Swapping Crafts with Swap-botcomments (2) September 19th, 2008
If you've never participated in an art or craft swap, you're missing out on a fun adventure. Luckily, you can jump right into the world of swapping with Swap-bot, a website devoted to helping creative people trade handmade things.
Swap-bot is the brainchild of Rachel and Travis Johnson, who joined a mix CD swap organized by a fellow blogger in 2004. "We had such a great time, and I met some of my best Internet friends that way," says Rachel. They were hooked, and they built a website where anyone can find swaps to join or organize one of their own.
So, how does a swap work? Well, in general, it begins with a group of people who agree to participate. Each participant is assigned a partner. Then, everyone agrees to make an item, or put together a package, around a specific theme and ship it to his or her partner. To help keep everyone accountable, there are deadlines—one for joining the swap and another for mailing your package. Each participant then gets a package of goodies in the mail.
If you visit Swap-bot, you'll find hundreds of swaps in progress—people swapping things like knitted hats or altered books or vintage buttons. This amazing list of current swaps has categories for all kinds of crafts: crochet, jewelry-making, fabric, scrapbooking, yarn, and more.
Swaps are great fun, says Rachel, because they give you creative challenges and introduce you to new ideas. "Dotee Dolls, Inchies, ATCs, Amigurumi, altered matchboxes—these are just a few of the craft types that many users never even heard of before joining Swap-bot, but that they now enjoy," she says.
Swapping also creates community. "I think it helps connect us in a physical way to other people who we would otherwise only be able to know virtually in the Internet universe," says Rachel. Swap-bot hosts a very active forum where users chat about swaps they're participating in and packages they've received. If a user has an unforeseen crisis and can't fulfill a swap commitment, he or she can put out the call in the forum for an "angel," someone who can step in and complete the swap.
In fact, the Swap-bot community maintains very high integrity. The site has a feedback system in which users can rate their swap partner in terms of meeting deadlines and following swap themes. With a rating of 5 being the highest, it's interesting to note that the average user rating among all the swaps ever hosted on the site is more than 4.8.
To join a public swap on Swap-bot, all you need is a valid mailing address. (Rachel and Travis strongly suggest using a P.O. box rather than your home address.) You can then create a free account on the site and start swapping. Once you've completed a few swaps successfully, you can also join some of the private swapping groups or even host a swap of your own. It's a good idea to read this FAQ page before getting started.
Rachel says, "I think most artists and crafters would find many benefits in swapping, including stretching yourself creatively, expressing yourself, sharing your gifts and creativity with others from around the world, receiving inspiring art and craft from all over the world, making new friends, and mostly just having fun!"