Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Knowing my limits

I’ve been contemplating this for a while now, but coming home to such a back-log of mail has given me some clarity.

I need to limit the number of items each person swaps.

I’ve always said “Make as many as you want” and some people send one, and some people send a dozen, and it’s all worked out wonderfully.

But as we continue to grow, I have to recognize my time limits.  It takes a lot of time to scan, log, post, swap, address all of this mail.  It’s pleasant work, and I enjoy it, but I need to be careful not to burn myself out.

Rather than putting any limits on the number of participants, I will limit the number of items any one person can send.   

For most swaps, that number will be 4.   

Certain swaps (such as the duct-tape journals or the matchboxes we did last year) take a lot more time and effort for me to document and package, so I might put a limit of 1 or 2 items on those.

I will include the specific item limit in each swap description.

This will go into effect with all future swaps.  The current open swaps will remain “unlimited” since so many of you have already submitted your art.

I LOVE that these swaps get your creative juices flowing and inspire you to create.  I get messages from you all the time telling me how a certain theme will really resonate with you and expand beyond the specific swap and into your journals, canvases, and other mail art.

If a future swap leads you into a late-night creativity frenzy and you end up with 20 ATCs, consider sharing them with the good folks on the “informal mail art exchange” list.  It tickles me to see how many MMSA swappers have connected with each other outside of the official swaps, and have started exchanges and collaborations on their own. 

Relationships and connections are what it’s all about for me.  It’s what excites me about running this group and makes all the administrative work so much fun.  Yes, it’s glorious to see all this art in person and be able to hold it and be inspired by it, but even more rewarding to me is getting to know you all through your art, your notes, your comments and emails.  Art friendships are real and sustaining, and I thank each and every one of you for enriching my life!


  1. K--that makes a lot of sense. You don't want to get burned out and people can swap privately too. I know I am STILL making those crazy Stamp Head ATC's and swapping like crazy. Thanks for all you do for us.

  2. I think this is a good idea.

  3. Good for you! boundaries are always a good thing.

  4. It's great that you're not saying "only MAKE 4," but it IS true that you don't need to shuffle through every piece of art we create. Any "largesse" can go to new people on the "informal swap list," be sent as "thank you" cards to whoever one received mail from on the previous swap, or be sent to someone we haven't connected with in some time.

    Besides, I notice now that you've got 183 followers to your site (although some of these may be "lurkers"), and that this number increments every month. You need to allow room for "swap growth" (in other words, have the capacity to incorporate newbie swappers). In addition, you need time to come up with new swap "calls" and yes, handle all of the spreadsheet work for the exchanges.

    Limiting the swap numbers will help keep the posts "diversified" (such as when you had time to do posts on things such as the best glues to use, and what to write on the back of a postcard, or other of the "Mail Art Monday" postings). If all you are doing is scanning, and scanning, then there's no room for that type of variety.

  5. I concur with the above and applaud your decision !

  6. I've actually limited myself to two for each swap since I was spending so much time making swaps and not much else. I love them, but have found that two satisfies my need to participate. Thanks again for doing these, Karen. They're an important part of my artistic life.

  7. Good for you! After all, you have a life too!

  8. Another thought is to group your scans so that you scan 2 or 3 things from the same person in one scan instead of each item individually. I know I won't be offended if my multiples end up grouped together and even overlap a bit....I love that you share each person's contribution since we only get a few in our mailboxes, but I've often wondered how much time all that scanning must take. I say, simplify. On my scanner bed I know I can often fit 2-3 pieces, so if somebody sends 4, it's only 2 scans for you, not 4. Half the time and the same quality for us! Just a thought.....

  9. When I first saw the title I was worried that you were going to stop coordinating the swaps. Thank goodness that's not the case! You are so terrific to do this, that whatever parameters you want to set are just fine with me. Thanks for all you do!!!

  10. Great idea....Take care of you first!

  11. Makes sense to me too. I always wondered where you fin the strength to scan all items! So I think your proposal is the best one.

  12. I still can't believe all the work you do for this, so yes, 4 is plenty....xox