scrapbooking: pretty paper. true stories. {and scrapbooking classes with cupcakes.}: What is scrapbooking?

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What is scrapbooking?

What is scrapbooking? To me, it starts with true stories and pretty paper. Everything starts there.

I first kept a scrapbook in grade school: a giant postbound tome with grey pages that seemed faded from the start and a hot pink embossed cover. Inside I kept various tokens of school girl achievements: spelling tests, merit badges, end of year certificates. That book still exists. The pages are more faded. The tape has gone brittle and yellow and there is not a single photo or personal note to put the mimeographed memories in context.

In my last year of high school, I made what seemed to be an improvement. By this time, I was taking photographs. There was also the tradition of swapping wallet-sized photos with friends. So in the scrapbook I created at age 18, you can actually see what I wore to the prom, how many badges were sewn to my back pack and that piece of vehicular perfection that was my very first car. Short quips printed out in the school computer lab act as captions, and there are even a few pages that record vital facts of the time: favourite songs, books read for English class, what I planned to take my first term at university. Although the entire thing was held together with rubber cement (and mostly constructed in the back of history class), this too was a scrapbook. And yet I was still entirely unaware of this activity known as scrapbooking.

Scrapbooking is any way of gathering stories and images from life and putting them together to keep a record of memories.
Scrapbookers are the people who keep scrapbooks. Whether we admit it or not.

Scrapbooking has evolved greatly in the ten years in which I have known and embraced a label for what I was doing by sticking photos and captions into spiral-bound notebooks. I discovered scrapbooking supplies in a discount store, then found the scrapbooking aisles at chain craft stores and a few years later discovered the brilliant phenomenon known as the local scrapbooking store. Those early shopping trips included just a few colours of acid-free cardstock, a few patterned papers that seemed to come in collections known as ‘pastel’ and ‘neon’ only, sheets and sheets of cartoony stickers, approximately twelve million pairs of scissors with fancy patterned edges and many, many glue sticks. It was not haute couture paper crafting. But I can’t knock it: we all start somewhere.

Today the scrapbooking industry is huge. Hundreds of manufacturers, thousands of stores, so many products I can’t count that high. Scrapbookers stopped limiting themselves to flat papers and now collect so many fabrics, ribbons and buttons that the untrained eye might assume they were actually dressmakers. Cardstock comes in over six hundred colour and texture combinations, all made to the highest archival standards so the projects we make will stick around for years with no brittle, yellowed tape in sight. Scrapbookers meet up to work on their albums together, something that has magically brought the girl power of the quilting bee back amongst modern women who fill many roles in day to day life but befriend others who share an understanding of this craft. I consider myself so lucky to have met many amazing women through scrapbooking, all with stories that inspire.

But to me, scrapbooking is storytelling. Be it with cartoony stickers, rubber cement, sophisticated designs or pixels on a screen, I am telling my own life story. My scrapbooks are illustrated memoirs that celebrate pieces of life I may forget unless I write them down. I truly love pretty paper, but at the heart of my scrapbooks lies one true story.

07 July 2008



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