by Kristal Wick, Author, Designer, Instructor and Swarovski crystal Ambassador,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Swaps are all the rage in the world of jewelry and crafting. The bracelet, ''Girls Night Out'' is a great swapping example--each of my friends made a charm then added a jumpring; they each made Swarovski® crystals dangles to go with their charms, so by the end of the "swap night" we had a finished bracelet we could each wear home. If you're unfamiliar with a swap, hang on, as once you participate in one it's hard to stop!

A swap is when a set group of folks make something creative that is usually tailored within a theme or limited to a "medium of choice." Each person in the swap makes one item for each participant in the group so at the end, each person has one of every design. Swaps can be coordinated with groups of people online or done locally. Some of the cyber swaps taking place actually have highly successful results and what could be more fun than swapping around the country or even the world! There is still something to be said for doing things in person, and swaps are a great way to bring new friends together or to help everyone out of their comfort zone. Imagine having your seed-beading friends try a polymer angel design. I bet the results would be amazing! Curious? Give it a try.

There are swaps in every venue of creativity from jewelry, dolls, cards, home décor items, holiday ornaments, to quilts.

Interested in getting your own swap started but not sure how? Here are a few suggested guidelines to get you started:

Invitees - Decide who to invite.

Type - Decide if the swap is of the Internet aka/mailing kind or done in person.

If in person, you'll need to establish a meeting place to have your swap--this could be a fun get-together at your home with nibbles and libations, or a "meet up" at the local coffee shop or book store (the perfect place if you're like me and don't want to clean the house).

If done via the Internet, establish a host. The host will be the point person to manage questions, handle all deadline dilemmas, receive all of the packages, collate the submissions and then send the packages back out to the group.

Date - When will the swap start and end. This is especially important if shipping your swap items. And let's face it; some of us work well if only under a deadline!

How many pieces to make - Each person needs to make at least one item for each participant, including themselves.

What to swap - Item or theme: You may want each participant to create a charm and 1 or 2 dangles to go with the charms so the finished design has some cohesiveness.

A dangle can be as simple as 2 bicones and a pearl on a headpin finished with a simple loop. These would be handy filler elements as you put everything together into a finished design.

Here are a few theme ideas:
  • Angels
  • Vintage
  • Beach/by the sea
  • Upcycle/recyle
  • Animals (birds, dogs, kitties, endangered species etc.)
  • Fave color
  • Team color
  • Fairies
  • Inspirational words
  • Holidays
  • Cause (breast cancer awareness, autism, etc.)
  • Red Hat Club
  • Seasons
Size - List the piece or charm size (i.e.: up to 3 inches)

Medium - Any type is fine or you can specify something particular such as shrinkable plastic, resin, seed beads, glass beads, paper crafts, etc.

Who are you? - Suggest attaching each swap piece to a business card (so everyone knows who made what) If applicable, attach a jumpring to anything that can dangle from a necklace or bracelet. Make it easy for the immediate gratification-oriented who wants to wear their pieces right away! You could even offer necklace and bracelet blanks for this purpose. If an in-person swap, specify if everyone must bring a bracelet blank, or chain, leather or rubber cord.

You may decide to do a swap with frequency--monthly, quarterly or annually.

Swaps can also be used as great fundraisers. For these, you can have your swap set up like a regular swap but also have everyone make a few extra charms or pieces and either auction them off or have someone volunteer to assemble the items into a finished design(s) to be auctioned off, either way--the charity wins.

WARNING: swaps are highly addictive and I bet you won't get through your first one without brainstorming about the next one! You've been warned! Have fun!

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