Scrapbooks make the most of memoriesby Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
Scrapbooking is one of the hottest hobbies in the United States these days. But the popular pastime is nothing new.
People have been collecting memories and preserving them in albums for centuries. During the Renaissance, Europeans pasted pressed flowers and locks of loved ones' hair onto the pages of books. Thomas Jefferson filled volumes with newspaper clippings about his presidency.
Today, over 20 million Americans continue the tradition of documenting their lives. Minnesota Public Radio's Nikki Tundel investigates the staying power of scrapbooking.
St. Paul, Minn. — To an outsider, scrapbook enthusiasts are curious folk.
For starters, they like to be called "scrappers". They shell out $3 billion a year for artisan paper, decorative ribbon and glue pens. They spend hours pasting photographs, ticket stubs and matchbook covers into blank books. And, they use the word "cute" with dizzying frequency.
But here's the thing: scrappers make it really hard for you to dislike them.
Consider the scene at ScrapFest 2008. The event drew 10,000 scrapbook buffs to Minnesota's Mall of America. These women -- nearly all of the attendees were women -- they just might have been the happiest, friendliest people on Earth.
"We have a little saying when we have fun doing something. We give 'em a 'hooty hoot'," said a member of the Flip Floppin' Stampin' Scrappers, a scrapbooking group from Algona, Iowa.
As it turns out, few hobbies are as hoot-worthy as scrapbooking. Cross stitching, wood burning, latch hook rug making, they just don't garner the same passion, or number of participants. In fact, scrapbooking has now surpassed golf in terms of popularity among Americans.
"It's really about preserving the memories that are most important to you," said Jennifer Bockenstedt, marketing manager for Archiver's Photo Memory Stores. "It's therapy," added Memphis scrapper Janice Cantrell. "I can be ill-tempered and have a hard day at work and can come home and do that and it's fine."
Scrappers from at least 40 states flooded the mall one recent fall weekend. They took part in dozens of mini-classes, learning everything from the newest trends in scrapbook binding to the latest techniques for applying glitter to photos.
The goal of the event was to teach people how to better preserve their personal histories. But, the true art of scrapbooking might be deciding which memories not to remember.
"Sometimes you don't want a certain person in the picture," said Rebecca Pederson, who isn't afraid to cut people out of photographs. "It's very freeing."
There are, of course, people who scrapbook everything, including preschoolers' temper tantrums and grandma's battle with cancer. But most admit to taking some liberties with their life stories.
"Only certain things do you put in there," one scrapper said.
In the scrapbook world, there are lots of new kittens and themed birthday parties and trips to Disneyworld. There aren't too many marital arguments or job layoffs or broken water heaters.
The albums offer a place free of dirty dishes, therapist appointments and home foreclosures. What people like to see in a scrapbook are happy memories, funny memories, memories that complement that expensive new paper they just couldn't resist buying.
"Well, I had to buy a watermelon for my grandson because I found some cool watermelon paper," shared one scrapper. "His mom took pictures for me of him eating it."
"I have bought outfits that match paper just so I can take a picture and make a page out of it," offered up Minnesota resident Christina Lewis.
If you find some really beautiful scrapbook paper, explains another scrapper, "you gotta find something that goes with it, even if you have to create it."
Come across some great giraffe appliques? Time to take a trip to the zoo. Didn't get enough photographs of the kids trick-or-treating? Just extend the evening's activities.
"Maybe even have cookies and hot chocolate afterwards," said Erin Leveilee, so there are more shots for the scrapbook.
Some sociologists say that scrapbooking is a search for coherence. They say that, in today's world, people often feel unsettled, like things could fall apart at any second. They say scrapbooks help focus one's existence and validate it.
ScrapFest attendees, though, say they just like relaxing on the coach and flipping through the pages of a great life.
Said Janice Cantrell: "Scrapbooking, you know, it pumps you up to see it."
And if the memories are edited a little bit, so be it.
- All Things Considered, 10/01/2008, 4:54 p.m.