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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.

For Craftster's December 2015 ATC exchange I claimed two women, "spikefan" from North Carolina (the same individual that I previously made the butterfly cards for) and "rockingbearranch" from Texas. I picked the theme of "animal house/room (especially mice)" for spikefan, and "artist's choice" for rockingbearranch (but only because I wanted time to decide which of her other themes I wished to tackle--I ultimately went with "a flower in her hair").

I had a bunch of different ideas, everything from a pop-up card to a papercraft model house that the recipient would have to cut out and assemble, but I ultimately went with a photograph collage for the mouse and its room. I primarily used images from a Woman's Day magazine and a Home Decorator catalog. Believe it or not, the mouse was actually a zebra salt shaker that I heavily modified into the rodent form you see (I loved the calligraphy-like "stripes" on its porcelain hide)!

I used a photo of British super model Edie Campbell, from a back issue of Vogue magazine, as a still life reference model when I drew this card. Aside from being a beautiful young woman with piercing eyes, she was wearing a crown of daisies in that particular photo shoot, which was exactly what I was looking for as I flipped through the pages.

Part of the ATC swap's rules are that you must post photos of the pieces that you receive. As such, I thought I'd also share the images that spikefan and rockingbearranch took of my cards. I like that, because it gives me the chance to view my handiwork from the perspective of someone else's camera lens or scanner, which allows me to judge what I've done more objectively (it's hard to distance yourself from something you made).

I have no idea what image capturing tools or methodology said women employed, but, I used a digital camera, with flash, not natural light, for my photos, which probably accounts for the color and brightness differences. I cropped out excess empty space and slightly increased their size, but I did not alter their images beyond those minor spatial adjustments.

"Blupaisan", a woman from Vermont, selected my "a clueless hermit crab who chose something VERY unusual to use for its new shell" theme and I received her ATC on December 29th, 2015. I don't know why, but that concept just popped into my head, and, once it did, I knew I had to list it. I've never owned a hermit crab myself, but one of my younger sisters "babysat" her teacher's, over summer vacation, when we were kids, so, I have handled a hermit crab in the past (which I did not enjoy at all--it felt too much like a giant, heavy spider for my liking, and I had to resist the urge to fling it away from me, even though I knew it was completely harmless).

In my zip code (or at least inside of my house), all ATCs arrive courtesy of Pegasus Express. Rumors that it also rains marshmallows and that all of the leaves on the trees are bedazzled with pink glitter could not be reliably confirmed at press time.

In addition to the ATC itself, blupaisan also included this card in the envelope, which sports a neat floral pattern design (I totally see faces in there, including The Wizard of Oz's Cowardly Lion and Rorschach from DC's Watchmen!) Oh, and I apologize for the camera flash reflected glare on the left edge.

Her message on the back of said insert:

The ATC came nestled inside this little brown paper envelope with a fancy scalloped opening.

Not only is the hermit crab blupaisan made for me clueless, but I fear that the poor thing is completely off its rocker. I shudder to think of the headaches and vertigo one would experience from living inside of a bowling ball that sees regular usage! I bet that the zany arthropod gives the fingers of anyone foolish enough to stick their digits inside of the holes a good pinching with its claws to boot (or maybe it just licks grease and beer residue off of their fingertips--it's gotta get sustenance somehow). Speaking of which, excluding virtual video game renditions, I don't believe that I've actually gone bowling since I was in the sixth grade, and, now, if I ever do, I'll have to be sure to scrutinize the ball's holes to make sure that they aren't occupied.

And here's the colorfully striped back of the card:

Cap'n Penguin wasn't terribly impressed with the new recruit's shenanigans though . . .

Many thanks for the card, blupaisan--I love it! Several times, I tried to imagine what kind of object you were going to stick the poor crab into and I didn't come even remotely close to guessing correctly; your interpretation of my theme is both wonderfully creative and hilarious.

Texan "RockingBearRanch" returned the favor, for the "A Flower in Her Hair" ATC show above, and made me a card for my "A paper doll (preferably a woman or an animal, but it's up to you)" theme. I own several paper dolls, mostly the magnetic variety, and I'm always up for adding another to my collection! Her envelope arrived in the mail on January 11th, 2016.

Everything came snuggled inside of this pretty floral card (Poinsettias I think?):

Instead of a more traditional paper doll, RockingBearRanch chose to make me a fashion plate style one, with celebrity Nicki Minaj as the subject (she playfully noted that Ms. Minaj often dresses like a Barbie doll anyway). While I've seen photos of them before, I've never actually owned a sample of this particular kind of dress-up doll, so I was pleased as punch to receive one. The idea is that you insert different plates, in combination with a piece of fabric, in a sandwich-like fashion, to create various ensembles. RockingBearRanch provided plates for Nicki's top and skirt (or you can choose to use neither if you'd like a full dress instead)--that's some clever design work!

She also included a little plastic Ziploc bag crammed full of nine different pieces of fabric, in a variety of hues/patterns, for me to decorate Nicki with. RockingBearRanch indicated that she liked the look of the fuzzy white material the best, and I'm partial to the blue/green tie-dye, red/orange swirls, spotted pelt (cheetah?), and pine needle/mushroom patterned ones. Handling these also made me wish that I had purchased a Bandai Harumika set when I had the chance this past summer (they're little white plastic torsos/dolls, that you can wrap pieces of fabric around, and tuck the ends into the hollow slots in their backs, to rapidly create various fashion designs), as I would have been able to swap the textiles back-and-forth between that toy and this ATC.

A part of me would like to post every combination (by my math, there are a total of 30 unique looks possible), but that'd be overkill, even for a shameless photo spammer like myself, so, I'll just share three examples:

And, for the sake of completeness, here's the back of the card:

I own a Mattel Brandy Norwood doll, but no Nicki Minaj (while I imagine that there are custom ones out there, I don't know if an officially licensed Nicki doll has ever been produced), so, I slapped a blonde wig onto my MGA Moxie Teenz Arizona as a substitute for this photo. The ATC and the fabrics are about the right size that they could be used for doll props/accessories too.

The contents of RockingBearRanch's envelope were a delightful surprise. While I waited for the card to arrive, I mentally speculated as to what the ATC might look like, and, as usual, I was completely wrong (I don't know why I even try)--let me tell you, I have absolutely zero potential for a career as either a psychic or fortuneteller! Between her, and blupaisan, I now have two very different examples of paper doll ATCs to enjoy. And this is the type of gift that can keep on giving, as it's simplicity itself for me to provide Nicki with even more wardrobe options every time that I end up with a leftover scrap of material from one of my own projects (or if I just ruin or wear out one of my own articles of clothing). Plus, now I can truthfully tell people that Nicki Minaj changes clothes at my place (how could an exaggeration like that possibly backfire?) Thank you for your awesome interactive fashion creation, RockingBearRanch!

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