As you probably know by now, my hobby of choice is scrapbooking. Actually, if I were being truthful, my hobby of choice would be cigarette smoking. But since it’s smelly and expensive and I don’t want to wind up in an iron lung, or lugging an oxygen tank around with me (you guys KNOW how I feel about having tubes in my nose or anything obstructing my airway) then I guess I’ll just stick with scrapbooking to fill my free time. Probably just as expensive as smoking, but it won’t turn my teeth yellow or lead to emphysema.
As far back as junior high, I scotch-taped newspaper clippings and pictures and concert ticket stubs (and all other kinds of various and sundry crap) into construction-paper albums. As a young adult, I was faithful about putting my newly developed pictures immediately into flip-sleeve photo albums. I used peel-and-stick albums for things like napkins and newspaper clippings that were unusually-sized. Eventually, I even bought those photo albums with the little strip of paper that ran horizontally between the pictures so I could write a brief description of what the pictures entailed. But the act of actually “scrapbooking” my photos, combining the pictures and the memorabilia and the stories into one album, wasn’t introduced to me until I moved to Ohio and joined my mother’s club.
A large number of the moms in my mother’s group did it --- I guess the act of wanting to document their babies’ births and first years and childhoods and all the special moments in between got a lot of them into scrapbooking. I thought it looked like a neat hobby, but to be honest, I wasn’t willing to put the sort of time and commitment into it, like some of my new friends did.
So for a while, I just watched, and observed, and made comments out loud about how I wasn’t willing to do that much work. But secretly wished I had such neat albums from when Brayden and Kellen were first born. And then I had to admit that their albums, not just the baby albums, but all their albums, were pretty awesome, so I started putting a few stickers on my own pictures. You know, just sort of dipping my toe in the water.
Then, I had to acknowledge that preserving the memories and the stories behind the photos was the most important part, and I just didn’t have room to do that on the tiny strip of paper in the traditional photo albums I was using. And so one thing led to another, and to another, and my best girlfriend Kim took me to my first-ever scrapbook store (gasp!) and before I knew quite what had happened, I had ripped all my old albums apart, taken the photos out, and starting putting together new albums, that were much cooler and more creative and way more special-er, and then all of a sudden one day I looked up and viola! I was a bona-fide, hooked, dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue scrapbooker.
It’s been nine years and I haven’t stopped yet, although my style has, er, “evolved”, thank goodness. My early layouts had no sense of design or technique or color scheme or, or, or ANYTHING, and it looked like the sticker aisle from Michael’s had thrown up on the pages. As I started paying closer attention to idea books, and other (better!) scrapbookers, I began to embrace the theory that “less is more”, at least for me, and toned down my style quite a bit.
But here’s the thing to remember, if you’re just getting started, or thinking about getting started: There is no right or wrong way to scrapbook. It’s about arranging your pictures and memorabilia in a way that is pleasing to YOUR eye, and sharing the stories behind the photos. That’s it. Accomplish those two things and you can consider yourself a successful scrapbooker.
Here’s one rule you must follow: Make sure you are using archival-quality, photo-safe products. The old construction paper albums, like those I used in junior high, are loaded with lignin which will eventually turn yellow (think newspapers). Make sure the plastic sleeves in your albums are PVC (poly-vinyl chloride)-free because PVC contains softening agents (or something chemically ... ermmmm... BAD) that will discolor your photographs over time. All products should be acid free, so as not to damage your photos and memorabilia. Basically, make sure before you buy any albums or papers or embellishments that they say “photo safe” on them. No sense in going to all this work, and spending this kind of time and money on a hobby if you don’t do it properly.
But other than that, pretty much anything goes!
If you’re just getting started, buy a few basic, must-have products ….. and then S.T.O.P.!
There are about a squillion products on the market, maybe even a squillion and one, as far as decorations go, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you think you need one of everything right now. Otherwise, you’ll buy all this crap that you never use and it will rot in a drawer because you either forget you even have it, or by the time you get around to using it, your tastes have changed and you’re left wondering why on earth you bought that awesome metallic glittery Mardi Gras page topper when you’ve never even been to Bourbon Street, for goodness sake, just what did you think you were doing?? (ahem, not that I would know about that). So just buy a few things to get started --- you can always go back for more!
You’ll need some basic tools -- a paper trimmer, a good pair of scissors, some adhesive. You don’t need every cool new tool on the market and half of the ones you buy you won’t use near as much as you think you will. So start slow, and make your way. (See: same theory as above for decorative items.)
Think about what it is you want to accomplish --- a baby album? School album? Vacation album? Anniversary album? Christmas album? Family album? And then select only the photos you want to use for that project. I’ve heard time and again that people don’t know where to start, so they don’t start at all. So, to avoid that, make a decision about selecting a project, pick your photos, and work on just that project until you finish it. At the beginning, I think that gives people the best sense of accomplishment and makes it easier to see your progress. Then, as you get more comfortable and decide this really is something you enjoy doing, you can branch out into other scrapbooks.
Decide on an album size for your particular project --- standard sizes are 4x6, 6x6, 5x7, 8x10, 8x11.5, and 12x12. Smaller albums work better for “theme” albums, and I prefer the larger 12x12 for our chronological family stuff. The kinds of layouts you’re going to create, and the kinds of papers and embellishments you will use, depends on this decision. It’s frustrating to buy a bunch of stuff that you love, only to realize none of it really works for the size album you are using.
So, to summarize, buy some basic tools, decide on a project, pick your photos, then your album size, then your papers and embellishments, and you’re ready to get started.
It’s great if you can find a friend who already scrapbooks, so they can give you some guidance and help you begin. You might want to consider finding a local scrapbook store, or Michaels or Hobby Lobby and taking a class. There are some great home-based scrapbook companies (Creative Memories comes to mind) that work like Tupperware, where you can find a consultant and get help from them. Buy a few idea magazines --- I prefer Simple Scrapbooks, or anything by Cathy Zleiske. There are companies that sell layout kits, with matching papers and embellishments, so some of the decisions are made for you. Try to find and attend a “crop”, which is a group of scrapbookers getting together to work on their albums for several hours at once. It’s a great way to see what everyone does, look at different styles, and get a feel for what appeals to you. Plus, there’s usually food there, so you can’t go wrong. (Hey, works for me!) Really, there are lots of options out there to help you if you’re just starting.
Basically, make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed at the beginning (ie, “I have seventy-five boxes of photos in my closet and I can’t jump in because I don’t know where to start!”) That’s the number one reason I’ve heard that people don’t attempt scrapbooking --- they just don’t know how without feeling snowed under. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way, so just do it. And if you do it and decide later that you did it wrong, no biggie --- you can re-do it (see: Everything Kristie did before 2004, when she *finally* figured out what she liked) I’ve re-done my first few albums because they were so awful ….. and I’m thinking about re-doing them AGAIN. Styles change, tastes change, there’s no harm in that, so don’t worry that you’re making irreversible decisions. (Although, that could spark an entire ‘nother post about making sure you always, always, always ALWAYSALWAYSALWAYS save your film negatives, and back up your digital prints on cd ….. )
Just remember this – pictures IN an album, for you to share with your family and friends, even if it’s not done as well as the professionals, is still a heck of a lot better than “shoved in a closet, still in the photo sleeves from Wal-Mart.” So grab those photos and just have fun with it!