Artist Trading Blocks are a Thing, and I LOVE Them!

Decoupage alphabet blocks that your kids no longer play with to give them a new life. They make excellent holiday decorations!

Y’all have been holding out on me.

Why, oh why, has no one told me that Artist Trading Blocks are a THING?!?

Seriously, you know that I love building blocks, and you know that I love embellishing them, and I KNOW that you know that I love altering them, so why would you not tell me that it is now a thing to artfully embellish blocks and then trade them with other people who do the same?

Y’all are mean, that’s why.

You’re lucky that I found myself on Pinterest last week, searching for ideas for embellishing building blocks with photos (I’m going to photocopy vintage photos and use them–it’s going to be awesome!), and came across the Artist Trading Block phenomenon on my own. And don’t even tell me how long it’s BEEN a thing, or I’ll probably get mad at you again.

Mind you, I still love Artist Trading Cards for lots of reasons–their small size, their accessibility even to those who don’t consider themselves artists, the community-mindedness of freely trading them–but all of that is also a reason to love Artist Trading Blocks, along with even more reasons. A block provides six surfaces for expression instead of one, allowing for so many more interesting possibilities, and unlike Artist Trading Cards, which you should generally make using an acid-free base such as Bristol board, you can upcycle an Artist Trading Block from anything that will work, such as a building block or cardboard food packaging. You can even make your own block from mat board or wood scraps!

I LOVE this idea, and thanks to the inspiration, I will definitely be adding some extra oomph to the photo blocks that I have planned–thank you, Pinterest! Want some inspiration of your own? Check out tutes and demonstrations of some amazing Altered Trading Blocks below:

1. Tim Holtz Artist Trading Block videoThis is a fun video, as the crafter uses the opportunity to break down how she created all of the various components of her Artist Trading Blocks. Although much of what she uses is purchased new, you could easily substitute found objects and images cut from old books and magazines.

2. Embellished photo blockHere’s what I found when I queried Pinterest for “photo block”–an Artist Trading Block that utilizes a vintage photo–exactly what I was looking for!

3. Broken-down altered boxMost of the details of this tute are lost on me, as I don’t own any of the special materials used, like the distress ink or the embossing paste, but check out the way that, since the crafter is constructing her box out of mat board, she can do all of the embellishing before she assembles it. No need to let one side dry completely before you can work on the opposite side!

4. Upcycled cereal box blockYou will never believe that this Artist Trading Block used to be a box of cornflakes.

5. Found objects on a blockAlthough this boardgame-themed Artist Trading Block only uses photocopies of boardgames–missed opportunity!–it does use actual game pieces as its ephemera.

6. Box with an album insideI love the idea of an Artist Trading Block with hidden storage inside!

Stay tuned, because I am 100% going to jump into this Artist Trading Block thing, probably with my vintage photo project first.

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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