Much of this list was compiled by members of illustratedatcs.com. If we’re missing anything, let us know.
ATC | Artist Trading Card
2.5″ x 3.5″. ALWAYS traded and never sold. The swap-based, original form of art cards.
ACEO | Art Card Editions & Originals
2.5″ x 3.5″. ALWAYS sold and never traded. The newer, commercial/retail form of art cards.
RAK | Random Act of Kindness
What it’s called when, apropos of nothing, you send mail art or ephemera to a fellow artist… just because, to be nice. Sometimes a call for RAKs is sent out when a member is having a rough time.
ATCs or pages with a “gothic style arch” on top, instead of the usual flat top.
“Rolodex” cards (the ones for addresses and business cards) which are customized with art.
Moleskine | Moleys
Journal round robin swaps which begin with a Moleskine brand journal, frequently the “Japanese accordion fold” variety, which measures about 3.5″ x 5.5″.
Just as the name implies, inchies are 1″ x 1″ and are normally swapped in lots of 6, 9 or 12.
Twinchies = “two + inchies.” They are 2″ x 2″ pieces of art that are traded in swaps.
Collaborative Mail Art Projects
A mini-journal with just a few pages, in a smallish size, often hand made. Decos have their own “culture” and are often passed from artist to artist without a specified pathway. You might not know where it’s going and when — or if! — it will be back.
Swaps with limited, set participants and a very strict order of mailing from person to person. The art that’s being circulated in the round robin might be a journal, an altered book, a canvas — or whatever. The end goal is that each participant receives art that’s been worked on by the entire group.
When many artists work on one single piece of art — a single ATC, a single journal page, a single canvas, a single object — collaboratively and in round robin fashion, it’s called a “JAM.” All jams are round robins; whether art is passed from studio to studio via post, or passed around a table from artist to artist, it must circulate to every artist, if every artist is to contribute.
Round robin journal swaps are NOT typically “jams” because pages are usually created by individuals, not collaboratively. The end product of a round robin journal swap is a collaborative effort when taken in its entirety, but it’s not considered a “jam” unless each page in the journal has a contribution from every artist in the cycle.
Chunky pages | Chunkies
Typically, 4×4 pages which are thicker than the average ATC, and also contain embellishments, fringe, 3D elements and other ephemera which make them “chunky.” People tend to bind them into books or hang them on the wall en masse. The left and top edges are often left free of heavy chunk so that people can bind or hang as they wish. Check swap guidelines for specifics and individual requests.
Typically, larger pages (6×6, 8×8) which are created by the individual artist — often in pairs, as a two-page “spread” — then sent to the journal owner, who “tips them in” to his/her already-created journal. Sometimes journals are sent intact and whole from player to player, but more often artists create individual journal pages and ship them to the journal owner for him/her to add to the journal him/her self. Saves on shipping costs, and keeps the journal safer when it doesn’t have to travel constantly.
Skinny pages | Skinnies
Tall, skinny journal pages. Historically, iATCs skinny page swaps have featured 3×7 inch pages, with the short edges at top and bottom.
PAT | Pick-A-Theme | Many themes to create, one theme to receive
A multi-group swap in which you choose your own unique, personal theme. The host creates small groups when introducing the swap. To participate, you need to qualify with a specific iTrader rating (see below.) Then…
- Join a small group. Your choice of group will be based on either (a) chance, or (b) peer artist preference. Usually there are 5-9 artists per small group, and a PAT swap might contain five to ten small groups, in total. So they tend to be large-ish swaps and complex to host.
- Specify your theme. It can be whatever you like; very fun! One catch, though: Your fellow group members will ALSO be specifying a personal theme. This requires flexibility and sometimes, a bit of research, and you often work outside your comfort zone. Be warned.
- Create cards for your group members according to THEIR chosen themes.
PAT swaps are a great way to collect a particular theme you’re craving. You must be especially committed and creative, though, to play nice in this sandbox. Withdrawals are not allowed, because art is being created that’s been customized for YOU.
1. Jo – Trick or Treat
2. Donna – Star Trek TOS
3. Opal – Sealife
4. Catman – Artist’s interpretation of “Stylish Cats”.
5. Veggies – Chimera
In this example, Jo makes cards with Star Trek TOS, sealife, stylish cat, and chimera themes. All of Jo’s returns will feature her chosen “Trick or Treat” theme.
CAT | Create-A-Theme | One theme to create, many themes to receive
A multi-group swap comprised of small groups. Each group is assigned overall theme by the swap host when the swap is introduced.
- Join a themed group. Your choice will be based on group theme. Usually there are 5-9 artists per small group, and a CAT swap might contain five to ten small groups, in total. So they tend to be large-ish swaps and complex to host.
- Narrow your focus within the themed group to something uniquely personal, that’s still within the theme.
- Create cards for your group members according to YOUR chosen theme.
Group 6 — Fantasy
1. Amber- Squashed Fairies
2. Maria- Mermaids
3. EraserQueen- Evil Fairy Queens
4. Gene- Fairies
5. Don – Mermaids
In this example, Amber makes cards for her group members according to her own theme (Squashed Fairies.) Amber’s returns will include mermaids, evil fairy queens, fairies, and mermaids.
Play it Forward (PIF) & Play it Backward (PIB)
PIF | Play It Forward | What do you offer?
Post to the PIF thread and offer card options — “I’ll make a mermaid or a still life with fruit” — and someone else gets excited and writes, “I’ll take that mermaid!!” The “taker” is then obligated to pay the favor forward (get it? It’s a pun!), explaining his/her own offering(s) — “I offer an animal in historical clothing or a neon portrait” to the next person. And on it goes…
PIB | Play it Backward | What do you want?
Post to the PIB thread and ask for what you want — “I’d like a card featuring Harajuku girls” — and someone else offers to make it for you and writes, “I’ll make you a Harajuku card!” Then, the “giver” makes a personal request of his/her own — “I want a card featuring teacups and cakes” — and the next interested person to come along says, “I’ll make those cups & cakes for you, and I’d like…” And on it goes….