Layers of Scrapbooking

Other sociologists have also studied scrapbooking. I wanted to take a post to discuss the following quote from Goodsell and Seiter (2010:4-5). They argue:

[t]here are multiple layers of reality [in a scrapbook]: what happened, the pictures of what happened, the narrative constructed through the selection of pictures and other materials for inclusion in the scrapbook, the scrapbooker who makes these decisions about what is to be included and how it is to be displayed and narrated, and the various, potential audiences of the scrapbook.

Broken down, Goodsell and Seiter identify at least five layers of a scrapbook:

  1. What happened
  2. The pictures of what happened
  3. The narrative constructed through the selection of pictures and other materials for inclusion in the scrapbook
  4. The scrapbooker who makes these decisions about what is to be included and how it is to be displayed and narrated
  5. The various, potential audiences of the scrapbook

It is therefore difficult to fully understand the narrative of a scrapbook without also understanding the motives of the scrapbook creator and who is the intended audience. Moreover, while photographs motivate the creation of many scrapbook pages, what motivated the photographs being taken in the first place? What wasn’t photographed? While there are subcultures among scrapbookers that place story above photographs, there are also many scrapbooker who focus on the photographs first. The photographs drive the stories that are recorded. Therefore, to more fully understand the story of a scrapbook, one has to start before photographs are even taken.

Ultimately, scrapbookers are deciding what stories are scrapworthy and what is not. This perception of what is worth scrapbooking is shaped by one’s membership in the scrapbooking thought community and what sorts of scrapbooking subcultures one belongs.


Goodsell, Todd L. and Liann Seiter. 2010. “Scrapbooking: Family Capital and the Construction of Family Discourse.” Bringham Young University.

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Memory Keeping on YouTube

I think it is safe to say that the majority of scrapbook pages are prompted by a photograph. Probably the next most common prompt is a piece of memorabilia, such as, a ticket stub. Granted, there are books, websites, and so on offering other ideas for scrapbook pages and plenty of folks are making pages prompted by something other than a photo or a piece of memorabilia.

A few weeks ago, someone shared a link to an article about Sad YouTube. It struck me for a couple of reasons.

First, it made me think of YouTube as scrapbook-like. Isn’t commenting sometimes comparable to journaling? Aren’t we also able to share videos of memories that might alternately be photographed and placed in a scrapbook? There is certainly a lot to wade through on YouTube, but parts of it certainly share features with scrapbooks.

Second, Sad YouTube is worth exploring. Music prompts memories for people–memories that might not otherwise be prompted. This is hardly a groundbreaking thought. Slightly more interesting is that the same song can prompt very different memories for people. Even this isn’t that interesting. What is worth exploring is why would someone share their story anonymously (or semi-anonymously) on YouTube? Why would they put their story there? In a place where no one they know may ever find it? YouTube shares some similarities with other types of social media, but it’s still different.

I certainly haven’t offered a full analysis of YouTube or Sad YouTube, but wanted to put this out there and ask you:

Do you record or share memories on YouTube? Why or why not? 

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Scrapbook Organization Roundup

Over the past few weeks, I’ve covered some of the ways in which my respondents organize their scrapbooks. In case you missed any of the posts, here they are:

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Packing for a Crop: Airplane Edition

I spent a lovely weekend at the end of January at a crop. The kicker? I had to fly to get to my crop weekend. I flew to Atlanta and scrapbooked with two of my friends from my days working in a scrapbook store and two new-to-me people.

If at all possible, I try to not check luggage. It is one way I can save money when I fly. This presents a challenge when flying somewhere to crop.

Toiletries and Clothing

  • Prioritize toiletries. I travel for both work and fun close to once a month, so my toiletries are already travel sized and I know exactly what to take with me to save space. I brought only the absolute essentials on this trip. The flat iron and clear nailpolish stayed at home.
  • Simplify clothing. I wore my Ugg boots. These work great for travel, but the added bonus is that they serve the same purpose as slippers, so no need to bring any other shoes. I left home on Friday and returned on Sunday. The only jeans I had were the pair I wore on Friday. I brought pajamas, but the pajama bottoms could be worn as lounge pants if I was tired of wearing my jeans. I made sure that the cardigan I wore on Friday worked with my clothes on Sunday as well. The point is that I took the bare minimum of clothing. The bulk of my suitcase included my scrapbook supplies.

Now, what scrapbooking supplies to bring?

First, are any scrapbooking tools banned by the TSA? Yes! I had to leave my scissors at home. No worries, though. I just made sure that someone attending the crop would bring an extra pair for me to borrow. I also brought a thumb tack instead of my paper piercer.

One way to reduce your need for supplies is to focus on projects verses random pages. I had two main projects to complete:

  1. I needed to add my photos to my travel books from our trip to Seattle and Portland last summer. I also had memorabilia to sort through from this trip. The book was done it just needed these items. So, I did not need to take additional embellishments for this project. Once I finished the book, I threw away the extra bits of memorabilia that I did not use in the book (less to pack on the return flight!).
  2. My second project was from our trip to Cincinnati. These pages go in a book of visits to Cincinnati (we have family there and visit about once a year). To keep it simple, I focused on using pattern paper from one kit. Then, I selected embellishments that went with this color scheme.

Then, I selected an assortment of other photos and paired them with pattern paper. I was concerned I might run out of things to scrapbook. I finished both projects and had time to scrapbook a few random pages, too. I’m glad I brought a few random items just in case.

I brought a selection of cardstock. The cardstock was either neutral, went with a project color scheme, or would work with the random pages. The retreat cabin sold cardstock so I wasn’t worried about bringing too much.

Finally, I sorted through my embellishment and ribbon bins. Attending this crop helped me dig deeper into these bins and actually use up some of my stash. All of my embellishments fit into one gallon-sized ziploc bag. My ribbon fit into a second gallon-sized ziplock bag. Neither bag was stuffed to the brim. Nothing was brought in original (and bulky) packaging. I take my embellishments out and put them in tiny ziplock bags (think the bags buttons come in on clothing–I reuse those bags). Bring a selection, but don’t overdo it. You can always add embellishments later. Going through my stash helped me realize what I did have on hand so I could better make those decisions about adding something later. This is also a time to see what other people might have that you can also use, but I usually just made a note of it and moved on. My thought was that I could easily finish the page once I got home.

What about other tools? 

I brought my paper trimmer, markers, and adhesive. Sticking to a couple of projects enabled me to limit the number of markers I brought to those colors that went with the projects, plus some neutrals.

I normally use Scotch CAT 085 Advanced Tape Glider, but this would not work if space matters. I opted to bring my Tombow MONO Permanent Adhesive Applicator and Mono Adhesive Refill. I used all of the refills. Partially, this was due to one of my projects. The Seattle/Portland book does not use page protectors, so I used more adhesive than I might otherwise use. I also brought Glue Dots Mini Roll and Glue Lines.

Depending on where you stay for your crop, adhesive may be more or less of a priority. We were in the Georgia mountains, so I knew I would not have many options to buy adhesive. I also knew that the place we were renting has adhesive for sale. So, I brought what I thought I would need, but I didn’t overdo it because I knew I could buy some at the cabin if needed. Adhesive, however, is a bigger priority than some other items, like embellishments.

Do you need to bring everything? 

I didn’t bring any stamps. Because everyone else was driving, they were able to bring more stuff. If I needed a stamp, I knew I would be able to borrow one.

I brought washi tape but spent some time using this washi tape travel tip from Amy Tan ahead of my trip so that I would have variety, without bulk. I also use this tip to send some of my washi tape to my sister. I’ll never use it all, so it’s an easy way to share your washi tape, too.

I left behind my spray mists. It was not worth checking a bag just to have my spray mists. It was not worth them leaking out all over my other materials and clothes just to have them.

I had the supplies I needed and did not have a single moment of regret over leaving a particular item at home. It is possible to attend a crop that you have to fly to and not check a bag.

The Take Away: 

Focus on projects over randomness if possible. Be sure to have enough adhesive. Be realistic about how many pages you can actually complete over a three-day weekend. 

Sorry, this post has no photos of my actual packing. Please forgive me. I went on an out-of-town retreat between snowstorms (my plane did have to be de-iced and it snowed on the day I didn’t have to travel) and during my semester. Photos of the packing process were not a high priority.

(Affiliate links when possible.)


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The Most Popular Themes to Scrapbook: Family, Events, Relationships, and Holidays

Scrapbookers create scrapbooks of specific events but also “general family scrapbooking” which includes “keeping up with vacations, birthdays, regular pictures.” A more out of the ordinary scrapbook subject is about a person’s occupation. One industry worker has a customer who is a musician and his scrapbooks are of his recital halls and music instruments and another respondent has a customer who did a page about the things the customer’s dog had eaten. In other words, while there are commonly scrapbooked topics, there are topics more out of the ordinary, too.

Respondents were given a list of themes. They were asked to check the themes that they have scrapbooked. They were also given a few open ended selections to provide more detail about the theme (see the study for a complete list of themes). The list of themes is based on Bjorklund’s (1998) list of topics that she used to analyze autobiographies. I used this list as a jumping off point for compiling my list because scrapbooks are “autobiographical occasions,” meaning “an opportunity to constitute an identity, to lay claim to one’s own life, to the right to tell one’s own story” (Vinitzky-Seroussi 2000).

All themes are scrapbooked by at least two respondents. The most popular themes to scrapbook are family (N=34), events (N=32), relationships (N=29), and holidays (N=28) (see the study  for complete results).

For family-themes, husbands (N=17) are twice as likely as wives (N=8) to be scrapbooked. I suspect this is because most respondents are women and only one of the men scrapbookers is even married. The immediate family as a unit (N=27) is the most common way family is scrapbooked.

Vacations (N=31) are the most popular event to scrapbook, followed by weddings (N=24), concerts (N=20), sports (N=18), musicals (N=13), and funerals (N=8). The popularity of vacations among my respondents could be due to social class reasons as my sample skewed middle to upper-middle class. Though vacation, wedding, and sports-themed scrapbooking products are quite popular, there are fewer products (if any) devoted to concerts (outside of marching band-themed product), musicals, or funerals. I’ve created several scrapbook pages about concerts both with and without photos. I don’t think I have ever scrapbooked a funeral, but I have scrapbooked about people who have died.

Friendships (N=28) are the most common relationship scrapbooked. The theme relationship contains the subthemes friendships, boyfriend, girlfriend, dating, breakups, and divorces. Boyfriends (N=14) are almost twice as likely to be scrapbooked compared to girlfriends (N=8). Interestingly, five respondents have scrapbooked breakups and two have scrapbooked divorce. I began scrapbooking after I met my husband. I did scrapbook ex-boyfriends as they were part of my past whenever I did scrapbook that time period in my life. I did a quick google search because I don’t really know what sort of tips are out there for people scrapbooking the divorce itself or dealing with photographs from that part of a person’s life. I’m curious to learn what people do. Please comment if you have seen anything much beyond chat room chatter on this topic.

Christmas (N=18) is by far the most popular holiday scrapbooked with Easter and the Fourth of July (N=7) tying for second. Other holidays scrapbooked are New Year’s Eve, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Chanukah, St. Patrick’s Day, Rosh Hashanah, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Pagan holidays (e.g., Ostara, Lammas, Yule, and Samhain). This is somewhat surprising in that when we think of scrapbooking products, what tends to be emphasized is Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, but these are not the three most popularly scrapbooked holidays among my respondents.

What themes do you most frequently scrapbook? What are some of the more out of the ordinary themes that you scrapbook?

References (affiliate links)

Bjorklund, Diane. 1998. Interpreting the Self: Two Hundred Years of American Autobiography. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. (Public Library)

Vinitzky-Seroussi, Vered. 2000. “ ‘My God, What am I Going to Say?’: Class Reunion as Social Control.” Qualitative Sociology 23(1):57-75.

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Reflections on Design Team Participation

In 2012, I was on two creative teams and two years later, seems like long enough to reflect on the experience.

I was excited and honored to be asked to join Ella Publishing’s Take Twelve team. Prior to the Ella call, I had never submitted a layout for publication or consideration for a design or creative team. I have never been interested in creating layouts in exchange for product. Partly, this is because I want to scrapbook with whatever I want and however I want. Partly this is sheer laziness. The thought of keeping track of products used on a layout and then providing links to the product just seems tedious unless you are able to generate worthwhile revenue for doing this.

The parameters for the Take Twelve team were simple enough. Take twelve photos on the twelfth of every month, create a layout with those photos, and share it on your site. I usually remembered to take my photos, but getting the photos printed was a challenge. I only have one photo printer in my town and they have a $5 minimum to order prints online for in store printing. It was a huge pain to get my photos quickly enough to meet my deadlines. I now own a photo printer so this challenge would not be an issue for me anymore.

One major drawback of participating on this particular team was that it structured what I was going to scrapbook. I don’t have time to scrapbook everyday (and no I can’t make time because I have other priorities besides memory keeping). At best, I scrapbook once each week on a weekend day. My scrapbooking time was reprioritized to focus on making sure my Take Twelve layout was complete rather than focusing on the stories that mattered the most to me. While I ended up with layouts I otherwise would not have completed (and I am glad I have those layouts), it changed my scrapbooking focus. I’m not comfortable rearranging my scrapbooking focus to meet other people’s and company’s needs.

Another challenge I faced was that of repetition. Ella Publishing had a great e-book with ideas for what to photograph each month and with examples of different layouts, which helped, but I still felt a bit burned out on the theme by the end of the year. I would prefer doing these “day in the life” style layouts less frequently. I find tremendous value in doing them, but they have to be less frequent than monthly.

Through Ella Publishing, I was compensated with an occasional free e-book and the occasional free class from Big Picture Classes.

I was also invited to be a guest designer at Sketches: Creatively Yours in February 2012. In this scenario, I was given templates to use for my own layouts. I was happy to try this out because I rarely use templates when I scrapbook. I normally just lay my photos out and move them around until everything looks good (enough). My committment was for four layouts over the course of one month. I was not compensated in any way. This commitment provided both a challenge to me (using sketches), but also a short-time commitment (one-month).

Because I was on two creative teams for part of 2012, there were at least two of my scrapbooking sessions where I did nothing but make layouts to meet the needs of other people and companies. For this reason, if I were to be invited to be on a creative team in the future, I have to really think about the time commitment. Am I willing to exchange my creative time to meet the needs of someone else? For this reason, compensation is important. In my case, my compensation was limited to e-product (and exposure). For this reason, people should really think long and hard before joining a creative team. Consider these questions:

  1. Will you be compensated?
  2. How will you be compensated?
  3. Does this compensation fairly cover the value of your time, knowledge, and skills?
  4. What are your short-term goals with your creative team commitment?
  5. What are your longer-term goals with your creative team commitment?
  6. Is your goal to convert your design team exposure into something more? What is your plan for making this happen?
  7. Might your time be better spent building your own brand rather than promoting someone else’s brand?
  8. Are you prepared to fulfill your commitment even if you are burnt out on the company, product, and hobby?
  9. What is your exit strategy? If you decide to leave your commitment early, how will you go about doing this?

Remember, that you are selected for a creative team because someone believes that

  • Your style fits their brand image.
  • You can consistently cheerlead for their product.
  • You will meet their deadlines.

 Can you do this? More importantly, do you want to do this?


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Education-Themed Scrapbooks

One thematic trend that was somewhat surprising to me when I encountered it was education-themed scrapbooks. I think it surprised me because this style of scrapbooking is not heavily promoted by the industry aside from the production of school-themed product. In hindsight, it shouldn’t be at all surprising. At one time, I had a little book where you could write in your grade, teacher’s name, favorite friends, and favorite subjects among other things. There was a place to glue your school photo and a pocket to store memorabilia such as report cards or awards. I’m actually surprised that more scrapbooking thought leaders don’t pay more attention to style of memory keeping.

Several respondents kept education-themed scrapbooks for their children, but occasionally they have one about their own schooling. These books include the official school photo, report cards, and other significant events surrounding their or their child’s educational career. These books illustrate the value these scrapbookers place on education. One respondent, in particular, articulates that this style of scrapbook is communicates to her son the importance of school. For another respondent, the book serves as evidence[1] if and when child services visits her home that her son is in fact being home schooled. She takes photographs of some of the activities they do in the home and on field trips, partially to prove they really happened.

Education scrapbooks in particular illustrate how scrapbookers periodize their lives. Zerubavel (2003) defines periodization as delineating one period of time from another. Some scrapbookers make exactly two pages for each school year, while others make several pages for each school year. Generally, respondents try compiling chunks of educational time in these books. Education scrapbooks might be about elementary school, high school, or college in that the whole album is about one of these chunks of time rather than by year or some other unit of time. Arranging books in this way is illustrative of how scrapbookers periodize their lives (and the lives of their children) around education.

Do you make education-themed scrapbooks? Why or why not? How do you organize education records?

[1] Child services has visited this respondent’s home in the past and has confiscated her scrapbooks, too, due to nudity in the scrapbooks. They were returned to her but she is much more cautious about what is included in the scrapbooks as she knows they can serve as evidence against her ability to mother. On a related note, during the American Civil War, Dr. A. H. Platt published a genealogical album for families to compile their family records so that “widows and orphans of those who gave their lives in the war would be” able “to prove their relationship to the deceased” so that they would not lose land or pensions from the government (Siegel 2006:260). In other words, scrapbooks have long been made out of an effort to provide evidence that something really happened.

References (affiliate links)

Siegel, Elizabeth E. 2006. “ ‘Miss Domestic’ and ‘Miss Enterprise’: Or, How to Keep a Photograph Album.” Pp. 251-67 in The Scrapbook in American Life, edited by S. Tucker, K. Ott, and P. P. Buckler. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 2003. Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. (Public Library)

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Master’s Program in Photograph Preservation

This is so cool!

The University of Rochester and George Eastman House are now offering a Master’s program on photograph preservation:

The program will be the only one in the United States dedicated to the study of the photograph as an object (the care and handling of photographs) as well as the related academic study of images (theoretical and historical context).

While I certainly, do not need anymore degrees and am not going to pack up and move to New York to get one, I kind of want their reading lists. I’m very interested in learning what the “experts” read compared to what “average jane or joe photo enthusiast” might read. Perhaps there is overlap, but I’m guessing there is divergence, too.

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Birthday. Easter. Graduation. Christmas. Repeat.

A common mantra among scrapbookers that persist with the hobby is that event-based scrapbooking grows tiresome, hence the rise of everyday scrapbooking.

In a chronological event-based scrapbook, the album may move from event to event. For example, the album may move from a birthday, to Easter, to a graduation, to Christmas, and so on. Scrapbooks begin to look repetitive if a scrapbooker does yearly albums in this way. If every year begins to look the same in a scrapbook, what is the point in scrapbooking it each year? The scrapbook industry has stepped in to solve this “problem” of repetition creating nontraditional products for traditional holidays (e.g., Christmas-themed supplies now include pink in addition to traditional red and green) and producing idea books that show new ways to scrapbook common events. In this way, the scrapbook industry is no different than other businesses, such as greeting card companies or florists that provide products for holiday celebrations (see Pleck 2004).

While many scrapbookers transition from event-based scrapbookers to everyday scrapbookers, they run the risk of burnout on the other side of the time continuum. I believe that the rise of what appears to be the most common method of using the Project Life system (weekly) is unsustainable over the long run just as the event-based scrapbooking method was unsustainable for many scrapbookers. For the marketers out there, then, consider promoting a method of scrapbooking that is sustainable for your average scrapbooker. Thoughts? What method of scrapbooking is sustainable?

Reference (affiliate)

Pleck, Elizabeth H. 2004. “Who are We and Where Do We Come From?: Ritual, Families and Identity.” in We are What We Celebrate: Understanding Holidays and Rituals, edited by A. Etzioni and J. Bloom. New York: New York University Press. (Public Library)

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Favorite Alphas

IMG_9443I have long struggled with alphas, but after 10+ years of scrapbooking, I think I finally have my favorites:

Little Alphas:


I love Studio Calico’s Tiny Alphabets. First, they come with 190 letters! They do away with both numbers and punctuation. I rarely use numbers or puncutation stickers and end up with sheets of random consonants along with numbers and punctuation leftover with most sheets of alphas. I like thaty each sheet has several font styles while maintaining the same color scheme. I can easily mix fonts without the look of random alphas. I also like that they are small, yet they are large enough that I can use my own fingers (rather than tweezers) to place them on a page. Because the letters are on their own rectangle shape, I don’t have to attempt to poke out the negative space and I can line them up evenly.

Larger Alphas:


My favorite larger alpha is Jillibean Soup’s Alphabeans. These sticker sheets come with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and limited punctuation. Each letter is about 1-inch tall. Perfect. I like larger fonts, but don’t usually want them to be too big and overwhelm the page. They peel off and stick well. Yes, you do have to poke out the negative space, but the size of the sticker makes this a breeze.

Fun Alphas:


I have mixed feelings about my favorite fun alphas, which are American Crafts’ Thickers. I like their fun designs and their size. I dislike their poor quality control and price point. I’ve bought sheets of Thickers where the alphabets are now peeling off the sheet they came on. My layouts with them may look cute now, but are these stickers going to hold up? Doubtful. They are also pricier and you get fewer letters per sheet. Thickers are like really cute, but impractical shoes. They’ll leave you with blisters and aching feet. They are too expensive. But, they are so gosh darn cute that you keep buying them anyway.

What are your favorite alphas? Why?

Read about How I Store Stickers.

(While I have linked to Amazon, I purchased all of the stickers at my local scrapbook store a couple of months ago. They ran a sweet sale where everything was 50% off so they would have less to count at year-end inventory. I don’t usually buy 24 packages of alphas in one shopping trip.)


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