Monday, August 1, 2011

Scraping Pet Peeves

I'm out of photos to scrap, no ideas are flowing for new paper kits, and I'm not in the mood for writing tutorials. So what's left to do? Complain, of course!
"Complaining" may not be precisely the right term: I'm actually going to just rant about a set of pet peeves on what passes for "cool" in scrapbooking just now. Because, of course, I am the expert!
I've been at least dabbling in scrapbooking since the late 90's. I've seen the fashions evolve from photos simply matted on bright solids slapped on a white page with a cute border made from Mrs. Grossman stickers to the current trends of distressed kraft paper with layers of ripped whatever, yards of string or lace, paint spatters, chipboard letters, hand-stitching, badges, bling, "found" embellishments, and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, a little photo shoved up in the corner where it won't be in the way.
And for the most part, I've followed along faithfully. Oh, I've never been an early adopter - gone hog-wild with the latest and greatest punches, papers, and glues, or anything. I prided myself during my paper years at being pretty moderate, scrapping on a budget of say, $1.50 to $2 a page (exclusive of tools!) Still, there's a pretty pile of the stuff moldering in my garage: stickers, edge rounders, fancy scissors, gel pens, paper by the ream, velum quote booklets, eyelets and the requisite setting tool, even, I blush to admit, a dry-embossing gadget that I used maybe 4 times. Looking back, about the only thing I can really congratulate myself on is that I (nearly) avoided the whole rubber-stamping black hole. Nearly. Really, I never paid more than $1! Sometimes I even used them!
Of course, I had a blast doing it. And those memories are well and truly preserved: I will never regret having a book full of my trip to Europe or Asia or of my niece's first years. But, even without dates on the pages, you can probably peg most of them to a 2-3 year era just based on what I used and how. These pages are less than 10 years old, most of them, and yet in some ways they're just as dated as the clothes we were wearing.
This is not an accidental metaphor, because in truth the scrapbooking styles in vogue at any moment change about as quickly - and for exactly the same reasons - as our clothing: money! I have no idea exactly how big the scrapbooking industry is. I expect it's down some from its heyday, as many of those cute little mom-n-pop shops are gone, but count the aisles devoted to the subject in your average big-box craft store and it's obvious there's more than a little profit to be made. But since no-one, I mean No-One ever uses all the stuff they buy any more than we wear out our clothes, there's got to be a new line out every season, along with new gadgets and alphabets and the "embellishment du jour." Lace! Metal frames! Fabric flowers! Spray Ink! Embossing Powder! Chipboard Curly Braces! Baker's Twine! Buttons! Little flag banners! And who knows what is next!

This sounds like it's a rant against paper scrapping vs. digital, which wasn't precisely what I set out to do. Not that I am anything less than thrilled with the trade-off. Frankly, one of the greatest things about digi-scrapping is that (assuming you're following my lead and Never paying for assets) your pages always cost exactly the same, regardless of how many papers, alphas, and embellishments you use. No more need to skimp in the slightest on those buttons or stickers or eyelets: just copy and paste when you need more! (And similarly, no need to "layer up" and shove a bunch of pointless stuff on the page just 'cause you paid for it and darn it, it's got to be used.)
Still, digi-scrapping does not free you from the fashion train in any way. On the contrary, since it no longer costs me $, my digital pages are far more fashion-forward than my paper ones ever were. But, reining myself back in once more, what I set out to do was rant against some of the truly Vapid trends in the craft. Trends like

* Pages cluttered with countless little stamps and labels with poignant phrases like "Memories," "Remember," "Always Remember," "Family," "Love," "Shine," "One of a Kind," and a dozen other variations of the same empty words. Show some creativity, folks! I know, I know: coming up with the title is the hard part of scrapping. Do it anyway. No matter how sentimental you feel right now, you - and if not you, your teenaged son - are going to cringe going through a book in a decade where every page has those same, trite sayings scattered about.
I am not perfect on this subject myself. So help me, I have a page titled "Smile!" from just a couple months ago. But my rule of thumb is: if the title looks like you could have bought it pre-made from a store, Don't Use It!
This goes double for the non-title embellishments on a page. IMHO, they're overrated. Why does your journal block need to be stamped "Memories?" (So they can sell you the stamp, silly!) Obviously you're scrapping this stuff because you want to remember it. Don't bang your viewers over the head with it Every Single Page. Let them speak for themselves!
There's a time and place for an apropos quote, although I use them far more frequently when making pages for my niece about whom I know comparatively little. On my own pages, there's simply no room - or need to make it.

* UGLY color combinations and treatments: plain kraft / cardboard, ripped, torn, folded, mutilated, and spindled paper, ink spatters... you know what I'm talking about.
Again, I'm not entirely innocent of this. I've made a few pages I'm not proud of. And on the flip side, sometimes a ripped *edge* is exactly the look you're after and does not detract. But a lot of times the work just ends up looking messy and poorly executed, rather than fun and informal. The later is what you're after: use the grunge Sparingly.

* Pages that scream "It is 2011 and I have rushed out and bought what is cool in the magazines Right Now."
I'm even less innocent of this: One of my pages has little flags on it! Not to mention stitching, funny little scraps of paper, exposed staples, and the odd bit of ric-rac.
Of course, I also wear capri-length pants and cross-over T's - reasonably current fashions that (I sincerely Hope) won't look too ridiculous in 10 years' time. In other words, I try to stick to the middle of the road, looking to identify classics in the making, solid, utilitarian pieces and techniques that will always look fine, if a little dated, regardless of the exact colors or background patterns.
My own style over the last couple of years has strayed from Scrap Simple to Becky Fleck (the latter being a considerably more ornamental, multi-layered, much embellished designer than the former), and will undoubtedly stray back again. I know that pages on the Scrap Simple model will age better than the style. I don't think I'll hate the complicated ones, though - if for no other reason than that I've consciously avoided the excesses. If I don't think it looks good, I don't use it.

* Any and all pages that relegate the photos themselves to an afterthought.
This is a huge pet peeve right now, probably because it is also a huge trend. 12x12 pages, with a cluster of fancy-shmancy embellishments surrounding a 2x3 photo up in the right corner. Maybe a title. No journaling. I admit a fair bit of my ire is because I am still just a tightwad at heart: even $1.50 for a page without several photos on it seems crazy. But really, it seems like just calling it in - especially when done digitally, using someone *else's* page map or even layered template.
Scanning through my scrapbooks, the mean number of photos per 12x12 page is 3, although the average is higher since some of them have as many as 7 or 8. There are a few pages with single photos, even excluding title pages, but in every case That photo is at least 4x6, usually 5x7 or larger. And it's typically a very good, very special photo - not just a random snapshot from the dinner table - and almost always accompanied by a good amount of text. If I have random snapshots in ones or twos I really want to scrap, I wait until there are several and I can make a significant grouping of them.
But seriously, this craft is About the photos, and just as importantly, the memories (not just the word, the actual written memories) that go with them. Yes, I love the design aspect of it too, but seriously, if you're going to end up with fewer square inches devoted to the photo than if you printed it at 4x6 and popped it in a $1 album, and then topped it off by labeling it "Memories..." why are you even bothering?!
Corollary: Too many photos can be a problem too, and I've actually lowered the average in my daughter's first-year scrapbook. Yes, I am taking fewer photos, but I am also editing more ruthlessly, not to mention learning (and accepting) that not every occasion needs to be scrapped. Don't scrap photos that you don't love just to fill out a page. I mean, don't edit so ruthlessly that Aunt Edna never makes it in, but don't feel like you've got to use that semi-blurred half-profile of your kid with a goofy look on her face just because it's the "only one I have from that event of her!" Skip it. She'll thank you in the end, and she'll still know that you took her to the fair, the berry farm, the zoo, Uncle Michael's birthday party, whatever, because she knows you're the kind of Mom who does that sort of thing, even if you didn't force everyone to stop against a convenient bit of scenery and flash cheesy grins at the camera.

OK, so now that I've offended just about everyone who's ever scrapped, I will never need to write another blog post. ;) That's fine, 'cause I don't really have the time anyway. I am too busy scrappin', gripping, and occasionally setting down the camera, stepping away from the computer, and participating in Life.
I need to do that more than I do, because insofar as know my kids will enjoy the legacy of pretty, happy scrapbooks, they won't mean much if they don't also know Instinctively that they're loved, valued, and cared for, and that I spent most of your time on the right side of the camera lens, actually participating in their lives and the lives of the whole family, not just mooning about the light being wrong and cluttered backgrounds and messy faces (let alone mindlessly purchasing and using the latest and greatest scrap styles!)

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