Wednesday, December 27, 2006

S...crapbooking

I do not scrapbook. I am not a scrapbooker. I lack the patience, the money and the fancy scissors. Don’t get me wrong – I do not frown upon others of the scrapbooking inclination (my fabulous sister-in-law Jen being one of them). In fact, I admire them and covet their fancy scissors. But after years of self-banishment to the desert of Motherhood Inadequacy for producing nothing cute and texturally significant with my piles of photos, I have reached the oasis of Whatever. My new daily affirmation: “I am still a good mother even if I have never pasted a photo of my son playing soccer onto an artfully edged oval of paper adorned with little soccer balls and the word SOCCER! stamped across it diagonally.” Also I sometimes use: “My life can be complete without owning hundreds of dollars worth of stickers.”

I am intrigued by the fact that Utah is the scrapbooking capital of the world. Apparently we rock in the highly touted statistic of fancy scissors per capita (this being made all the more impressive by the percentage of our population who are under the age of 5 and have no business owning sharp objects, even if they are multi-colored and fun to play with). I think the Mormon admonition to do genealogy* has something to do with this. Somehow the scrapbook culture has turned genealogy into a creative outlet, a fashion statement, and a suburban status symbol. And the guilt normally associated with expensive, time-consuming hobbies is appeased because “Hey, I’m doing my family history.” Case in point: the vogue term for a paragraph of text (typed in font that looks like handwriting, artfully centered within a frame, and secured to the page with fake color-coordinated brads) is "journaling."

*The fact that I cannot spell this word without a search is a sign that I have not done mine. I do not genealogize. I am not a genealogizer. Clearly I am a slacker of gargantuan proportions and do not deserve to live in Utah. If Utah were Junior High, I would be the looser kicking rocks by the fence while everyone else busied themselves with Rubik’s cubes.


The kind of scrapbooking that makes me laugh and feel superior (because if you can’t join them, you must mock them) is where 21 layers of paper and an arsenal of stickers, stamps, ribbons and other 3-dimensional bits of collage-gone-wild are unleashed upon a page in order to create the ideal setting for exactly one (1) photo. This is scrapbooking only in the same sense that Extreme Makeover Home Edition is about remodeling. Yeah, right. Let’s just tell the truth and call it fanatical framing.


Extreme scrapbooking reminds me of those Baroque paintings (like this one by Claude Lorrain) that are given titles like The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt but are mostly an excuse for big landscapes with elaborate trees. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are almost an afterthought. In his version (below), Annibale Carracci even took the time to curve the top edge. All he lacked was the fancy scissors. Which were invented, by the way, by Leonardo da Vinci who drew sketches of fancy scissors in his notebooks but never got around to building them.


Where did this rant come from anyway? Well, you see I lied when I said I do not scrapbook, because every year I produce a grand total of 3 scrapbook pages. I do this to appease the scrapbook gods who hate me and may hurl my disdainful body into the volcano if I don’t make the offering. No, actually I do it because four years ago, my family simplified the tradition of the gift exchange and now we each make a few scrapbook pages to share. In all sincerity I think this is a great idea. I love having pictures and “year in review” summaries from my siblings and their kids (and dogs). Originally the logic was that instead of spending money on a gift, we would spend it on making color copies for everyone (which with 9 siblings does add up). In reality, my mother usually winds up paying for most of the copying which is another reason why I love this tradition. Wahoo! A cheap gift.

But not an easy gift. Because here I am, two days after Christmas, still working on my pages. I got the brilliant idea this year that I would get some digital scrapbooking software and avoid the paper cuts. All of my photos are on my computer anyway. I downloaded some nifty backgrounds and got started cropping my photos and outlining them in coordinating colors. “This is great!” I thought, “Why doesn’t everyone scrapbook this way?” Well, as I added a few more pictures to my page, I discovered why. Apparently, one digital scrapbook page consumes roughly the same amount of RAM it takes NASA Mission Control to launch a space shuttle. Even the smallest adjustments take forEVER to compute. I move one photo a half inch and the dreaded hourglass appears, the squirrels inside my computer groan under the strain, and I might as well go make myself a sandwich while I’m waiting. Half the time, the job is too much and I guess the squirrels keel over and die because my computer is hopelessly frozen when I return. As I see it, my options are these: 1) give up and risk being disowned by my family, 2) develop a year’s worth of film, get out my boring scissors, and do my best with the old-fashioned paper method, or 3) throw myself into the volcano.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen sister! For years I have prided myself on the fact that I actually put pictures in albums (Costco 3 albums for $14!) straight from the store. I thought that put me up there with the great ones! Then I saw a web site of beautiful scrapbook pages, and my Grandpaw recieved a gorgeous framed scrapbooky gift from his great granddaughter. I had to give it a look. I visited my first scrapbook store. I was just looking with the intention of making some crafty gifts. Waves of inadequacy flooded over me. The paper selection alone was overwhelming and the sample projects did me in.


Blogging is the hobby for me...creative, cheap, and no storage required in the apartment.

Good luck with the project!

Anonymous said...

From my predictably nerdy perspective (aside: I once knew how to solve a Rubik's cube but have forgotten The Moves) I understand your hourglass problem. Adding memory would likely fix things, but - surprise! - "$$." However, there is a fairly simple "settings" change you could try that might help. Increasing the "paging file" size can speed things up. If you want specifics let me know; it really is straightforward and I'd be happy to send a brief how-to.

Anonymous said...

I've always said "scrapbook" isn't a verb. If it helps, my husband asserts that when my sons grow up the last thing they're going to appreciate is an artfully arranged and color-coordinated visual representation of kindergarten graduation. I've got the pictures on a white page, as many as I can fit on, with the black-and-white typed identifying captions beneath. I call it Minimalism. It works. So don't beat yourself up, I'm not doing it either.

Anonymous said...

This entry is so hilarious! I had to comment & let you know. I am an avid scrapbooker, but before I had my first child I was overwhelmed just by the thought. My best friend's family owns a scrapbook store (where I now work), back in the day I laughed at them... now I can't get enough of those piles and piles of paper! Anyways. The voice of your blog is so awesome! Just wanted to let you know.

Bernita said...

This is a totally delightful post.

Heth said...

I don't scrapbook either. I too, am an outcast.

Darlea said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. I thought I was going to be one of those traditional scrapbookers. I have all of the tools and it was planned that my first scrapbook would be of a trip to Mexico. I was actually making two: one of each of my great-aunties. Well that has been almost 3 years ago and I think I have the first page done. Then I found an amazing digital scrapbooking product. It's called Scrapbook MAX! and it's really easy to use. Especially because it has features where you can just use the ready made templates or create you're own scrapbook from scratch if you wish. Honestly, I highly recommend this product for anyone that isn't a techie, especially with some of the other digital scrapbooking programs out there. Plus, even better there is a 30-free trial so you don't even have to buy without trying it. The frustration will go away, I promise.

The Lazy Organizer said...

My scrapbooking ideals went from creating 8 1/2" by 11" works of art, to using a standard layout and slapping the photos on, but now I'm excited that all our trip photos are already posted on my Picasa webpage. Hey, it's better than nothing!

Sandra Tayler said...

I create scrapbooks, but mostly I cut the pictures into the smallest shape that holds the important bits. Then I slap them on a page and fill the rest of the page with writing telling stories about the pictures. It is all about the telling rather than the stickers and papers and stamps. I'm a storyteller not a scrapbooker.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved this post since I'd be kicking rocks with you, too. This year I bought myself Adobe Photoshop Elements for my birthday present with the intention of digitally scrapbooking (bah humbug, scissors!). Have I used it much? No, not really--the whole hourglass issue comes up and I don't want to spend the $ on more memory. Guess the world will just have one less scrapbooker and one more "lazy pile of pics on my computer" person.

Have a wonderful new year! And good luck with your three pages!

edj said...

I love this! The painter analogy is perfect. I hate scrapbooking too, so much that to avoid it I moved continents!
Here's a book recommendation for you: Scrap Everything, by Leslie Gould. It's a fun, light read about two women who develop an unlikely but close friendship. It's also about scrapbooking! Really.
Disclaimer: author is personal friend. But it's a fun book; I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. Read it! It'll help you procrastinate on the scrapbooking.

Anonymous said...

I got a scrapbooking kit for Christmas this year and finally took it out of the packaging today (3/22/09). I am very intimidated by the thing and would like to sell the whole works on my garage sale. If I do decide to keep it, I intend to re-purpose it somehow because i just can't bring myself to the level of organized, intricate thought this hobby seems to require. I am relieved to know there are others out there who unashamedly don't enjoy scrapbooking.