Yesterday I had to run in to my favorite scrapbook store, Pebbles in My Pocket. Actually, I can’t even say “favorite” anymore, because it’s the only scrapbook store left in Utah County. I’ve shopped there since February of 1996, when I was a freshly-made stay-at-home mom. My friend Chris and I went to a scrapbooking class together one Friday night at Pebbles, and that was it: I was hooked. And while there’ve been many other scrapbook stores in my area, I’ve always shopped the most there.
Today while I was shopping, the owner of the store stopped to chat with me. She asked if I was working on anything—having scanned many of my layouts for me, for my Big Picture Classes workshops, she knows I've sort of been "in the industry.” We chatted for a bit about how things have changed in the scrapbooking world. No more magazines. Hardly any local scrapbook stores or people going to crops anymore. Even some of the largest on-line sites have shut down. She asked me what design teams I’m on, and was surprised when I told her that I’m on none. I tried to explain why, but it seemed like too long of a story. Even though the reason started right there in her very own store.
That night when I started scrapbooking, I made a layout about Haley petting one of my friend’s dogs. And while I it was fun to pick out that cute puppy-paw-print patterned paper, what I was really excited about was going home and writing down the story. I asked the crop leader’s permission to not write it during the crop, because I knew it would be a long story and I thought I could fit it on better if I printed the journaling at home instead of writing it by hand. (She hadn’t ever had that idea, which only illustrates just how long I’ve been scrapping!)
For me, it’s always been about writing our lives’ stories. The embellishments and papers and alphabet stickers and everything else you can buy to use on a scrapbook layout feed the part of my creativity that wishes it were artistic but really isn’t. Layout design, clever use of supplies, and hand-drawn anything are not my scrapbooking forte, nor are they my motivation (much as I love them). My motivation was always, and continues to be, the fact that scrapbooking gives me an excuse for writing about the people I love the most, in a format where it might be seen and appreciated somewhere down the line.
But that doesn’t sell a whole lot of scrapbook supplies, which is the point of being on a design team. I don't think I'd be a great fit in that role, because my motivation is to show how to use words well on layouts, not product. Plus, I'm fairly picky about what products I'll actually use on my layouts. I don't, for example, use chipboard or flair or enamel dots. I avoid thickness or bumpiness, but I would have to use whatever, were I on a design team.
The store owner then asked me why I wasn’t teaching for Big Picture anymore. And…another long story. The last class I taught at Big Picture, my Textuality class in 2013, is one of my favorites. I taught it as a re-run, but as it had been quite a while since the last time it had run, I nearly completely overhauled all of the visuals. I made almost forty new layouts and revised a chunk of the text, plus created the concepts for four new videos. All in less than a month. It was a ton of work, and I spent quite a bit on new supplies. There were lots of late nights and feeding my family easy meals and not a few fast-food dinners. Perhaps most difficult, there were some things said about me during this rush of preparation that did not make me feel like what I was contributing was valuable, or that I, myself, was worth the time being put into my class. The last part that entirely broke me, however, was that there weren't a lot of students who signed up, so in the end and after all that work, I barely made enough to cover what I'd spent on new supplies.
I finished up that class highly conflicted.
On one hand, I loved writing classes. I loved sharing my knowledge of and enthusiasm for scrapbooking in a space that wasn't bound by the need to sell supplies. What I was selling was story-telling and writing techniques, translated into the scrapbooking world. Sure, supplies matter. But for me, the stories matter so much more, and when I was creating and teaching classes, I could explore how to do that with other scrapbookers.
Creating class content was one of the most rewarding experiences of my creative life.
On the other hand, I'm not sure the time and expense I put into my classes was worth the return. Of course I never expected to become wealthy teaching about scrapbooking. But the hours I put into class creation, divided by how much I made, ended up being far less than minimum wage. Plus, so few students signing up for my class sort of dented my confidence; I was left feeling like the things that are important to me are not valuable. Toss in Distracted Mom and the problems that caused with my family, and I didn't see how I could continue on.
I did start some tentative plans for a class with another Big Picture Classes instructor. But it just never quite came together, and the other class I had an idea for just doesn't seem to fit into the current scrapbooking climate. In fact, maybe that's the problem: I'm not sure that I fit into the current scrapbooking climate. My layouts continue to be story-based, but if you look at galleries or scrapbook blogs, the majority of shared layouts are product-based. I'm not interested in Project Life. I have zero interest in signing up for monthly kit clubs.
I don't know that I have a place in this industry anymore. (If I ever did really have a "place." I'm hardly well-known.)
This fall, Big Picture Classes was sold to Studio Calico, and in the transition, some of the classes were carried over to the new platform. None of them, unfortunately, were mine. This was pretty devastating to me, as it so very clearly spelled out just how not-well-known I am, and how, yes, what I thought was important really, really wasn't. It banged up my already-dented confidence.
So, here I am. I've been a writer for Simple Scrapbooks. I've been a teacher for Big Picture Classes. (I'll continue writing for Write. Click. Scrapbook. for as long as they'll keep me around.) But I currently have zero scrapbooker-y work and no ambitions to find any. Is it too dramatic to say I am a scrapbooking has-been? Maybe it's more clear to say I feel like a shuttered-up scrapbook store.
This isn't a pity party, though. Of course, I wish I had been more successful, both so I could better provide for my family and so I didn't have this little sadness with me. But sometimes you have to let go of an ambition. I love scrapbooking and I will probably always do it. But my days of trying to supplement my income with it are over. (Unless some other possibility opened up—I'm just not expecting it to do so.) I'm trying to focus all of my efforts on writing, and I'm excited for what might come of it. But it is, definitely, the end of an era for me, and with that ending is sadness and this strange sort of regret. Sense of failure, really. Like I let writing itself down, but hopefully that's not exactly right. Hopefully I just was in the wrong little niche, and will someday (soon!) find the place where I feel like I (and my ideas) matter. Where I'm supposed to thrive.