For those of you interested in "How to Host a Swap", or who just need some information, Samantha McPherson has written the FAQ. Please contact Sam with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's a recent phenomena happening in the on-line world called "swapping". In the polymer clay community, people from around the country (and the world!) make polymer clay items to "swap" for items made by other people. The person hosting the swap (called the swapmeister, or Host) sets the rules of the swap. He or she will decide how many people they want in the swap, what everyone will make, and when the deadline for mailing is.
To join a swap all you have to do is email the swapmeister with your request. The swapmeister will let you know how many people are in the swap and the number of items you will make (which is equal to the total number of swappers). When the deadline for mailing the swaps draws near, you box up your items and mail them to the swapmeister. Everyone else in the swap does the same.
The swapmeister then divides the swaps equally between all the swappers. And soon you will receive your box full of wonderful items made by other polymer clay people! The number of items you receive is always equal to the number of items you send. These are things that you get to keep! The whole point to all this is mostly to have fun. But it's a great way to discover new techniques and see firsthand what others are doing with polymer clay. Plus it's just exciting to get a box full of goodies in the mail!
How do I host a swap?
"Flower bead swap. This swap will be limited to 20 participants and each person will make and send 20 beads that somehow incorporate flowers in the design. The beads can be round, cane slices, or sculpted, as long as they are no larger than 1 inch and no smaller than 3/4 inch. There's no color restrictions. The beads need to have a hole through them for stringing on a necklace, and the hole should be vertical to the design (i.e. top to bottom). Package each bead separately in a small plastic bag or envelope with you name and any info you would like the other swappers to know (personal bio, technique description, address, etc). Put the beads into a reusable package (small sturdy box), along with 3 dollars for return Priority postage (or a Priority stamp), and a self-addressed mailing label. Mail them to me by May 5th."The theme and "rules" for the swap are the swapmeister's call. You can limit the number of participants to as many or as few as you like. Just keep in mind that some things take more time and clay to make, so keep the group small if your theme is something difficult like boxes or picture frames.
Once you've received all the swaps, divide them up among all the swappers. Each person will get one of everyone else's swaps. So what happens is everyone will get back the same number of items that they send. Reseal the boxes, apply the address labels, and use the money to pay for Priority postage to mail each box back to it's owner. Postage is typically 3 dollars US because that's the cost of Priority mail (2 lbs and under). International swappers will naturally need to send more for postage. You need to consider the cost of postage when deciding on the size of your swap group. Thirty picture frames are going to weigh a lot more than 30 beads (provided you can find that many people willing to make that many frames!).
As swapmeister it's important that you stay in contact with your swappers. Email them occasionally to remind them of the due date and keep them informed about changes, like drop-outs or last minute add-ons (which will change the number of swaps they have to make).
What's a multi-group swap?
All you do is sign up enough people to make up 2 or 3 different groups of 20 people each (or whatever you limit the group size to. Beads are fairly easy even for beginners, so 20 isn't a huge number for any person to make. Something like pendants or pins should probably have less swappers per group because those are more difficult to make.) Now you have 60 people signed up and you can divide them into 3 groups of 20 swappers each. Each swapper will make 20 beads and get 20 beads in return.
How you divide up the groups is up to you. Some swapmeisters do it on a first come first serve basis as the packages arrive, or randomly divide the list of names up beforehand, or whatever. Each person will get a bead from everyone who gets one of theirs. It helps a lot to keep each group of boxes separate from the others when it comes time to divide the beads up. And only do one group at a time to eliminate the chance of accidentally getting the groups mixed up!
What's an inter-group swap?
Suppose you're hosting a multi-group bead swap with 3 groups of 20 swappers each. Let all the swappers know via email that you intend to have an inter-group swap if anyone is interested in joining. Let's say that 3 people from group A want to participate, and 2 people from group B and 4 people from group C. The 3 inter-group swappers in group A will need to make the 20 beads for their group as well as 6 extra beads for the inter-group swappers from groups B and C (since there's a total of 6 inter-group swappers in those groups: 2 from B and 4 from C). The inter-group swappers from group B will make 20 beads plus 7 extras for the inter-group swappers from the other groups (3 from group A and 4 from group C). And the inter-group swappers in group C will make 5 extra beads for the inter-group swappers from groups A and B.
The inter-group swappers do not swap with the other inter-group swappers in their own group, because they'll already be getting one of these people's beads in the regular group. This adds a "slight" degree of difficulty when it comes time to divide the swaps up. But with a little planning beforehand (and a lot of floor space for the boxes!) it's really not that much of a hassle. It helps a lot to list each group on a separate sheet of paper and put a star or mark next to each name that is participating in the inter-group swap. As you divide the swaps check off each name from the list so you're sure of which swaps you've divvied up already.