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Kristi Tencarre : Scrapbooking: What's the Attraction?

Scrapbooking: What's the Attraction?

By Kristi Tencarre

When I was back in Canada in July, I was shocked that the art store Michael's had four aisles devoted solely to scrapbooking supplies. When I left two years ago, there was one aisle. I was also surprised at the amount of stores that had popped up that sold only scrapbooking supplies.

Looking through the scrapbooking aisles at Michael's, I was feeling a little left out since I don't have children and a lot of the scrapbooking focuses on them. Of course, I knew that I could do anything with my photos and that I was only limited by my imagination. But in researching the Creative Memories website (and this is not a plug for that business) I found out that scrapbooking is more than baby and graduation books. It involves pictures and stories of anything that is important to you; any person or event that you decide is worth taking the time to write out the memory to go along with the picture. The fancy surroundings of the picture(s) are for pleasure. Their mission states: "We strive to re-establish the tradition of the photo historian/storyteller and the importance of memory preservation and journaling for future generations."

I enjoy telling stories and journaling. I get pleasure from making collages. Those four aisles at the art store attracted me and I found myself buying stickers and paper backgrounds without even having a clear idea what I would do with them. I have a lot of photos from travels and life that I would like to preserve by more than a sentence in a photo album and more than the .jpg number on my computer. I began to wonder about this scrapbooking phenomenon. What is this movement sweeping not only Canada, but the US and nations worldwide? Some of my friends back home are enthralled with this art form. To be honest, I'm attracted to scrapbooking for the way the pictures come to life after the cool, colorful backgrounds, fancy stickers and fun writing have been added. But what is it that pulls people into this art form? I decided to ask women I know how they got into scrapbooking and why they stuck with it. Three points stuck out: the creative nature of it, the social aspect, and the bottom line — it's fun.

Kathy started doing scrapbooking because it was something to do with her sister when they got together one night a week. They thought it looked interesting and were hooked in just one class. "We loved all the paper, pens, stencils, stickers, albums, etc. We also loved being able to arrange our 'memories' in ways that were especially meaningful to us. It added life to our photos!" Krista says she is "attracted to scrapbooking because it's creative, but you can be as involved and complicated or simple as you like. You can do a very simple, classic layout of pics, or you can go nutso with embellishments and journaling, if you want."

Both Kathy and Krista mentioned their attraction to the paper, stickers and fancy pens of the art form. That was a definite pull for me as well. Krista admitted another factor: "There's also the very real fun of 'cut and paste' from grade 1! There are all kinds of special paper packs and stickers and stuff to make the scrapbooks pretty, and it's a lot of fun to play with that stuff!"

The communal nature is also what draws women into scrapbooking. Just as in days of old when women would gather at a house for a quilting bees, women today are gathering at stores or a friend's house to hold "crops." This is a good way to get ideas from other "scrappers," but the social aspect appeals just as strongly. "You can be really social, talking and sharing pics, or just work. I find that working with others keeps me motivated" confides Krista.

Aside from the social nature, the creativity aspect and the pleasure, I still wondered what made it special. Krista told me it is because scrapbooking focuses on telling the story behind the photos. "It's a great way to let my own personal voice show."

How many of us have looked at photo albums of our grandparents and wondered at the stories behind the photos? There might be a name, a date, a location, or there may simply be a single photo on that old sticky black page. Family histories, personal histories are being lost. This phenomenon is a way to chronicle life stories along with the pictures so that anyone who picks up the book can gain an insight into the featured event. It also captures an aspect of the personality of the one who did the spread.

I think the word scrapbooking is a misnomer. The word scrap is the word with which I have an issue. The problem I have is that it is not waste and leftovers that people are collaging into books for keeping. It is, however, scraps if you choose the meaning of "odds and ends."

I am currently living overseas and when I tried to explain to a local that I was starting to scrapbook, he gave me a confused look and said: "why are you putting scraps into a book?" Personally, I would prefer to call it "collage journaling." But, since it is the word scrapbooking that has become famous, I don't think my new name is going to sprout wings. Nevertheless, it is one more art form I know I will enjoy pursuing. •

© 2006 Kristi Tencarre

Kristi TencarreKristi Tencarre is a long-time and valued contributor to Creativity Portal, sharing her creative perspective and photo writing prompts with its readers. More »

10/19/06