What was I supposed to do when a friend called and said she'd drunkenly agreed to host a Creative Memories party? When she explained that it involved scrapbooks, I rolled my eyes. Scrapbooks, I thought, were for young moms trapped in suburbia and grandmothers who document their grandchild's every move. You want me to attend a Creative Memories party? I snorted, then asked what time and where. After all, a party's a party.
I casually mentioned the party to my mom, expecting she'd laugh and tell me to take my checkbook. But to my surprise, she asked to go along. A week later we found ourselves surrounded by other women and staring at packets of paper in different shapes and sizes and assorted pictures we'd brought from home. The plan was to make a page using our pictures and learn to use some of Creatives Memories' products. My page, "My Life With Horses," shows eight pictures of me standing next to or sitting on horses. It was far from spectacular, but what did I care? I had nothing invested, and planned to keep it that way. At the end of the page-making session the order forms appeared. I looked over to give Mom the "Let's exit" signal and gasped. She was studying the catalog and filling out an order form, and she wasn't just doing it to be polite.
I thought I'd humor my mom, that the items she ordered would soon begin collecting dust with all the other craft supplies in my parents' basement. But one day I happened to be in my old bedroom and noticed boxes of family pictures piling up in a corner. On subsequent visits I noted a desk, then an assortment of markers and stacks of papers of varying sizes, colors, patterns, and textures. And then everything spun out of control.
This has become much bigger than just making a few scrapbook pages. Through various classes and demonstrations we've learned to make paper bowls, pocket shrines from empty Altoids tins, altered books, and clay beads. Not only are there these offshoots of the paper arts, but there are also tricks of the trade to be learned, techniques to be mastered. We have become well-versed in the ways of eyelet setting, sewing on paper, chalking, and proper rubber stamping.
For each new technique we learn, supplies must be purchased. Mom and I are regulars at Michael's, JoAnn's, Art Mart, Red Lead, Hobby Lobby, and a handful of local scrapbook and stamp stores. We purchase these supplies just about daily, taking advantage of weekly coupons from Michael's and JoAnn's and half-off sales on stamps and stamp pads at Hobby Lobby.
Not only must we have supplies, but also magazines. Stampers Sampler, Rubber Stamp Madness, 3-D Embellishments for Scrapbooks, Stamp It, and Rubber Stamper are filled with pictures of cards and pages actual scrappers and stampers have done and directions of new techniques.
In the beginning, we felt compelled to justify our purchases. Just think of all the money we'll be saving because we can make cards instead of buying them, we'd say. Who were we kidding? We soon realized we could have bought a hundred cards with all the money we'd spent on the supplies to make them. My mom's justification has changed. She tells me that knowing I will inherit the items from her makes the money spent worthwhile. So as I look around what she calls her paper arts studio, I conjure up visions of what I can create using eyelets in 20 different shapes and colors, 30 spools of ribbon, 350 rubber stamps, 30 paper punches, numerous shaped scissors, pens, markers, colored pencils, chalks, and paint. There are huge sheets of decorative paper, cardstock, vellum, patterned paper, and textured paper. There are dye ink pads, pigment ink pads, chalk pads, and Big and Juicy ink pads. These items are but a small portion of the supplies purchased over the past two years that stock the basement paper arts studio.
Admittedly, some of the purchases were unwise. In January, Mom bought a Xyron Machine, without which no studio is complete. It's a small laminating machine and it's still in its box. I'm sure we'll use it one of these days. Regardless, we own it and it's there in the box if we need it.
This has evolved into something much more than a hobby. It borders on obsession. We talk about it every day and at times during the day I find myself searching for inspiration for future cards or scrapbook pages, or anticipating an upcoming class or convention. My mother, a woman who recoils at the thought of driving twenty miles from her house to Kirkwood to eat at a restaurant, thinks nothing of zipping over there to visit the rubber stamp store.
We are definitely not alone. Scrapbook stores can be found in strip malls across the metro area. Next time you're in Michael's check out the aisles devoted to rubber stamps, scrapbooks, and card making. Show up at Hobby Lobby at 9:05 a.m. the first day of a sale on rubber stamps and you'll find the aisle wiped out. Classes at conventions fill up fast. If you haven't registered online months before, you're out of luck.
What my mom calls her paper arts studio is now in what formerly served as the basement rec room. My parents are locked in battle over the room's identity. Mom wants to get rid of the couch and love seat in order to bring in tables to expand her work space. She's already succeeded in ousting the chair. Dad, though, is taking a cautious approach to the expansion of the studio. He's recommending they hang on to the furniture. He's thinking he might be able to wait this out, that it will go the way of stenciling and tole painting.
I'm not so sure. I just got off the phone with Mom: she was heading to Michael's to buy a brown Staz On ink pad with her coupon and then to a class at a scrapbook store.
Rubber Stamp Convention
Saturday, July 26, 2003
The Gateway Center
The Scrapbook Tour
August 8 & 9, 2003
St. Louis Renaissance Hotel Airport
Jen Stephens teaches middle school in Ferguson.