A few weeks ago in the scrapbooking Facebook group I belong to, we were talking about style and how it evolves. (That discussion sparked this post.) The discussion made me think about a lot of things, not just my style but also what has influenced it.
I’ve been scrapbooking for a long time—since 1996. I started because I had a baby, and all of my friends were scrapbooking, and several of them were also selling Creative Memories supplies. I resisted Creative Memories because it seemed both slightly bossy (all those rules about acid free!) and entirely too expensive (which makes me laugh now, as I confess: I’ve spent a bit of money on scrapbooking supplies in the past two decades). Eventually I succumbed and started using Creative Memories albums, but they always felt restrictive to me. My next switch was to Close to My Heart albums, which I even sold for a while.
(Kendell was horrified that I'd post this photo with my room so messy. I say a messy scrappy space is the sign of a scrapbooker who actually makes scrapbook layouts! Also: in that MOMA bag are 300 half-square triangles for a quilt I'm making, and you can just see the corner of the desk I just set up with my laptop.)
In more than two decades of scrapbooking, I’ve witnessed just about every single trend and style that’s happened. The glory days of Creating Keepsakes, Simple Scrapbooks, Scrapbooks Etc, and a few more I’ve likely forgotten—getting a new magazine in my mailbox was cause for celebration. Two Peas in a Bucket, DMarie, and many other websites where scrapbookers gathered to “talk” about scrapbooking. I remember when the only line of scrapbooking paper was Paper Patch and how revolutionary KMA seemed because the background of the pattern was off-white instead of white. The drama of the Scrapooking Hall of Fame contests (I applied twice); the way I pined to be noticed by CK (and never was) and the absolute thrill of writing for Simple (O, how I miss those days).
And that’s just the industry stuff—if I stop to think about all of the trends in supplies and techniques it’s almost overwhelming.
As I thought about this history, I started to understand why it is difficult for people to become scrapbookers. You have to have a sort of dedication to your craft, the type that infiltrates most parts of your life. I literally can’t imagine how people enjoy life without scrapbooking. It brings me so much happiness to put stories together with pictures and a few little scrappy bits. But I also can see how this hobby isn’t for everyone, and how finding your way in might seem a little bit too intense.
But I’m glad I found scrapbooking and grateful I’ve stuck with it. The very first layout I ever made was done at a scrapbook crop at Pebbles in My Pocket. I put the photos down, and found some cute puppy stickers to match, and stuck those down, and then the crop leader told me I needed to write something about the pictures. “Write” is always a magic word (it might’ve been that exact moment that I fell in love with scrapbooking), so this seemed pretty miraculous to me. Not just putting my photos somewhere other than a box, but writing about them? I asked her if it would be OK if I wrote about the photos when I got home, because I didn’t love my handwriting and I knew I had a lot to say. I wanted to print the journaling, and she said “well, I’ve never heard of someone doing that, but I guess you could.”
That’s been my approach ever since: write big stories.
But just like the industry has changed in multiple ways as different people have influenced it, my style changed, too. It took me a long, long time to understand that what I want to do with my layouts might not be what everyone else thinks should be done, and that that is OK. There really isn’t any scrapbooking police, and I can do what I want.
One of the things that helped me figure that out was this book by Becky Higgins, Scrapbooking Secrets. There’s a clear line in my albums: pre- and post-Secrets. The book helped me to understand design in a way that I hadn’t before, and taught me that my simpler approach was ok (even though my style is not very much like Becky Higgins’s style). I talked at length on the Scrap Gals podcast recently about just how it changed me, and you can listen to that podcast HERE. The experience of re-reading the book, almost twenty years later, was just that: an experience that changed me. It reminded me of just how many layouts I have made, and how many stories I’ve told. It showed me how my confidence has grown and how freeing it has been to let go of wanting to be noticed as An Important Scrapbooker and just being the scrapbooker that I am. And how glad I am that while I was influenced by the changing trends, I stayed committed to telling stories.
A few days after I re-read Becky’s book, I decided to look through my older albums. I ended up spending more than two hours flipping through pages. I’m not sure, as scrapbookers, we can experience scrapbooks like “normal” people do, because we’re always going to notice the scrapbooking itself. Some of those older layouts are visually painful to look at, but I still loved seeing the pictures, reading what I’d written, and remembering making the layouts. (Metascrapbooking at its finest!) I don’t know if these albums will matter to anyone else when I’m gone (I hope they do), but that time looking through layouts reminded me of just how much they matter to me.
And my memory was right: there is a pretty clear divide in my style. Here’s an idea what I mean by how Scrapbooking Secrets changed my approach. Two layouts about spring, made about a year apart, the first one pre-Secrets, the second one post.
(Not the best photo of a layout because A--it's a CM album and B--I didn't want to take the sheet protectors off as I always tear them when I do that and I don't have any more replacements.)
(A baffling thing to me about this layout: Why didn't I put the date anywhere? I know it's from spring 2002...but I almost always date my layouts. Not sure why I didn't on this one!)
It’s not that the first layout is bad, really. It’s just so busy. It feels cluttered to me. (But I still want to gush at those photos. Little Jakey! O my gosh, he was so sweet and cute!) The second one is the opposite of cluttered; I might’ve taken “simple” to the extreme here. (Also need to gush at those photos of little Nafe. Why must they grow up???) The first one is more about the process of scrapbooking—it’s hard to imagine fussy cutting all of those bumble bees, but I did it! The second one is only about the photos and the story (which I wrote as a poem, in couplets because he was two, get it?).
Yesterday I finished another scrapbook layout. All of this looking back I’ve been doing made me stop and think, while I made my newest layout: what matters? Why am I doing this? Does it even matter at all? And I think it does. Yes, you can lose your focus in all of the pretty stuff, you can prioritize the making of the layout over the layout itself (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you can spend hours painting or embossing or fussy cutting tiny bumble bees. Or you can just stick down some photos with some journaling. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these items exist. The photos are out of boxes; they’re paired with stories. They exist as objects in this world (as opposed to something digital on your phone or computer hard drive) and therefore they can be looked at, read, admired or mocked, touched, flipped through.
They are memories made tangible.