Artist Trading Cards

Art for Art's Sake

In 1996-97 a new art culture sprang up which rejected the tradition of critiquing and pricing art. Swiss artist Vanci Stirnemann is hailed as the father of the movement that started when, inspired by sports trading cards, he created and showcased over a thousand Artist Trading Cards in a gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. He refused to sell the cards but offered to swap with anyone who brought in a card. A movement was born which eventually circled the globe.

This non-competitive art form has only two rules:
1. The cards should be 2.5” x 3.5” (64mm x 89mm)
2. The cards must not be sold; they must be traded with other artists.

It is recommended that the back be signed and dated and if the card is part of an edition that they be numbered. Artist Trading Cards are made of all sorts of materials and many different techniques are used. Because this is not a competitive culture, cards are traded one for one regardless of materials used or artistic style. There is no judgment involved. You either like the card offered and want to trade or you do not. There are ATC swap meets in many major cities around the world, and a number of cards are exchanged sight unseen in theme swaps on sites such as

For this article, we offered emu feathers to a number of artists that frequent and asked that they create two Artist Trading Cards using the feathers as an embellishment. Their interpretations are below.  Please post your comments on this article in our guest book.

aka Gwensmom

"I rarely make ATC's, but I joined this project because I enjoy working with textures. The feathers are on handmade paper created from old letterhead and sewing patterns. If you look at the closer view of the card on the left, you can see that it has the imprint of emu feathers in the paper." ~Sarah~



Heather Dawkins
aka Pagonfrog or earthspell

"I discovered ATC's in 2001, and really liked the small format to work on. I like ATC's purely because I can use my art ideas that wouldn't work on any thing else.  I really enjoyed working on these emu feather ATC's as it has attracted me back into the ATC world after a long time away from it." ~Heather~


Penny Linders
aka Penster

"I rediscovered the wonderful world of mail art 3 years ago and have learned that in this ever-changing world, the concept of mail art has changed too.  One of the newest concepts in mail art is Artist Trading Cards (ATC).  What attracted me to these was their size - 3-1/2" x 2-1/2".  A small canvas which is less intimidating to me than a large one.  Creating ATCs is a great way to use up those little bits of ephemera that are just too small to use anywhere else.  I don't need a big space to express what I want to convey, and ATCs are the perfect medium for this.  ATCs are a new, fun, easy, cheap way for mail artists to share their art with others."  ~Penny Linders~


D.D. Home
aka Dunglas

"I discovered ATCs about 9 months ago.  I was in a
creative rut, and they were just what I needed. The
small scale is unintimidating, and the trading is fun
and inspiring." ~Dunglas~



Nicole K
aka Stargal1998
"It was really interesting to work with Emu Feathers, they have a great texture and feel so soft. The worst
part was trying to channel my ideas into something workable. So many ideas made it to the art table from
the drawing board, and so many didn't seem to cut it. A card sent by a fellow invitee of this LMAO ended up
inspiring me to create the Emu King (he is an Emu by day and turns into a man by night); A line from King
Kong ("And in the end it was beauty tamed the Beast") inspired me to create the other one. I was really
happy and very proud to have been a part of this LMAO, I can only hope that my contributions were of a high enough caliber to match this LMAO." ~Nichole~


Cynthia J.
aka cheshire-cat

"When I first discovered ATCs a year and a half ago I was in a creative slump and these tiny pieces of art brought me instantly back to life. Sharing and trading these cards with others has been a truly joyous experience for me and I'm always amazed by the energy, heart, creativity and spirit that others pour into their work. I strive to match this...This is my inspiration and I hope that others enjoy my cards as much as I enjoy making them."~Cynthia~


Joumana Medlej
aka Alpaca

"I'm a designer and have been involved in crafts since I was a kid. When I discovered ATCs an exciting new world of bringing design and crafts together in unlimited experimentation was open before me. They take such a small amount of materials, and relatively little time, that I can try things and express ideas I'd never get around to doing on a larger canvas. To me they have been a way to keep the inspiration tap steadily flowing in parallel with my professional work." ~Joumana~


Cindy Pettit
aka ibiddy-boo

"I have always been fascinated with miniatures, and when i first happened upon ATC's, it was instant love! i had begun painting not long before discovering those little marvels, and working on such a tiny canvas really enthralled me. i also found it challenging, but i love a good challenge. ATC's were my introduction into mail art, and a whole new world that has allowed some bottled up creativity to finally be released." ~Cindy~


Heather Mann
aka yardenxanthe

Heather Mann was introduced to Artist's Trading Cards in late fall 2003,
and has been steadily creating new ones ever since.  "I used collage
as the medium for the Emu ATCs, incorporating hand-marbled paper, acrylic
paint, a hand-carved stamp, embossing powder, fabric, and of course, emu
feathers to create these unique pieces of mini art!" ~Heather~ 

Laura Lee
aka laurasia

"By day, I work in a library.  By night and weekend I am a photographer, artist and crafter.  I started making ATCs about a year ago.  Before that, I was making larger sized pieces, but eventually the small,
simple format of the ATC won me over.  I enjoy sharing my art and collecting that of others." ~Laurasia~


James O'Donnell

James is the Server Maintenance Director for   "I'm 17 years old, looking for a job, and a big ol' geek. I love movies, books, subways, music of all sorts, and watching Six Feet Under and Queer as Folk. When I'm away from Nervousness, you can find me lounging around with my friends, playing with my dog Bubba and my cat Jasmine, and being an amateur photographer. I'm also just getting into growing herbs and making zines." ~James~


aka possum

A librarian and teacher, Hollis says about "I love that there is a place where creativity seems limitless and encouraged regardless of how unconventional it may seem, and so far, I have only read really positive encouraging things on this site. It doesn't seem pompous like what I used to think made art Art." ~Hollis~



aka Sirus

"I had so much fun working on these...I was impressed by how easy it was to manipulate the feathers.  I know the feather alone and emu love are very straight forward and simple, but I really liked having the feather alone on a plain background.  And I couldn't resist my own version of the Emu picture that is so readily available on the net.  I have just started ATCs recently.  My first were around Halloween.  And with "Eek-mu 2" I created my 121st.  It is a very relaxing way to spend an evening." ~Rustell~


Kelli Kitty
aka kittymao

Kittymao refers to herself as a Dork.  She spends a lot of her time doing artsy fartsy stuff- in fact, she has a $50,000 debt and a bachelor's degree to prove it. She likes punk music and Mondrian.   And cats. Mao.  View more of her art here.


Jenn Hollowell
aka jmhcreativesolutions

"I started creating ATCs because I enjoyed the use of such a tiny canvas and the ability to explore so many new forms of media. On a larger canvas, I'm too intimidated to try new things. Using ATCs, I've been able to experiment and explore with ease." ~Jenn~


Sarah Nelson
aka medeous
"My first exposure to emus came on a trip to Australia in December of 1976.
My first exposure to ATCs came on a visit to in September of 2003.
Both were memorable." ~Sarah~


"Jolee aka Picasso loves mail art and is involved on the BOD of In addition to Nervousness,  Jolee works for Doulas of North America, a non-profit organization that certifies birthing companions. Jolee once baby-sat an emu egg for a week that unfortunately turned out to be unfertilized, however she enjoyed the incubator experience none the less." ~Jolee~



ATCs were made using several relatively basic household materials: Sharpie
and Crayola markers, film, embroidery thread, cardstock, and the
not-so-basic emu feathers. The photographs were taken by Seattle
photographer George Vernon.


        Emu's Zine does not diagnose, prescribe or dispense medical advice.  We report and attempt to educate the public about the possible health benefits derived through the use of emu oil based products and consumption of low cholesterol, low fat emu meat.   This site contains personal testimonies and professional observations.   We encourage people to contact their family physicians regarding any health problems they may have for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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