It’s ScrapBowl 2004, and in a bright hotel meeting room in Chantilly packed with 70 or more people, Donna West is raising a ruckus.Thump. Thump. Thump. Mrs. West stands amid long tables strewn haphazardly with scrapbook pages, sheets of colored and printed paper, metal grommets, tiny chests filled with candy-colored metal shapes, and cutouts of miniature pumpkins and hearts, and she hammers.
Thump. Thump. No one turns or looks up, because the racket is expected: Mrs. West, in a corner of the room, is adorning the matting around a snapshot of her son’s soccer team with star-shaped silver grommets, pounding them, with a malletlike hammer, into a line of eyelets she has punched out.
“This is taking you back to when you were a child, cutting and pasting,” Mrs. West says.
These rows of tiny metal grommets are another step advancing the growth of a pastime the Hobby Industry Association, a trade association of craft and hobby manufacturers and merchandisers, calls the fastest-growing leisure-time activity in America: scrapbooking.
Scrapbooking is everything everyone remembers from childhood, yet it’s not. Much the same are the memorabilia preserved in the books — photos, menus, report cards, Valentines — and the scrapbooks themselves, usually 12-by-12-inch or 81/2-by-11-inch albums with covers of cardboard, embroidery or leather, and post-bound so the binding can be unscrewed and pages added or removed.
Not so old hat is everything else. Gone is the rough, cord-bound, manila-toned paper that crumbled over time. In its place is heavier card stock, often custom-colored and always free of the acid and lignin that cause paper to deteriorate, and always protected by a polypropylene or Mylar sleeve.
Gone is simple mucilage or paper paste. Standard now are a range of adhesives that grasp paper, plastic, wood, Styrofoam, metal or any of the commercially available trinkets that scrapbookers use to ornament their pages — charms, bits of fiber and fabric, fancifully shaped grommets (called “eyelets” by hobbyists), custom-cut images, stickers, letters of the alphabet.
Gone, too, is solitary scrapbooking. Today “scrappers” like Mrs. West may work in their own homes but prefer to gather at friends’ homes or at public crop sessions — such as this meeting at Chantilly’s Holiday Inn Select at the end of January — where they can make new friends, share ideas and sample scrapbook retailers’ wares.
Even the aim of scrapbooking has expanded. Scrappers see their books not as mere catalogs of photos or keepsakes, but as creations — storehouses of embellished remembrance that they hope will draw lingering looks long after they have gone.
Mrs. West, who lives in Manassas and works with computers , is here beneath the hotel chandeliers with her adult daughter and a friend. She stands amid cases, boxes and luggage bags brimming with supplies that scrappers have shoehorned into two rooms at this two-day crop sponsored by Get Croppin’, an event planner in Sterling.
Crops may be sponsored by and held at local crafts shops or, as at Chantilly, may be set up by event specialists at hotels or other venues. Participants in the Chantilly gathering paid $70 for the two-day weekend, which included lunch, snacks and the use of a hospitality suite. Crops held at local retailers may cost a scrapper as little as $5.
Mrs. West comes to the crops to socialize and to get ideas from others.
“It’s fun to see other people’s styles and techniques. Sometimes you can learn a trick or two,” she says.
Indeed, at the other end of the room is a woman whom friends call the “eyelet queen,” who even has eyelets in the shape of beer mugs, while in the room across the hall flits the “fiber fairy.” Both women are known for their lavish supplies of these embellishments — jewelry for the well-designed scrapbook.
Fibers are not just pieces of yarn, but speckled, fuzzy, twisted or angel-hair threads that add a dusting of wispy or rough texture to scrapbook pages. The “lumpy” look of 3-D pages and touches of glitter are popular, one scrapbook store manager says.
Some scrapbookers tote jewelry cases of dazzling “eyelets” stacked in thimble-sized compartments. Some carry specially designed scrapbookers’ suitcases, with compartments for pens, stickers, custom-cut shapes, acid-free card stock, photographs and cutting, punching and adhesive tools — even room for a pair of slippers for late-night sessions.
Mark Twain had a word for it: “to scrapbook.” In fact, Twain, who, according to the Oxford English Dictionary was the first to use the word “scrapbook” as a verb (in an 1879 letter to his wife), even invented and patented a self-pasting scrapbook.
He probably never anticipated a movement like this one. Industry giant Creative Memories of St. Cloud, Minn., the largest direct-selling scrapbook company in the country, conducts classes and workshops and sells albums, materials, tools and accessories in this country and abroad. Founded in 1987, it now has 78,600 home-based sales people in the United States alone, and racked up just under $400 million in sales in 2003.
The company has 15 home-based representatives in the Washington area alone. That, and a plethora of scrapbook meets and conventions in this area, testifies to the hobby’s popularity here.
“It is becoming more and more popular in this area,” says Mike Anderson, co-owner with his wife Kesley of My Scrapbook Store in Fairfax.
Scrapbook professionals say the trend began in Utah, among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and spread across the country.
“The Mormons were kind of influential in putting together family histories,” Mr. Anderson says. “If you go out to Utah and ask for the nearest scrapbook store, they’ll say there’s one there and there and over there.”
The Latter-day Saints keep meticulous genealogies of their own and other people’s families as an aid to those ancestors’ baptism by proxy. Their Family History Library in Salt Lake City is the largest such collection in the world, at 142,000 square feet, with an international genealogical index database that contains about 600 million individual names. Worldwide, the Saints also maintain more than 3,700 family history centers, branches of the Salt Lake library.
Given that background and its implications for eternity, it’s no wonder scrapbookers set such great store by materials free of acid, lignin or other substances that hasten fading and deterioration. The scrappers’ byword for high quality is “archival.”
At the Chantilly crop, fellow scrappers are marveling over Terri Sprinkle’s layouts of a 2002 family trip out West. The Woodbridge, Va., office administrator has layered strips of chocolate- and cream-colored card stock to simulate the hilly terrain of the Badlands. Photographs of family members are tucked into the scenery. She designed the look of a Wyoming waterfall from laser die cuts and used paper printed with graphics of boulders as a background.
“There’s every kind of design you can imagine,” says Mrs. Sprinkle, who can be found almost every Thursday night at crop sessions known as ScrapClub at My Scrapbook Store. Mrs. Sprinkle and Kathy Young of Herndon have been friends since they met in 1999 at ScrapClub and, without missing a beat, are again together at ScrapBowl with the “eyelet queen,” Susan Arbogast.
These friends have been scrapbooking since 8 a.m. on ScrapBowl Saturday, which is more formidable given the fact they stayed up cropping until 3:30 a.m. the previous night.
“We feel like a truck hit us, but we’re OK,” Mrs. Young says.
She, like many other area scrapbookers, has devoted pages to September 11, one featuring a die cut of the Pentagon, and has archived newspaper clippings to commemorate the event. She is doing an entire album, using her own photographs of Ground Zero in New York, one with the skeleton of a World Trade Center wall still standing. The insurance brokerage where she works, Aon Corp., lost 176 employees in the Trade Center attacks.
Marirosa Anderson, co-owner of Get Croppin’, created September 11 pages that can be looped together so one doesn’t have to see them if one doesn’t want to. Doing the pages “is a mourning process,” she says.
Some say scrapbooking has become more popular especially since September 11.
“I think we all scrapbook more because of that,” says Mrs. Anderson of Get Croppin’. She has seen many September 11 layouts. Stores have sections of stickers, flags and cutouts of U.S. military and patriotic themes.
“People are understanding more what’s really important — families,” says Jeanne Wines-Reed, founder of the Great American Scrapbook Co., which had about 4,500 attendees at its convention in Chantilly last June.
Ms. Wines-Reed, a convert to the Latter-day Saints, is a public figure in the scrapbooking world, with crops that consistently draw thousands of scrappers.
Whatever the cause, scrapbooking’s growth has taken off in the past few years. The Hobby Industry Association estimates that the number of scrapbookers in the United States has quadrupled in the past five years, to 20 million. Annual scrapbook industry sales in 2003 were estimated at $2.55 billion, up almost 28 percent from the year before, according to a recent survey by Creating Keepsakes magazine, a monthly scrapbook-industry publication of 250,000 circulation.
“I think it’s hot for a lot of reasons. It’s a vehicle for us to tell our story and pass our story on to future generations,” says Ms. Wines-Reed, comparing the crop get-togethers to quilting bees, where women generations ago gathered and crafted with their hands as they spoke of matters close to the hearth.
Scrappers may be students, like Whitney Schoonover, 18, a major in tourism and events management at George Mason University, who scrapbooks with 10 friends in the Eisenhower student lounge at GMU.
They may be veterans of the craft, like Amy Mowbray of Warrenton, Va., who gathers neighbors on her cul-de-sac on Friday afternoons for a pizza-fortified night of cropping that sometimes stretches until midnight.
They may be men, like Joe Fishburne, father of Kesley Anderson of My Scrapbook Store, who assembles layouts for sale at the store.
Or they may be scrapbook professionals like Amber Bowker of Kent Island, Md. A partner in the retail site and online community Scrapendous (at www.scrapendous .com), Mrs. Bowker is also self-employed as an “S4O.” That’s “Scrap for Others,” a person who makes albums for clients — bakers, photographers, muralists — who wish to show their work.
“So it’s not just in the home anymore, it is in the work force,” Mrs. Bowker says of scrapbooking.
But whatever the walk of life, the impetus toward scrapbooking seems to be universal.
“We are creating a safe and lasting place for our memories, an album that will be around for, hopefully, hundreds of years so that our stories will be able to entertain and enlighten our descendants,” Mrs. Bowker says.
“Thousands of years from now, archaeologists will find nuclear waste, pieces of Tupperware bowls, disposable diapers and hopefully, my scrapbooks, to tell a story about life in 2004.”
Classes, events for scrapbookers
Looking for crop-portuni- ties? Scrapbookers gather at “crops” to make new friends, share ideas, and sample retailers’ wares. Try these local resources:
Scrapbook Escape Beach Party: Holiday Inn Oceanfront, 6700 Coastal Highway, Ocean City. March 12-14. Scrapbook Escape, a local scrapbook event company, offers participants reserved space to crop, some meals, a goodie bag, demonstrations, prizes, an opportunity to take new classes, and access to several on-site vendors. Packages range from $40 to $340. See https://scrap bookescape.com, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703/542-2608.
Get Croppin’s Scrapbreak 2004: Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. March 27, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 28. The local scrapbook event company Get Croppin’ has overnight table space, raffles, prizes and contests, access to vendors and the use of a variety of tools, including a sewing machine, computer, printer and more. Saturday only $50, Sunday only $35, both days $65. See https://www.getcroppin.com/mar28.cfm or contact info@get croppin.com.
Scrapendous Crop: Best Western, 15101 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel. Noon to midnight April 17. The online community’s first annual crop includes choice of two classes and a “finishing” table of templates, sewing machines, heat embossing guns, die-cut machines with dies, a variety of punches, rubber stamps and more. $55. Register at www.scrapendous.com/crop.htm.
The Great American Scrapbook Convention: Holiday Inn Select, 4335 Chantilly Shopping Center, Chantilly. June 17-19. The Great American Scrapbook Co.’s third annual crop at Chantilly will include a pajama crop party and an appearance by designer Karen Neuburger, who will introduce a new line of scrapbooking accessories. Call 801/627-3700, see www.greatamericanscrap book.com/index.cfm?action=conventions or e-mail info@greatamericanscrap book.com.
In-store crops and classes:
My Scrapbook Store: 9664 Main St., Fair City Mall, Fairfax. Hosts crops almost daily. $5 per session, fourth crop free. Fee covers use of die-cut machines, punches, decorative scissors. Also offers classes in matting, basics, embellishments, pattern paper and a crash course through Scrapbook Design University. Call 703/503-7166 or see www.myscrapbook store.com.
Just Crop It!:5624 Randolph Road, Rockville. Friday night crops, 7 p.m.-midnight, $5, snacks and drinks included. Same-week reservations only. Weekend crops noon-7 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday, free on a first-come, first-served basis. Call ahead to make sure space is available. Fees do not include tools, such as die-cut machines and die cuts, which may be used for a $20 annual fee. Call 301/770-2368 or see www.justcropit.net.
Scrapbooks Plus Club Crop Plus: 13942 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly. In-store crops on the second Saturday of each month, with “Midnight Madness” crops on the last Saturday of every month. The next crop will be 6 p.m.-midnight Feb. 28. Cost is $10, snacks and drinks included. Space limited to 15. Register at 703/266-2450 or see www.scrapbooks-plus.com.