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Artist trading cards offer creative, social outletCreating an artist trading card in her own unique style, Olivia Torres uses a collage technique she first explored in college.

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Connie Storch
Fort Wainwright PAO

Joanne Langseth held in her hands a watercolor painting, a collage of vibrant fiber art, a pencil sketch and a photo collage – all original artwork – all artist trading cards.

As the lead instructor at the Fort Wainwright Arts and Crafts Design Center, Langseth is capable of teaching almost any kind of craft or art form. The multitalented instructor also manages the do-it-yourself haven and retail store that houses the Wood Shop and Arts and Crafts Center.

On a dreary afternoon last week, while clouds filled and darkened the skies, Langseth lent her considerable talents to an introductory class on artist trading cards, at which students were permitted to use any media that struck their fancy.

During the ATC class, Langseth offered a little historical background and some insights into online and in-person card trading. The easygoing instructor also touched on the controversy of the selling of artist cards. But in her introductory narrative, Langseth extolled the virtue and fun of creating and trading the cards, because that’s what it’s all about – trading.

Artist cards are usually 2.5-by-3.5 inches, the same size as baseball trading cards. Although buttons, beads, fabric, feathers and other objects may be used in the creation of ATCs, they’re usually flat enough to fit in a protective sleeve, just like sports trading cards. ATCs are often created on cardstock, a durable, stiff paper, but have been made of materials such as glass, metal, ceramics and melted glass.

Langseth told students it is generally accepted that ATC’s are fun and easy to create. They can be made from “anything you can think of,” she said. “It’s kind of exciting.”

Other than the diminutive size, about any materials, tools and medium may be used to create them, although they should be made with a sturdy backing, such as cardstock.

Langseth insists anyone can make their own ATCs, regardless of age and artistic ability.

To begin the ATC creative process, students are provided pages of special paper and colorful stickers, as well as access and instruction in various paints, inks and tools that can be useful, inspiring and somewhat magnetic. 

Langseth was undeterred when a student in last week’s class claimed to not be able to draw a recognizable stick figure and totally devoid of knowledge of any kind of craft or art, fine or otherwise.

During the class, students with many different skills gathered around a huge table filled with raw materials, and all created artist trading cards.

Langseth was in her element as she offered her ideas, encouragement and technical knowledge to the students.

While Langseth chatted with students, staff members stopped into the classroom to make artist trading cards of their own.

Tips, tricks and chatter about sources and the best prices for materials floated across the table as often as artistic materials. When one student’s card seemed stuck in a creative corner, Langseth or a nearby student would offer a suggestion or a scrap of material to get the project rolling again.

The instructor is also generous with shop materials, which are included in the shop time purchased by walk-in customers at the rate of $2 per hour. She gives each new student a certificate for five shop hours, a $10 value. The student has access to shop supplies, tools, a large workspace, and the staff is usually available to help if a do-it-yourselfer has a question or a problem.

Some sources have credited M. Vanci Stirnemann of Sweden for the creation of artist card trading sessions in 1997. The popular cards are sold through online trading sites, but some contend the cards are strictly for trading.  

A fifth-generation artist, Langseth joked it was “written in stone” that she would have a career in art. If there’s a legacy to be built, she seems determined to do it one or two students at a time, offering to teach classes for as few as two students.

Langseth says she can teach almost any art or craft, and class offerings include stained glass, framing and pottery.

A budding program she hopes will take off is the Stamp and Scrap, Swap and Trade program, she is offering the first Friday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. She said in addition to trading cards, materials, ideas and information can be shared at the “swap meet” at no charge.

She said the ATC class, any other art class and the swap and trade sessions would be ideal for groups looking for a social activity.

Maj. Ruth Garbett, Medical Department Activity-Alaska, recently attended the artist trading card class. A long-time crafter and Girl Scout troop volunteer, Garbett said she was drawn to the artist trading cards because of the lower cost of creating small projects. Garbett said her Scouts have been meeting at the arts and crafts center and have taken advantage of the resources to create projects, learn skills and acquire Scouting badges.

Another ATC student center employee, Olivia Torres, said she enjoys Langseth’s fiber arts. As an expert mat maker and framer, Torres said she enjoys creating her own original artwork and plans to do more when her daughter goes off to college.

However, Torres may have to find a balance between work and art, as the frame shop will soon offer a new digital engraving machine for awards and custom framing.

Although the next scheduled ATC class is slated for Aug. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m., Langseth said she’ll schedule a special class for two or more just about any time.

For more information about programs, goods and services, drop by the store at 3727 Neely Road or call 353-7025. For information about programs at Fort Richardson, call 384-3717.