When I was a young mother, in my twenties and in the middle of the baby phase of my life, I had a big group of eleven or twelve scrapbooking friends. This was at the beginning, when scrapbooking was starting to be the craft that people did. Every month or so, some of us would get together and someone’s house. We’d each bring a card table and a trimmer and a box of scrapbooking supplies (back when my entire collection of scrapping stuff could fit in one Rubbermaid box if I packed it just right); we stayed out until one or two in the morning, making scrapbook layouts.
Those nights were awesome not just because of making layouts. There was also much talking (about babies, pregnancy, nursing, weaning, potty training, and the best places to shop for cute baby clothes) and laughing and, yes, even snacking. I loved, too, that if I felt at a loss for ideas of what to do with a certain set of pictures my scrappy friends were there to offer suggestions. And, as each friend finished a layout, we’d share it with the group, literally passing it around the room so we could admire what shad had made.
One of the women in the group had a sister whose close friend was the editor of the scrapbooking magazine Creating Keepsakes. Through that connection, my friend was able to write some articles for the magazine. This made me insanely jealous (and by jealous I mean “happy for my friend’s success but desperately annoyed and sad that I didn’t have the same opportunity”) because it sounded like such a cool thing to do, write for a scrapbook magazine and be sent free stuff and to not just be a scrapbooker but to do work about scrapbooking. I had a fresh English degree and the unjaded energy of a twenty-something and I decided I would get myself a writing gig like Ellen had.
That goal was one I sort-of accomplished. I never did get noticed by Creating Keepsakes, despite my dogged writing of query letters and submitting to layout calls. But then the magazine Simple Scrapbooks started being published (and its philosophy resonated with mine fairly cohesively), and my friend Molly did me one of my life’s best favors and suggested me to one of the editors as a person who could write well, and then, for a few glorious years, I got to write articles about scrapbooking for a magazine. I never became one of the Important Scrapbooking People, but it was thrilling and rewarding each time I pitched an article and the idea was accepted or, even better, someone would email me to ask me to write something.
It’s something to think about, how the scrapbooking world has changed since those days in the late 90s and early 2000s when everyone seemed to be a scrapbooker. Over the years, it’s become less mainstream. The magazines have almost all ceased publication (o how I miss scrapbooking magazines!), seeming bastions of scrapbooking have come, flourished, and then closed their doors (it’s still strange to live in a post-2Peas world and a Utah County without Roberts craft stores), and small, local scrapbooking stores have almost all vanished (even though I did my very darndest to keep them open by spending as much money as I could). Everything’s mostly online now; I’ve had to adjust to buying most of my supplies based only on Internet images instead of the tactile pleasure of touching (and, yes, even smelling) paper in real life. (Although I do still do my best to keep my one remaining scrapbook store open by shopping there at least once a month. Thanks, Pebbles in My Pocket, for sticking around!)
And those days of my young motherhood with my scrapbooking friends are also long gone. Not just the youth but the get-togethers; out of all my old scrapbooking friends (without whom I’d never have discovered scrapbooking in the first place), I’m the only one left who still actually scrapbooks.
I did accomplish a few things in the scrapbooking industry. I’m still proud of my work for Simple Scrapbooks. I taught at Big Picture and I hope my classes on journaling taught a few people that stories are just as important as pretty paper and cool embellishments. You can still read my work at Write Click Scrapbook.
Mostly, though, I am glad that I have continued to scrapbook, even though my friends didn’t. I’m glad I have some of my and my family’s stories told.
But I miss those scrapbooking nights we used to have.
A few months ago, I was invited to come to someone’s house to scrapbook, along with another person. I’d never met these women in real life, just talked to them a little bit in a scrapbook group. When I told Kendell I was going to an almost-stranger’s house he was a little bit baffled. And concerned about safety, because what if they weren’t scrapbookers at all, what if it was an elaborate set up to…I don’t know. I stopped him right there.
Because scrapbookers are awesome and last night I went and scrapped with friends again.
Is it too soon to call them friends?
I don’t think so, because the love of scrapbooking makes an instant bond. It’s easy to trust someone whom you know totally gets you. I mean…I have a hard time imagining what my life would be like without scrapbooking. On the surface it would look the same, I’d go to work, I’d take care of my family. But there is such a satisfaction and a pleasure in scrapbooking—in the telling of stories, in the making of something, in the recording of family history. It adds a richness to my life. It makes me happy, but I’m also deeply aware that this is a thing most people don’t understand. Even this week, I had lunch with one of my old scrapbooking friends, who I hadn’t seen in real life for years, and she was astounded that I still scrapbook. People wonder how I have the time (I make the time because it is important to me), or why I would spend so much money on a hobby (can you think of a hobby that doesn’t cost something?). I’ve had people say something dismissive like “isn’t scrapbooking just like crafts your kids do in kindergarten?” or hint that it is childish or silly. “It’s not really art,” seems to be what they are getting at, and on one hand I agree with them. “Real” art, something you find in a museum, is different from craft.
But on the other hand, it is art, in a sense, because it is a made thing that attempts to communicate something through its creation. The contemporary Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto said that “above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums — they must be present in all possible activities. The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level.” Museum art is art, but things that are made through the creative process are also art, even if they are not museum art.
And to be among people who understand that about scrapbooking is a solace and a joy.
I think I did as much in the scrapbooking industry as I could. Some of the people I scrapped with last night still work in the industry, and some don’t, and I have zero jealousy over any of it. I don’t actively seek out scrapbook-industry work (although if you asked me to write something scrapbook-related for your publication or blog, or even better asked me to teach about scrapbooking, I still would be thrilled) as I feel I gave what I had. Now I mostly scrapbook just to feed my creative itch. It is an intensely pleasurable and necessary activity for me. If I don’t have a little bit of creativity in my life I get antsy and irritable; it is like running in that it keeps my depression at bay (it’s either scrapbooking supplies or Prozac!).
But I forgot just how fun it is, to scrap with friends. To be understood. To sit in a room and scrapbook with others who are also scrapbooking, to share supplies and tools and ideas, to admire each other’s work, to talk about scrapbooking and about our current lives.
Whenever that happens, friendship is present.
(The five layouts I finished last night.)