Totefavors/Swaps- What are they? and more

What is a totefavor or swap?
A miniature item made to exchange with another or a group of others.
Types of swaps
Swaps are usually organized as either a private or open group swap.  A private swap can be as simple as you and another miniaturist agree to make something and swap.  Another type of private swap is when a group invites specific people to participate in a group swap.  It is kept private for any number of reasons such as they all know the quaility of work of each other, to limit the number of swappers or whatever.
In a group swap, generally there is one person who serves as the coordinator of the swap.  This person is responsible for the organizing such as determing a theme, keeping a list of swappers, keeping a list of what they will be making if the group wants to coordinate that before-hand, receives the swaps, sorts them, repackages and mails them back.
A totefavor is same principle of a swap except it is generally for a convention.  On such convention is the Quarter Connection online group that has an online convention.  The idea of a totefavor is something you would receive at your table as part of a convention.  It comes from the NAME houseparty conventions.
Why would anyone swap?
To get something they might not have by making something of equal value.
Why would anyone want to make multiples of the same thing?
First, in a totefavor swap, we don't have to make multiples of the same item, nor do we have to make them.  They can be purchased.  They can each be different, but from experience it is much easier to make multiples than figuring out how to make 10 or 50 different items.
In a group swap, you are usually committing to making multiples, but they don't have to be exactly the same.
Secondly, the main reason is the getting back items.  I can't express how much joy I get by using the swaps I have received.  I have so much fun looking through my swap boxes to find just that right item to finish off a project.  I love going 'shopping' in my mini mall (organized boxes) to find things that fit the theme of my current project I might use.  One of the benefits is these are already made.  I have already put in the hours to make these items by making my original swaps in the first place.
I love opening the package when a swap comes to find these treasures made by others that I wouldn't have otherwise. In my opinion, many items have exceeded the $5 value. Some swaps to me are worth $10-25.
What is the theme of a swap?
Every swap is different. Sometimes the theme is general like "Favorite Things" and therefore the category is very wide open.  Some or more specific like "Kitchen" or a particular style such a Raggedy or "All White".
Totefavor swaps have a theme but it is usually general, but the rules usually allow that you can make whatever so long as it meets the $ guideline and it is in the scale of the swap.
What to use to make swaps?
Anything.  The only exception is that most swaps don't allow 'only printies' as the swap.  You have to do something to the printie besides print it and cut it out. The item can be made from a printie such as a picture that a frame has been added or a lamp shade printed and then folded to make the shade added to a base.  Another example - printie food box with food in it.
Often I am surprised by the cleverness of materials and creativity the other swappers put into the swaps.  It has helped to open my mind to other uses of materials and to be more creative myself.  Some swappers include notes on how to use or it is suppposed to be used or a history of what it is. 


The following was previously posted by me on Quarter Connection about determining the value of totefavor or swap.  This group holds an online convention where we can send 53 items to get back 50 (3 are donated).  The items sent should be worth approximately $5 US.  I have updated the wording to fit this page.

How I decide what is worth $5 for a totefavor or swap?
Beyond the considering what you have purchased finished from a show, online dealer or miniature shop, I use the following as my guide:
First, how much will the materials for each finished item cost me (generally retail cost since I don't buy wholesale.) If I don't know what they cost, then I do research online to find a similar product and then estimate how much each swap will use of what. Let's say this is $1 total.
Next, I consider my time. I generally like to get $10 hour for what I make.  Although sometimes my skills would dictate that I am worth more or less, I just round it out to that and don't think about that further.
If the 53 items I am making will take me over all 30 hours to make, then my rough estimate of value is $6.60 each.
$53 in materials + 30 hours times $10 hour = $353 divided by 53 = $6.6.
Now given that the time would most likely be an estimate and the materials would also be estimated, then the $6 should be good value.
Next I look at my finished product - either in my mind's eye or after I make my proto-type. I ask myself if I saw this on the internet (or at a show) would I pay $5 for it? If the answer is no, then either I need to refine it or add to it. Generally, this is where I add to it. I think well if I make this, plus this it isn't but it I add one other thing it is. This where the value of the three together may make them worth more than if each given seperately.
The next thing to decide in making the item is do I not like it because it is out of scale. One of the biggest reason that value would be less is the scale of the work. Remember that real life items come in a lot of sizes. It is a really good idea to compare your proto-type with other quarter inch scale (1/48) items you have. Sometimes things look 'off' because they are out of scale with the other items it goes with. Unless a list has been published of what others in the swap may be doing, this could be a problem if your piece will be oversized or small.  However if you have a real life item to go by, then don't worry about it.
One of the biggest killers of scale (IMHO) is using materials that are too big.  An example of this is wood that is too thick. Maybe it is all you have so think about ways to hide the thickness or it would be better to choose another material.

 
Another reason would be quality. There are many skill levels in a group especially large groups and no one is expecting you to make the same quality as someone who has been making for years. However if you step beyond the idea that because it is small, it is miniature and therefore okay, you will produce a better product. This is also when I suggest that you consider something simple you can do well, rather than something difficult that will take you many hours to finish.
I also suggest that once you have figured out what you will do, set up a production line of sorts. This is the best way for you to reduce the number of hours you take to build them. If you made each one and it takes one hour then the example above will be worth over $10, but likely not really. However if you have a production line, then overall time should be much less.
Example of the production line,
  • cut all the wood bits first. Be sure to test assemble the first few so that you know you are cutting correctly and don't waste bits having to recut when they don't fit.
  • Then take a break. This break could be a few hours or few days depending on how long the first step took.
  • Next do the painting, get it all done and ready for gluing. Again take some time away. These won't get done overnight.
  • Then do the next step and continue until you have finished pieces.
  • Lastly, package them so they are identified with your name and email, and most importantly so that they will arrive safely in the mail both ways.

Is it possible that after all this you think you still have items not worth $5?
Yes, of course and you could choose to add something else or you can trust that the time you spent was worth it and that others will think they are worth $5. It is very possible they will. And if they don't they should understand that value like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Also from a personal standpoint (and hopefully everyone else as they have been asked to), I will be happy that I got your exchange item and will understand that everyone doesn't have the same skills. I am sure that one day I will have the perfect spot for it. Of the 500 + swap and tote favor items I have received over the years, I can say I haven't thrown any of them away. 

 
Where does one sign up to do a swap?
Well that depends.  A private swap can be initiated by an individual to another after seeing what the other made.  I did this for example when I was a swap coordinator and I didn't do the swap, just coordinated it.  One swapper made some terrific skis and I wanted some so I asked her if she would swap with me.
There are some swap groups online where you sign up and swap with an open group.
Of course when I convention is mentioned, sign up to do that as well. The online conventions sometimes have second swaps with the table groups so if not ready for 53, then 10 might be just the ticket.
NAME has swaps.  If you are a member, then be on the look out for those swaps.
Suggest a swap on a group, if it is a theme others are interested in, most likely it will happen.  You might have to coordinate, but not necessarily.
A private group swap of course would be harder to get in but if you hear of one and are interested, it doesn't hurt to ask if you can join.  You might not this time because it is already decided what is being done, etc, but maybe the next time you will.  Be prepared to show your work as that might be a factor to be included.  Don't be offended by this practice.  These swappers are experienced and they want to be sure they get an equal swap.  They have been 'burned' by lower quality swaps in the past and they are swapping things worth much more than the typical $5.  Often these swappers will be glad to help you determine something that will be equivalent.  Be open to feedback on the quality of your work and helping you with the value of it and whether to add to it or not.

What to make?
Oh, the possibilities...That is a very good question and really hard to answer.  Start with the theme.  Think about what you can make - like are you good with wood, fabric, painting, etc.
Check a list of suggestions if available.
Ask others in the group for ideas, which is how a list of suggestions usually gets started.
Consider purchasing metal mini and painting it. 
Think of something you made for a recent project - can it be tweaked to make multiples or to fit the theme?
If you come with an idea but are unsure of will it work, discuss with other miniaturist.  Most miniaturist are more than happy to discuss this especially if they have swapped before or if they make things.