One of the things I love about my fellow scrapbookers, stampers, and paper artists is their generosity. It never stops amazing me how wonderful online and personal friends can be, and how inspiring it is to see their work. Swapping creations with other scrappers is a fabulous way to share your hobby, and treat your friends to a little TLC as well.
When I first started scrapbooking ten years ago, swaps were a fairly new idea, and lots of trial and error went into figuring out what makes a swap successful. Various swap styles, rules, and mediums have all had their moment in the spotlight.
Years later I still enjoy the idea of swapping creations with fellow artists; however I've developed a few ground rules to ensure that everyone enjoys the swapping process. Being a little bit of a control freak means that I prefer to play hostess. It's more work, but it gives me control over the style as well as the timeline, which I enjoy. If you don't want to deal with the additional work that being a host entails I suggest you stick to swapping with people you know and trust, and participate in invitation-only swaps.
There are several styles of swaps. The round robin, secret or swap sister, circle swap, and direct swap are the most popular.
- Round Robin swaps are started by the hostess. Usually there is a very specific theme or supply category that is being swapped, Christmas items for example. You fill a box with all of the Christmas items you have that you won't use. Make up an address label for each person participating and mail the box off to the first person on the list. She (or he) takes what she wants from the box, and puts in Christmas items of herown that she no longer can use, then mails to the third person, and so on down the line until the last person on the list mails the box back to the original host who sees what everyone else put inside the box. Ground rules about quality and quantity of products shared are important. You want to make sure that you start the box with good-quality desirable products and that each participant only includes nice quality items. Also you should have a timeline established for how long each person may hold onto the box before sending it on.
- Secret or Swap Sisters are a direct one-to-one swap. Two ladies are paired together, and either secretly or not they mail the swap items back and forth. In recent years I was a part of a Secret Sister Pringle Can swap. We decorated Pringles Chips containers and filled them with goodies. This type of swap is great when the item being exchanged is very detailed or costs enough that making multiples isn't practical. Mini albums, altered items, and holiday gifts are all popular themes for secret sister or swap sister events. In this type of swap it's nice to get a questionnaire filled out so that you know a little about your swap partner. These are the types of swaps that really allow you to pamper your friends. Sending e-cards and emails, taking the time to wrap items and make them special, and including something personal and unique all makes for a wonderful sister swap experience. Good communication is key to a successful sister swap. Each party has to be in agreement on timeline, cost of goods exchanged, and swap guidelines so that one person doesn't go far above and beyond and doesn't feel like their time and effort were not reciprocated.
- Circle swaps have become popular in recent years, especially with the increased excitement over altered art, book binding, and journaling. Most frequently a theme is chosen for an altered book or journal. Everyone starts his or her own project and decides on the theme or guide lines for the piece. Then the projects are all mailed in a big circle, going from one person in the group to another. Each person creates their own page in the album or journal that adheres to the theme and then they mail it on. At the end of the swap you have a piece of art made by yourself and several friends. This type of swap takes quite a bit of organization and trust. You want to know that your item will make its way back to you in a timely manner. The timeline is the most important factor in my opinion. Each person has to be committed to working on the piece and getting it back in the mail pretty quickly.
Don't think that you are restricted to altered journals and albums for circle swaps though. Altered canvases for example, where each artist adds a bit to the item, could turn out to be a very cool and very eclectic art piece.
- Direct swaps are the most basic swaps, and the easiest ones to arrange and participate in. Everyone has a theme or supply that they are swapping. If ten people are participating you send in ten of your item, you'll get one of your own back as well as nine new ones. Sometimes these swaps are for handmade items like decorated tags or birthday cards. Other times it's a specific supply like ribbon or buttons, and everyone sends in a specific color grouping so that you end up with a small amount of many colors instead of a large amount of one color. These swaps work wonderfully for items purchased in bulk. With this type of swap you want to be really sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the quality of the items swapped. You don't want to find out at the end of the swap that you spent days hand-beading title letters on your tag and adding layers of paint and stamping, only to receive tags back that are single-color, die-cut items without any embellishment at all. Everyone needs to be willing to put in an equal amount of work to ensure that the items swapped are of high artistic quality and follow the guidelines of the swap. I also prefer to do these types of swaps in small groups, not only to keep time and cost down, but because in all honesty I don't need a stack of 25 decorated tags. Five to eight high-quality tags is enough for me.
I prefer to participate in swaps with friends, or those where participation is by invitation only. This ensures that I'm trading with like-minded artists who'll be responsible for mailing things out on time and will craft the highest quality items possible. You can find out about swaps going on by asking friends in online groups, like the Scrapjazz.com forums. You can also work with a local group of ladies you crop with, or ask your direct sales person (for stamping or scrapping supplies) if he or she hosts swaps. If you're feeling brave you can decide to host a swap on your own! Pick a theme and start inviting your friends to participate.
Here are a few tips for first-time hostesses.
- Pick a theme that several people are interested in
- Made up a demo item and send it via email to your online friends asking if they would like to participate in your swap. Also, show your item to local friends and family who might like to join.
- Decide ahead of time how many people you would like to swap with, and a due date far enough in the future that people can assemble and/or purchase the items they need and get them to you in the mail. Three to four weeks is usually sufficient time.
- Be sure to request that all participants send you a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope with their swap so that you can send them their items. Metered postage is not a good idea with the current mail restrictions. You want envelopes to have postage stamps attached instead.
- Remind everyone of the theme and quality expected, and communicate via email on a regular basis so let people know when items show up and/or are shipped out.
- Have fun!
Lastly, I think it's important to send a little thank-you note and if possible a small token of your appreciation for the swap hostess. It's not mandatory, but it's certainly a pleasant surprise to receive a simple note of thanks or a small goody for the extra effort of hosting and coordinating the swap.
I hope you'll give swapping a try. With the right group of artists these types of swaps become a dynamic and fun experience that helps push us outside of our comfort zone and gives you wonderful items to incorporate into your own layouts and projects.