Heart short story found in J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard book. I'm not much of a Harry Potter fan (the slim volume I just mentioned is the only Rowling tome I own and have ever read), but I am partial to internal organs that badly need a shave (I've even contemplated making a papier mache model of this hairy heart several times). I considered using MY hair instead of sewing thread (probably from my forearms, as I trimmed my buzzcut relatively recently, so, hairs from my head would have been far too short), but that would have been kind of gross/creepy, and I wasn't really in the mood to harvest any from my body anyway, so, I just grabbed a spool of thread instead.

On February 16th I received a small box from Pottermouth in the mail. What was inside? A purrfect little book full of reproductions of vintage Louis Wain paper cat dolls!

While the cover is really just a printout, the texture and wear is very realistic-looking; in fact, I had to run my fingers over it to convince myself that it wasn't an actual book cover that she had cut down to size! The volume ties shut with a cute translucent green ribbon to keep everything safely secured inside. I'm terrible at making knots, so, I can't ever get my bow to look as nice as how Pottermouth had it when I first received the book (which is what's pictured below).

In addition to the book itself, the accompanying note that she included was written on the back of this thematically coordinating image which sports a trio of adorable dressed-up kitties. That tomcat in red is a total playah!

Pottermouth thoughtfully provided a pair of double-sided fold-out images for use as backdrops with the paper doll figures/objects. The first has a beautiful vintage-style rose/fence/bottles arrangement on one side, with a more subdued brown variation on that, with some added cursive text, and minus the blooms, on the reverse. The second sports a clock faces motif on one half (while doubtlessly intended for Cinderella, it also makes me think of Alice and the White Rabbit) and lush foliage on the other (perfect for Robin Hood).

The first "story" in the volume focuses on that merry thief with a heart of gold, Robin Hood. I'd also like to mention that all of the letters you see in the book, including the cover, are actual raised elements painstakingly glued into place, not written.

What's that black object on the inside cover you ask? Why, it's a cat's head that rotates upwards so that you can have a kitty peeking out at you from inside the book! How cool is that? Such an amusing and adorable extra touch!

Here are the contents of the checkered orange Robin Hood envelope. If you're wondering, the white strips are what you attach to the figures/objects' backs, bent at an angle, to give them support so that they can stand unassisted.

A couple of arrangements. I cut the white space inside the bow (seen above) out so that it'd look more natural. While I did use the included strips for the cat figures, I also found that utilizing shaped pieces of my kneading eraser as supports for the smaller background objects worked extremely well.

Feline Robin Hood can't be trusted with money!

The second "tale" focuses on Aladdin and the Princess he desires:

Here are the contents of the green starred envelope. I like that Wain incorporated some Asian flavor into the costumes, because, if memory serves, I believe that, years ago, when I read the translated story of Aladdin, from its original source material, in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, the tale was set in China, or another Asian country, not the Middle East as popular culture, and Disney in particular, would have us believe.

A pair of arrangements:

The final "story" is Cinderella, or, as Pottermouth more creatively titled it, the "Little Glass Slipper":

Here are the contents of the red floral envelope:

A couple of arrangements:

I wish I had a Fairy Catmother!

And, finally, Pottermouth also included a rearview image of a feline (what I like to call a cat's "Talk to the butt!" pose) stamped on the inside of the back cover. I pixellated the artist's real name, in the bottom right corner, for privacy purposes.

Examining the paper dolls, I got to thinking that they looked awfully familiar to me. And, sure enough, these very same ones were pictured in the 1991 A Victorian Celebration: Parlor Cats book that I bought and read at the end of November. On the back cover, you can see the Robin Hood sheet, and the one with the Aladdin pieces, which is titled "Aladdin, the Princess, and the Magician" (the same images are shown in the interior of the book, in collage fashion, along with a third, Little-Red Riding Hood sample). The authors don't go into a lot of detail about them or anything, they just mention paper dolls in passing while discussing vintage feline art/merchandise in general. The notes in the back of the volume state that they were all from the "Dressing Dolls' Fairy Tale" series, produced by Raphael Tuck & Sons, in London, England, circa 1910, and illustrated by Louis Wain. Anyway, it's always cool when you unexpectedly end up with something that you recently read about or saw--the stars were in alignment when Pottermouth chose her subject matter!

Sadly, Rainbow Dash has no appreciation for feline literature!

All three paper kitty scenarios are wonderful, but I'm partial to the Cinderella one (I particularly dig the tiny fairy godmother cat figure.) The whole affair was very professionally and creatively done--I love cats, paper dolls, and books, so it hits on all three of those interests simultaneously--thank you very much for your amazing little volume of feline fun, Pottermouth!

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