We decided from the beginning to limit the group to six people so it doesn't become overwhelming. Each month a different person selects a theme, and we mail the ATCs by the same date each month. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed with their life and can't get it done by the due date, they send it when they are ready. No pressure.
Our past themes were:
-Back to School
-The Witching Hour
I also do a one-on-one swap with a friend, and our past themes were:
To help us get to know each other better, the person who selects the month's theme also comes up with a question for the group. For example, in October when the theme was the witching hour, the question was, "What scares you the most?" In November when the theme was family, we shared one of our earliest family memories. We include the answer to the question in the envelope with our ATC, either on the back of the card or on a separate piece of paper. No one is obligated to answer the question if they don't want to.
For 2010 we are going to get more creative with our themes, opening it up to a specific color palette, materials, medium, technique, etc.
We have a Flickr pool so that we can see the progression of our ATC's. Not everyone in the group chooses to upload their cards, and that's okay. Here is the link if you'd like to take a look:
I've learned so much from participating in the group. When I feel like I've created the ugliest ATCs ever made and want to throw them away and start over, I get to practice not judging my work or comparing it to others. Sometimes I surprise myself by how pleased I am with what I create. I've also learned about the creative process that works best for me, and have had my beliefs challenged about what one "should" and "shouldn't" do when creating art.
But probably the two greatest benefits of being a part of an ATC swap group is it gives you a reason to carve out time to create (it's so easy to put that off, isn't it?), and the deepening of the friendships with the women in the group. If you are thinking of starting or joining an ATC swap group, I highly recommend it.