Think for a moment about those things you like to do in your free time – do you belong to a club? Is there a hobby you have where you meet with folks who share your passion? If so, have you enjoyed these meetings for a long time?
For me, the answer to all three questions is a resounding YES. And yesterday, we celebrated TEN years together!
Some background, and I apologize to those readers for whom this story is a repeat: back in August of 2006, I was enjoying a lunch break at one of my favorite downtown places, Bagelmeister. I had picked up a new (to me) magazine called Cloth Paper Scissors, and immediately fell in love with its contents. But they kept referring to these ATC things, and I was lost. What the heck was an ATC? When I Googled “ATC”, the first thing that came up was Air Traffic Controller. Apparently more research was needed!
When I realized that it stood for Artist Trading Cards, I was instantly obsessed. I checked out every book from the library that I could; I read every article online; I scanned Flickr (this was pre-Facebook for me by about two years!) and created my own account; I looked through Yahoo! Groups. And in my searching those groups is where I “met” Carolyn Brady.
I had been trading ATCs online for about a year when I first started chatting with Carolyn, who was looking to start a live trade in the Milwaukee area. I LOVED this idea, and while I couldn’t make the first meeting for some reason, I started going by the second one, in September of 2007. None of us knew that, ten years later, we’d have only missed ONE month in that decade, and that was only because of a snowstorm last December. None of us knew that we’d be around in 10 years. None of us knew how awesome Carolyn would be, and how many wonderful friends we’d make because of this group, which is still going strong.
I found out yesterday that in the ten years we’d been meeting, I’d attended 65 of the 119 meetings, which put me in the Top 20 of attendees. I’m really honored and proud to be in this group, which has meant so much to me in the last 10 years. It’s such a comfortable group, which is extremely organized by Carolyn but at the same time is totally laid-back and super fun. There’s ZERO pressure in this group to be anything – you can do anything you want, there’s no judgment, and there’s always a feeling of inclusion and camaraderie. Those are rare and wonderful things in any group, especially after meeting every single month (except that one) for a decade.
If it weren’t for this group, I don’t think I would’ve grown enough as an artist to have the courage to leave my job and persue an art career full-time. Indeed, when I think back to that time, at which time I’d only been making art for about 3 1/2 years, I feel a little sick to my stomach at how brazen and confident I was. That was the ATCs talking, for sure.
I love this group so much, and I’m so happy I found these wonderful people when I did. I won’t be able to attend a meeting again for four months due to (ironically) all of my other art teaching gigs. But I’ll be there in December for my favorite trade of the year – our annual holiday potluck and funtimes in Cudahy. I can’t wait.
P.S. If you’ve never heard of ATCs before and want to learn more, Carolyn’s FAQ is an invaluable resource!! Start here and become obsessed yourself. Perhaps like me, you’ll realize that you’ve made over 1200 ATCs in the past 11 years. 🙂