Looks like yet another mail art idea has been commercialized:
Strathmore Artist Papers™ is hosting a global artist trading card swap! Create your own holiday or winter-themed trading card and we'll pass it on. In exchange, you
will receive an original piece of art from another artist somewhere around the world.
Never really got into those ATC. The original concept by Vanci Stirnemann (Switserland) was quite good, but the rest took over. There was no commercial aspect in the beginning. But when it sells who will stop this?
I don't think anyone can stop it. Now they have sites all over the net where you can buy or sell your ACEOs (a way to sell ATCs without calling them ATCs). I am sick about it. On the one hand, it would be great to make money from my artwork and I love making ATCs because I have always loved miniatures. But, I just can't bring myself to do it. It feels dirty somehow. I wish it didn't. I suppose if I sold them on the Left Bank in Paris it would be all right...? Lolol... or maybe if I were homeless and living out of a cardboard box...? Then it could be seen as charity of a sort! I don't know - I think I will always feel conflicted about this and it will be just another reason I can't make a living as an artist. :) As a photographer, I wouldn't airbrush people into looking differently and so on and that lost me a lot of jobs. As a singer, I wouldn't sing things I didn't believe in (like religious songs and arias, which is one of the main ways to make a living as an operatic soprano). It's a lifelong struggle which I admit I seem to be losing. :)
You have those who collect mail art and then sell certain pieces in assembly boxes or to art bookshops. I saw many mail art catalogues or (mail) artist books in shops in London for instance. We can deplore this but it happens. The world is like that.
Another element is that the mail art concept gets commercialized. A good example of this is POSTAL SEANCE where a guy sent mail to a bunch of famous death people and the returns were published in a book. Now this approach is pure mail art, an imitation even of what many mail artists did in the past but the whole book is a commercial exploitation of the inventivness of the mail art network. If I'm not mistaken I have documented this on my collective blog on artist books and small print publication: http://boklist.blogspot.com
Ah, yes, this is always something up for debate. I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, I hate the idea of someone making money from things they got from others for free in the spirit of trading. Period. But, on the other hand, ideas like the book based on returns from letters sent to the dead could go either way - it's a good mail art project but it's also fair game for a commercial book. Why not? It doesn't hurt anyone and it helps at least one person financially. When I was trying to make a living as an artist, and watching what my Mom went through trying to sell her work and be represented and so on, I saw immediately that there could be a conflict here. If you need to pay the rent or eat or go to the hospital and you are an artist, you might be tempted to sell your mail art. I don't think I would do it but I haven't been so desperate that it came up for me. As for selling one's own mail art, or mail art catalogs one has produced oneself, it's an even more difficult and slippery slope. If we say that people can't sell their own work, what are we saying about the viability of being an artist or a curator in the modern world? Simply, that it is wrong for it to happen. I'm against constraining artists in that way. It's a very hard world in which to make a living at art (and I'm not talking about being a famous artist or selling your work for tons of money, I mean being a journeyman artist, being able to survive and still follow your muse).
ATCs as Vanci started them was brilliant and still is, though he has stopped doing the collections and trades himself. Sister Trading Cards is still going on the last time I looked and George Kovats at The Perpetual Exchange also runs the same kind of thing. All of these are for trade only and amongst the artists themselves. There have been some things through Nervousness that were mail art and nothing else. But, most of the ATC stuff over the years has gone a different direction. For one thing, my personal disappointment, many people copy what they think they 'should' make as ATCs. I was in an ATC book published by a rubber stamp magazine publisher in which even my original work looked like everything else because they printed everything in a certain way. It took me forever to find my own work in there! I thought they'd ostracized me from being in the book until finally someone found my name in there and I was shocked it was the same piece I sent in. Lots of people promote ways of making ATCs which are just a way to promote their products... one thing I'll say for Strathmore is that their project is just paper and paper doesn't limit your expression. The ones I really dislike are the ones where someone has made rubber stamps or stickers to fit ATCs and promotes them as great tools for making your own. The thing about collage using magazines or other ephemera, or type, or using rubber stamps is that you chose the ones you wanted to use through every day use of the magazines, rubber stamps, or type. I think it limits the lengths people have to go to find what they want and, therefore, limits the growth of the person. It does one good to have to create what one can't find, for example.
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