Hobby flourishes with new techniques, materials
BY AUTUMN PHELPS
Remember back in elementary school making cut-and-paste Mother's Day cards scribbled with crayon flowers and hearts? Or using bright-colored construction paper to build anything from hats to snowflakes?
The possibilities were endless, and it always felt great to finish a one-of-a-kind art project for someone special.
It might be a distant memory for many adults, but for some, those childhood crafts turned into a sophisticated hobby. They call themselves croppers, and there is no formula for their art. Just like when they were kids, they take time to assemble colorful, textured works no one can replicate.
In case you haven't heard, it's called scrapbooking, and guess what -- May is National Scrapbooking Month.
"Forms of scrapbooking have been around for a long time," said Annette Green of Melbourne, a consultant for Close to My Heart, a direct sales company for scrapbooking materials. "Today, it's a family hobby."
It's such a big family hobby that people spend $2.6 billion on it each year, according to the Craft and Hobby Association, making it the most popular segment of the craft industry.
Green said she has at least a dozen completed scrapbooks filled with pictures, cardstock, brads and other objects helping to preserve her family memories.
"I have a room to myself," Green said. "It's such a good feeling to sit, remember and go through those old photos. It's an art. I try to make the prettiest pages I can, and I truly enjoy it."
Green and fellow Close to My Heart consultant Laura Irsfeld of Indian Harbour Beach hosted an event called "Scrap Your Heart Out" last weekend at the Indian Harbour Beach Recreation Center. They invited local croppers to a two-day scrapbooking event.
Not everyone, however, is able to spend a whole weekend creating such detailed masterpieces.
"A lot of the feedback I get is, 'I don't have enough time to scrapbook,' " Green said. "Everybody's busy."
To help free up time, Close to My Heart and many craft stores sell scrapbooking kits, complete with color-coordinated paper and all the materials needed to make a book.
"If you get a 12-by-12 album kit, you could literally finish it in a day," Green said.
Some might feel all-in-one kits take away from creativeness of scrapbooking, but it doesn't have to, Green said. Some scrapbookers add personal touches after the kits are complete.
"People have gone as far as the toolbox and pulled out washers to use for embellishments," Green said. "They use paper clips, ribbon. I use coasters as picture mats."
Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson often are cited as early scrapbookers, and some say the craft dates back even further. It's easy to wonder what scrapbooking pioneers would think of today's pages, which are full of glitz and glamour.
One technique that's become popular in recent years is stamping, which is exactly as it sounds. The stamps and inks are much more advanced than they used to be.
"Our business specializes in clear stamps," Green said. "You can see through it completely."
That means you'll know where your design will go on the page.
Another scrapbooking trend, Irsfeld said, is adding lots of embellishments.
"A lot of the trends are gearing toward office materials," Irsfeld said. "Fasteners, brads, paperclips. We're finding them all in scrapbooking."
Candy Forbes, co-owner of the Craft Boutique in Indian Habour Beach, recently started designing her own line of scrapbooking materials. She said what's hot in scrapbooking depends on the time of year, like springtime.
"Right now, we're doing all different kinds of flowers with leaves, balloons and ribbons," Forbes said.
Melbourne Crafts & Stuff employee Evelyn Cross said May is National Scrapbooking Month for a reason: There are many special occasions around this time.
"Most are trying to get graduation stuff done, and getting ready for June weddings," Cross said.
Scrapbooking isn't limited to the actual books anymore, either. The craft encompasses cards, photo frames and other practical items that make thoughtful gifts.
You'd think in the age of the Internet, crafts involving manual labor would be obsolete. But devout crafters say they prefer the handmade look of a traditional scrapbook.
"There are digital scrapbooking programs out there where everything is done on the computer," Green said. "The problem with that is everything is flat."
An advantage of the programs is they offer more options than you could dream of with a click of the mouse.
Even those who are anti-digital scrapping turn to technology for some elements.
"I do some things on the computer," Green said. "I do some journaling. I usually want to type instead of handwriting."
And photo-editing programs can put a twist on pictures, adding flair to a scrapbook. For example, Green made her daughter look transparent like a ghost in a Halloween photo using Adobe Photoshop. It turned out to be the perfect fit for her Halloween scrapbook page.
Scrapbooking shouldn't fail to spark inner creativity, but if it does, there's another plus side to it -- it's an excuse to get out of the house. At scrapbooking events, it's not really about what you're making, it's about the conversation that happens while making it.
"On an open crop night, we sit down and work on our own projects and socialize," Irsfeld said. "It's kind of like a quilting bee."
And it's not just for women. Irsfeld said scrapbooking is starting to attract men, particularly retirees.
If nothing else, scrapbooking is an avenue for escaping the day-to-day.
"It's where I find relief of stress," Irsfeld said.
Contact Phelps at 242-3612 or email@example.com.