Thursday, September 18, 2008

That Thing You Do...or Don't Do...Whatever

I spent last weekend up at Mall of America where Scrapfest was held.
Scrapfest. Hmm. I bet you are wondering exactly what Scrapfest is. Well, it's the largest gathering of scrapbookers in the country and it's hosted by Archivers, the large scrapbook chain. This year Scrapfest drew more than 10,000 scrappers--men and women--from all over the world. In fact, I was told that a trio of women come each year from Iceland. They bring empty suitcases and fill them with supplies to take back.

I met scrapbookers from Montana, from New Hampshire, from Arkansas, from Texas, and from all over the country. Most of the people I met were women who are devoted to this craft of ours. One industry estimate says that one in every three homes in the US has a scrapbooker in it. And a lot of them converged on the Twin Cities last weekend.

Not only is scrapbooking popular in the States. The women from Iceland are not unique. Scrapbooking has become an increasingly international hobby. And the uses of scrapbooking are as varied as the places it's being well-received. My first book on the topic, Scrapbook Storytelling, is used in South Africa to help rape victims. Counselors use the book and its personal questions as a starting point to create pages about their tragedy. While combining photos and words, the women see themselves as brave survivors rather than victims. It is the cornerstone of a healing process that combines left and right brain, not unlike EMDR, the revolutionary theory started by Francine Shapiro for PTSD survivors.

In the UK, scrapbooking found a natural audience. Folks in the UK have long been devotees of handmade greeting cards. Now they turn those same skills to scrapbooking--completing a cultural love affair with history by making personal histories come alive on scrapbook pages. I started a contest in the UK for scrapbookers, oh, nearly five years ago. It's still going strong. In fact, last week I began to judge this year's entries and I was astonished. We had more than 90 contestants in one category alone. Each contestant submitted 6 images. So I spent hours going through these. I was astonished at the creativity and self-expression.

Scrapbooking is also huge in Australia. They have several terrific scrapbooking publications. In Australia, scrapbooking is very much a family affair with young mothers recording the growth of their children.

So what's my point?

Well, with all this activity, it's no surprise that I was asked one question repeatedly: "Do YOU scrapbook?"

Yeah. Okay. I do. I scrapbook. I admit it. In fact, I'm addicted. I have way too many toys, and more paper than I can possibly ever use.

But I can always buy more, can't I? I mean, a girl can dream!

Folks would ask, "Are you a scrapbooker?" and I would answer that question and wait. Inevitably, a smile would follow. I could see the scrappers' expressions change. I could almost imagine what they were thinking: "She's one of us!"

Yep. The answer to all of you out there who are scrapbookers out there is, YES! I'm one of YOU. And I'm so very happy, you have responded so kindly to my book. More than 300 copies of Paper, Scissors, Death were sold over the weekend. You've already started sending me emails telling me how much you LOVE Kiki Lowenstein.

And why not? After all, she's a devoted scrapbooker. Just like you. And me. And hundreds of thousands of others all around the globe.


Cricket McRae said...

Joanna, I'm not a scrapbooker, but I know exactly what you mean. It's a thrill every time I sell a book to a soap maker and we get to chat about the craft a bit!

And how great to get to spend time with your peeps and sell books at the same time!

Keith Raffel said...

It's great to have a hook to sell your books, Joanna. You sell to scrapbookers, Cricket to soapmakers, Sue Ann to paralegals, etc. Savvy marketing!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks. It's a hook, for sure, but like Cricket says, the joy is in having a common interest, a common language. And I think folks really enjoy knowing that as authors we aren't just using something as a hook--we're HOOKED ourselves.

jbstanley said...

I became an amateur scrapbooker when my son was two, but I've never taken a class and it's becoming harder and harder to keep up with the photos I take mostly on holidays. I admit it - I'm beginning to use Shutterfly's easy photobooks instead. It's not as fun and I'm already going through sticker deprivation!

I love the image you've posted here! You are clearly a woman of multiple talents!

Terri Thayer said...

Great job, Joanna. I'm always answering the question "Who quilts?" People seem to think it's an old lady thing even though we're 20 million strong.

Scrapbooking or quilting, it's all about making connections.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

JB, a scrapbook can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The difference between a scrapbook (by modern definitions) and a photo album is the addition of journaling that tells a story with words. Your photo books are a lovely alternative. You might want to check out (I think that's it.) As they've sort of been the foremost experts in online photo books. Also, inside Paper, Scissors, Death is a discount code for 25% off photobooks at Snapfish.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


I believe that scrapbooking fulfills much of the same social needs as quilting. It's a chance for people (not just women!) to get together, to create, to explore their visual side, and to make something that will outlast their time here on earth.

Jessica Lourey said...

That's tremendous, Joanna! What a wonderful weekend. Congratulations!