Putting the Scrap back into the Art of Scrapbooking


I hopped into the craft store for paint supplies and found myself staring at a display across the aisle as I was checking out. “Designer Scrapbooking” said the banner. Little cellophane pockets were filled with cardstock flowers with little glittery plastic jewels nestled in the center, a paper child with joints that moved, and fabric stickers in three dimensions. Buttons and paper and stamps, fancy-shaped whole punches. And I realized as I was staring, that scrapbooking is no longer scrapbooking. For one thing, there’s no scrap.

Once upon a time, I found a scrapbook in a dark corner of our storage shed. I chewed the stem of an oversized grass stalk while browsing a book put together by my mother’s mother, an ornate collection of photos, wrapping paper, pressed flowers and ribbon. I read letters, studied postage stamps and handwriting, marveled faded photography.

What weren’t on the page were little metal brads with things that spin or puffy letters announcing what each page was about. There weren’t die-cut shapes, stickers or rubber-stamped flowers.

There were photos cut around the figures, there were little blossoms of gift tags with strings threaded through a button, with stems of ribbon braids. Wrapping paper photo frames were adorned with a little note about the package that it had wrapped, and flowers pressed with all their vividness tucked behind clear overlays, also with wrapping paper photo frames, kind of like little windows.

There has been a long evolution since the days of my grandmother, where ladies’ groups shared ideas on how to reuse common items into clever, even sellable objects, to today, where such practices are considered crafts, and are catered to through chains and manufacturers so that you can buy new bags of popsicle sticks and shapes already cut out from papers, where reuse has changed from everyday living to an environmental movement.

Today, scrapbooking is about the combination of personal memories and art. Craft stores also carry everything an artist might need. In fact, I am happy to include crafters under the umbrella of artists, and therefore the scrapbooker as well. Whether or not you make and design the pieces yourself, you are designing and assembling the pages. You are taking in hand the aesthetics of collage art. Creativity portal describes collage as “compositions of various elements (such as paper, wood, fabric, feathers, leaves, and other found objects) pasted down with an adhesive glue or paint.” Scrapbook artists put their collages together in a binding and call it a scrapbook, or memory book, or they frame it as a one-of-a-kind, made-just-for-you gift.

Serious scrapbookers, like any serious artist, spends thousands each year on supplies and materials. Unlike an artist, who continues to use the same methods and supplies as the thousands of years of artists before him, a scrapbooker can go back to scrapbooking roots and save these thousands.

One way is to just stop throwing things in the garbage but into your scrap stash instead, but that’s the extreme “green” version which requires quite a few stretches in creativity. The scrapbooking supplies at stores allow those less-creative types access to this art. Here are a couple of investments and ideas for paring down:

  • Buy your own die-cutter and dies and cut them yourself instead of buying them, or cut pre-printed shapes from old greeting cards, or do both: use the die cutter on the greeting card. You could also die cut sticker sheets.
  • Buy your own cardstock and print your own scrapbooking pages. Here’s a couple of printers that print larger-than-standard widths: Epson Stylus Photo 1400 and HP Photosmart Pro B8350
  • Paint your own papers for different effects: Bubble Painting and Marbling
  • Bring back the art of Scrapping with scrap paper from other projects and tissue and wrapping paper from gifts.
  • Other serious scrapbookers’ ideas on the web can be found at ScrapJazz

Though the memory is the treasure, the scrapbook is its velvet-lined box. The art of a scrapbooker is not the art of the Louvre but just as timeless. You don’t have to limit yourself to what scrapbooking products they have in the stores, for the true art of scrapbooking is the art of what can be done with the imagination. It’s a bonus that the imagination costs less, too.

Image courtesy of lars hammar

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7 Responses to Putting the Scrap back into the Art of Scrapbooking

  1. Well said! I also look for found items and ephemera to use in my scrapbooking projects — for economy, to reduce clutter and for environmental reasons. I have no complaint with scrappers who use the ready made kits and fancy embellishments, but as much as possible,I like to make my own. I scrapbook as a hobby and as a way of releasing my creative impulses. Therefore, it makes sense to make rather than buy.

  2. Kerry says:

    I totally agree – I save cool pictures from old magazines, fortunes from cookies, greeting cards, ticket stubs, and basically anything even remotely flat for use in future scrapbooks or collages. Some are very personal, some personalized for the recipient, and some could be for anyone: beautiful colors and pictures cut out of, into, and around. I find that this is the real spirit of crafting: the DIY aspect and handicraft that goes into each creation.

  3. Frugal Momma says:

    I really enjoy scrapbooking. I only buy paper when it is on sale rather than spending $1.00 on fancy card stock. My girlfriends and I have twice a month scrapbook nights and we share tools and “scraps” of paper. It is really my only hobby and I spend $300-$400 on it a year.

  4. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Scrapbooking on a budget

  5. Kristian says:

    I have choosen to make a career of adding value to items otherwise bound for the refuse heap.
    I gather old deck-wood and flooring and make them into boxes with varing levels of ornimentation. I also weld things like wire hangers and silverware into small sculptures.
    If you are interested in seeing some of my work you can visit my website at http://www.serendipitousllc.com

  6. Gail says:

    I had a scrapbook back in junior and senior high. It looked nothing like the scrapbooks of today, but it was full of memories that were important to me. It was only meant for me and it wasn’t fancy. I can’t imagine the time and work going into scrapbooks these days and wonder if the memories that they will evoke in 20-30 years will be as strong as the ones I have whenever I look through my scrapbook and remember my teen years.

  7. Oasdg says:

    I’m an avid scrapbooker and have been for years. I completely agree with you, scrap booking used to be about savings moments of time, little memories, and that’s what I scrapbook. When my husband and I first started dating he realized I kept the receipts to everything, and he started handing them over. And now all those receipts from little things we did, are all preserved memories among the pages of our scrapbooks.

    I go to these scrapbooking events and scrapbooking parties that people throw now, and I’m overwhelmed by the amount of items people are buying for their scrapbooks. I occasionally buy papers when they go on sale, but I rarely even need that-I’m just there for the adhesive. I don’t think scrapbooking needs to be over the top or full of “bells & Whistles” it should be there to preserve those moments, and that shouldn’t cost you a fortune!

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