Guest Author - Maribeth Lysen
A round-robin book exchange is a great way to connect with other artists. By participating you can build your art community, make new friends, learn new techniques and share ideas. One of the best things about exchanges is they allow you to peek at a fellow artist's process.
Setting up an exchange is pretty simple. Gather up three or more artists and choose a project type like an altered book, canvas, or quilt. Each participating artist picks a theme, starts the project off, and then drops it in the mail to another artist in the group. Each artist has a specified length of time (usually one month) to work on the project and then mail to the next artist. Eventually your project is mailed back to you with contributions from each artist giving you an amazing piece of art.
Some benefits of participating in an exchange are:
Deadlines and accountability to another artist keeps you in the studio working.
You can get pushed outside your comfort zone because you are working on a theme selected by someone else.
Group members share techniques and ideas with each other so you are bound to learn something new.
If you are having difficulty or need help, your exchange group is an amazing resource.
To get started, every round-robin needs a host. The host is responsible for setting up the exchange, keeping a data base with names & addresses, setting the mailing schedule, and setting the rules for the exchange.
The group I'm in now is an altered book group and uses a private yahoo group set up by the host. Private yahoo groups are free and easy to create. You can find them by going to yahoo.com.
In my current group, members upload their contact information & mailing addresses to the private group. We keep a calendar and the order of the exchange. Group members enter when they have shipped a book & when they receive a new book so everyone knows where their book is (my aunt added this feature after a book went missing for 3 years after an exchange several years ago). We also keep the "rules" of the swap listed on the yahoo group in case someone needs to review.
Typically, rules for an exchange are decided on by the host. A host will choose the type of swap (altered book, canvas, fabric book, etc) and set the exchange schedule which is usually once a month but could be more or less often depending on the group. The host also decides how many people to allow in the group.
When creating your project, make room for an artist sign-in page or an area where the other contributors can be acknowledged. Ten years down the road you want to remember who worked on your art.
Include a page or note describing your theme to the other artists in the group. Try not to add to many restrictions. You want your project to evolve naturally and allow the other artists to be free to create. The purpose is to have a collaborative piece of art.
Need to find fellow artists to exchange with? Talk with your friends and family, post on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, or on a forum you belong to (like the painting forum here at BellaOnline). Another great resource for finding a local group is meetup.com. Keep in mind the number of people & date between mailings will determine how long the Round Robbin will last. If your group has 12 people and exchanges once a month the group lasts for a year. Keeping the group on the small side can help keep everyone on schedule and the momentum going.
Be prepared to budget for shipping costs. Some exchanges require insurance and tracking. Some groups also limit the size of the project to help keep shipping costs affordable.
Consider your time and commitments when entering an exchange. Starting with one is a great place to start & get your feet wet. You can join additional groups as you become more comfortable with the process.
Sticking to the schedule is very important. If you have committed to a group it is very important to follow through. Should you have a life emergency, contact the host as soon as possible. If you end up having to mail a project with your portion incomplete that is unfair to the artist who's work you missed.
Posting photos on the web allows the other artists to see the work in progress.
Share links, creative books you are reading, favorite supplies, and other tips with your group members.
When someone from your group posts or uploads a photo send a comment or a quick note. This will make your group active and engaging.
If you haven't yet, try a out an exchange. You'll be amazed at the results.