Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Starting an Art Journal Swap or Round Robin

Have you ever wanted to join in a collaborative art journal swap? Or maybe even started one? I have joined in with a few and I just love the experience and the private gallery of works I end up with when my art journal comes home.

Each swap I have joined has been really different and they all will be very different because they are different themes and people, I think there are some things we can do to help them be more successful.

I am currently initiating an art journal swap and I have scoured the net looking for tips or tricks or guidelines on how to get started and I have found very very little. I did find this one gorgeously illustrated article Round Robin Art Exchange but I had many more questions I wanted answered because even though I had experience in playing in these swaps before some of my lovely fellow artists were very new to the whole experience and I was also after tips for them.  I decided if there wasn't much out there I would write something to help anyone in the future who might be looking for the same kind of information I was.

Before I let announced I was starting our swap I considered a few things that would be the boundaries of this swap.

The first was the cost of mailing. I live in Australia and have spent a small fortune on sending journals over sea's, its crazy and I have loads of amazing artists living in my beautiful country so the first thing I decided was to keep it local- postage anywhere in Australia is much much cheaper than overseas. One other bonus of an Australia only swap is the journals would be spending much less time in transit and our postal system is really very good and very safe so hopefully we will not lose any journals.

The other boundary was that I didn't really want more than 12 people, otherwise it just takes too long for the journals to complete the circle, so I decided id I got over 12 I would split the group into 2 and do 2 smaller swaps, with the option of circulating your journal through anyone still keen to play in the other group at the end of the first round.

The first thing you need to start up a swap is fellow creators to join you, as I was starting an art journal swap I started posting about it on various art and art journal facebook groups. Once upon a time I would have used Milliande's wonderful ning but it is closing down - if you are in any other group or community online that shares your activity you might want to ask there if anyone is interested. I gave myself plenty of time to recruit my fellow artists as well and as I started posting in December I shared another few times online that we were still open, in this time we gained a few more and we lost a few- I have seen people pull out of every round robin swap I have been in and I was hoping with the long lead up and at a busy time of year it would help people discover if they could really manage the time and commitment to see this swap through.

The next thing I think is vital is good communication and the tool that most easily enables that today for me is facebook, so I set up a private group and invited all my fellow art journalists to join and it is here that we are starting to get to know each other. I also have another wonderful lady with experience hostessing swaps who has joined this swap and she has kindly become my fellow admin- that way if I am busy or away or whatever she will be around to help out with any questions or issues that may arise.

 On our facebook group we have done our introductions and have been chatting about themes and making our journals- or altering them as the case may be. It is also a place to share any worries or concerns you might have and a few of our ladies have been a bit nervous and have gained a lot from that private space to chat. I will maintain that space as an active communication tool throughout the swap and on topic.

It is also a space to chat about the theme you are currently working on, some are pretty easy to grasp but some are a little more difficult and being able to discuss them is a great way connect with the journals owner and to clarify your ideas.

Life happens- people move, have babies, get sick, start work, do loads of things that can affect them and their ability to maintain their commitment to the swap, I do believe however that clear and timely communication will help us all overcome any issues. I know many people have lost journals that are in the possession of people who are out of contact with the group and that is terrible, so I have asked that everyone give me their email, phone numbers and home and postal address as a back up in case I need to track them down. I am hoping though that the friendships forged in our little facebook page will form bonds to strengthen out commitment to each other and our journals.

A spreadsheet to keep track of who has worked in what journal and where each journal is at any given time is a fabulous thing as well.

The other thing I have done is created a blog as a home for our pages. This worked very successfully with the last swap I was in 15 Artists- 15 Journals - 15 Months  This is the space for us to share our work in each journal and also to watch the pages that appear in all the other journals. We will get to see many of the pages in person as such, when they come to visit when it is our turn to work in that journal - and what a treat that is- to be able to hold and touch and see clearly your fellow artists work is wonderful. You only get to see the work from the artists behind you in the swap however so the blog is when you get to see them all. It is also a place for other people to see our beautiful journals as they develop.

It is also I believe the role of the host/ hostess to keep the group enthused and on track but we don't have to do that alone, some of your fellow artists will naturally assist with this and you can ask for help - once again its the communication issue and it is vital for any relationship particularly those on line.

The images shared here are collages of the pages in 2 of my travelling journals - the top one is Totem Animals and the bottom one is Nature Study.


  1. Thank you so much for this thorough outline. I have participated in many swaps but never hosted one. One question, how do I arrange the mailing list? I am hoping to have about 8 people in my swap. I am a little dense and unsure how to put together the mailing lists for each person to know who to mail to next. Thank you so much for any info.

    1. Hi Gina, Thank you for your lovely comments and for visiting my blog. When I am working out the mailing list I do a rough circle to they all travel in the same pattern and travel the least distance. eg. If I have 3 people in NSW all journals visit these artists in the same order before going to the 2 in Qld then across to WA down to SA into Vic and back to NSW- Everyone sends to the person next in the circle so theoretically everyone has a journal or has just sent one on and is waiting for the one from the artist behind them in the circle.


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