Without a doubt, three of my very favorite things are kids, baseball cards, and art, so what a thrill it was for me to be invited by Coach Antonio Scott to run a Card Art workshop for the DC Grays RBI baseball team. Now, this also being the Summer of Josh, I decided to make it not just any workshop but a Josh Gibson MVP Card Art workshop, featuring a very special guest.
Sean Gibson, great-grandson of Josh and head of the Josh Gibson Foundation, was on hand to lead off the workshop with an education session on Josh Gibson and Negro Leagues. It’s one thing to read about Josh in a book, but it’s an extra special treat to hear about Josh from family. Definitely not something I ever experienced as a kid! Two other special guests on hand were Mark Gray from MLB Bro and Olivia Garvey from the ABC station in DC, who are each working on pieces on the event.
For the most part, I modeled the workshop after the February 2021 Heavy J Studios party I hosted for the “Stream Team,” various collectors who got to know each other in the comments section of Blake Jamieson’s YouTube livestreams. I’ll go in depth on the process here mainly because I hope other card artists will take this model and create their own parties or workshops. Yes, it’s a ton of prep, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Step one was to find some cards in my collection to use for the workshop. I definitely wanted each participant to be able to make a Josh Gibson card, but I also wanted to mix in some other iconic players and (hopefully) a dose of more modern superstars. I went with exclusively Black ballplayers to highlight the very rich history of Black baseball, from the Negro Leagues to the modern game.
Eventually, I ended up with three cards per kit, along with some pre-cut glitter paper that the participants could mix and match to build their cards.
Besides trying to balance the mix of players (Josh, legend, modern superstar), I also wanted the cards to lend themselves to a nice progression of easy to more difficult.
- The first card would (usually) involve just gluing one thing onto another thing. This would keep the focus on proper gluing technique–the things I do to prevent warping or curling of the cards.
- The second card would (usually) have more pieces–either a second (inner) border or other elements like the player name or (in the case of one of the Griffey cards) a ball for the player to catch.
- The final card would be completely open-ended and potentially involve the participants doing their own cutting.
Something I’m very glad I did was number each kit so I knew who had what and could offer tips tailored to the cards each person was working on. It also helped me learn everyone’s names right off the bat. In the picture below, you can see the numbering: 1A, 2A, 3A, etc.
Thanks to the kindness of Big League Chew inventor Rob Nelson, I was also able to ship everyone a pouch of Big League Chew, which guaranteed they’d be happy they showed up even if the Card Art wasn’t a hit, right?
And finally, I sent each participant a Heavy J Studios card of their own. This was mainly my thank you to everyone for hosting me, but also helped attendees picture what their final product might look like. I also created (optional) homework assignments for the participants, who generally were too young to know most of these players, to talk to family or check YouTube to learn more about the players on their cards. Safe to say that Ken Griffey, Jr., and Bo Jackson highlights still hold up just fine even today!
Of course, when one of your participants is Olivia Garvey, daughter of my boyhood hero, there’s only one player you can send!
Now it’s possible to teach people how to make glitter cards just by talking them through the different steps. However, I’m much more about a 50-50 balance between show and tell. This not only helps the visual learners but also ensures I end up with some new cards of my own by the end of the workshop. (Contact me if you’d like one of these cards, while supplies last. Suggested price per card is a $30 donation to the DC Grays.)
All in all, I had a great time, and I think the kids did too. It’s also fair to say some very, very good card art came out of the workshop. Coach Scott mentioned that he sees making cards like this as something the players can do to boost fundraising for their baseball program. What an amazing thing that would be, and it would sure beat selling the super expensive popcorn I used to sell door-to-door as I made my way through a brief and not very Josh-like Little League career.
My sincere thanks to Coach Scott, the players, and their families for inviting me to do this workshop, my thanks to Sean for adding a serious “wow” factor, and my thanks to Mark and Olivia for covering the event and turning the Josh Gibson MVP Card Art workshop into stories I hope their viewers will enjoy!