Monday, December 10, 2012

Simple Scrapbooks by Stacy Julian

Simple Scrapbooks by Stacy Julian is among the books I borrowed from the library to serve as inspiration for my finally rolling up my sleeves and creating these albums for my children.  And it was the perfect choice for starting. 

In the introduction, Julian explains how she was looking through a scrapbook that was quite pretty, beautifully laid out with photographs, but she intuitively sensed something was missing.  What it was, she couldn’t quite determine until later.  

Although the album itself was visually lovely, the content—the photographs and layout—added nothing to the meaning of the photos themselves.
Aside:  My mother has a photo album in which she has gathered older photographs of the family.  However, she has not labeled them so I know that the man in the monk’s robe is my Grand-Uncle (or is he my Great-Grand-Uncle?) Augustus and that the woman in the nun’s habit is my Great-Aunt Josephine.  I can probably figure out who my grandfather and grandmother are but that is all I could do and I still wouldn’t know who the other people are, how (or even if) they are related to me, or anything else about them as individuals.  Two relatives devoted themselves to their faith in a way many of us would never consider doing.  What does that mean to them?  To my family?  Who were they beyond a monk, a nun?  I’ve asked my mother to please scan and at least label them somehow so I can put names to faces.  All I can do is ask and hope she obliges. 
Eventually the scrapbooker cum author realized that the lack of story left a gap in her becoming involved with what was on the page.  She did not know the people on the page, where they were when the photograph was taken, or any of the things, the stories behind the images, that would build a connection between herself and the page.  As a result, Julian was inspired to think of scrapbooking less as a photo-album and more as a means of sharing her story and her experiences in images as well as in words. 

This may not seem like anything remarkably new but this book was published over a decade ago and I have no doubt that, at the time of her writing and publishing this book, her perception was remarkable.  Regardless, how she put this realization into practice is what makes this book worth exploring.

Basically she realized that scrapbooks needed some verbal content—written elements beyond a title or banner.  She also chose to start organizing her albums not in chronological order (although she assures her reader there is nothing wrong with that) but by themes.  Some of the themes are unsurprising.  A Guest Book, a Recipe Album, and even a Nature Journal are not necessarily surprising.  But what about a book that explains why you have your name or one that shares only the family rituals (aka traditions)?  Perhaps even a one in which you think about your goals for the coming year or what you will do when you retire?  The possibilities are endless even if the book itself is limited to 25 projects.
Aside:  My middle name, RenĂ©e, was given to me by my mother because a very dear friend of hers who had the name was there for her when my father abandoned a very pregnant her.  She was only a few weeks away from giving birth (or so she thought anyway but that’s another story entirely) and one day he just didn’t come home to their apartment.  Can you imagine?  I cannot. 
Image found here.
A quick browse of the table of contents (click the link and “Look Inside”) shows just some of the uses for thematic albums.  She offers simple examples from her own collection while also sharing how others have applied her ideas in ways that are unique to them.  Furthermore, she contends that most of these albums can be made in a weekend.

An entire album in a single weekend.  How is this possible?

After browsing through her book, the reader will probably find one or two album ideas to try on for size.  Each album has a “Preparations” section with a short list of what you will need.  What makes this book even more useful is that she doesn’t have specific recommendations.  No need to worry about trying to find out of print paper patterns or ephemera.  The reader is encouraged to pull together their own elements—photos (sometimes even suggesting how many you might want), stickers or other trimmings (that tie in with your theme), album size, etc.  

Of course, not all albums will be finished in a weekend.  Many of them are not even meant to be finished.  Obviously the "Guest Book" is an ongoing project that can grow from year to year or you can choose to create a new album with each new year.  The “Hopes and Wishes” book is another one that lends itself to being created as you go along.  In creating the album, you will be creating the form into which you will later add content, in the form of journaling, and photographs. 

hostess message book and flowers
Image found here.
As I said before, she shares examples from the pages of other people’s albums and, for instance, the Guest Book Stacy Julian created includes a place to put her own journaling and a photograph taken from sometime during the visit.  From Becky Higgins, however, a variation is suggested:  have your guests fill out a simple questionnaire.  The same idea but used in different ways equally resulting in a treasured keepsake.

Given that my own intention for using my scrapbooking supplies is rooted in having a thematic album rather than a chronological one, this book really was a great place to start.  Of course, when you pick up a book that is over a decade old, you run the risk of falling in love with a resource that is no longer available.  The resources at the back of the book are a hit or miss.  Some are still around while others are not.  But you won’t have to worry about a lot of projects relying on expensive equipment either.  She doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how to create specific layouts or effects so when she says she used a “pocket page” don’t go looking for instructions on how to make one.  That’s one of the reasons I would argue that, in spite of the very simple designs and for these thematic, and therefore, smaller projects, this book is probably for the somewhat experienced.  If you are not a novice to scrapbooking, like I am, but not quite ready to tackle a more complicated project, this book is probably perfect.  Assuming a scale of Novice/Beginner/Experienced/Expert, this book falls into the Beginner category.  In other words, it was perfect for this novice.

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