'Scrapbooking' is an old hobby with a new spin that is quickly catching on across the country.

PRESERVING MEMORIES

Focus On Crafts

November 01, 1998|By ERIKA D. PETERMAN | ERIKA D. PETERMAN,SUN STAFF

They file in gradually, lugging their plastic shopping bags filled with supplies. Pleasantries are exchanged, purses set aside.

Now, it's time to work. And for the 10 women gathered in the back of a vast MJ Designs craft shop in Ellicott City, scrapbook making is serious business.

They huddle around two tables overflowing with stacks of photographs, fancy scissors, colorful paper and thick memory albums. One woman punches out tiny, yellow crescent moons, affixing them to a sheet of paper anchored by a photo of her infant granddaughter. Across the table, another woman diligently crops a collection of her daughter's prom photos.

"Did anyone bring the glue stick tonight?" someone asks.

"Does anyone have the straight scissors?"

Every Tuesday night, the women meet here for a night of "scrapbooking," a new spin on an old hobby that has quietly become a $250 million industry. Nationwide, predominantly female groups are gathering in homes, shops and club halls to creatively immortalize everything from new grandchildren to dearly departed pets.

These are not the clumsy, sticky-paged scrapbooks of old. Today, the emphasis is on "photo-safe" and "acid-free" materials designed to preserve precious photographs and mementos for future generations. Countless companies have cashed in on the trend, providing the stickers, decorative papers, books and artists' tools that this generation of scrapbook makers demands.

"It has really become popular very quickly," said Susan Brandt, spokeswoman for the Hobby Industry Association, based in Elmwood Park, N.J. "I cannot even begin to count how many companies in some way or another that are involved in scrapbooking. They're opening stores that are devoted specifically to scrapbooking."

Brandt said scrapbooking began gathering steam in the Utah area, where the Mormon church and its emphasis on genealogy are prominent. Though the craft is still heavily concentrated in the West, scrapbooking has quickly found its way into homes across the country, she said.

Consider that Creative Memories, one of the best-known companies devoted to memory books, had only 210 consultants in 1989. Today, there are more than 35,000 consultants nationwide for the St. Cloud, Minn.-based company, said Norma Dietz, a consultant who lives in the White Marsh area.

A big factor in the boom, Brandt said, is "plain old guilt."

"There are lots of parents, but particularly mothers out there ... who are working because they have to, not because they want to," Brandt said. "They would really rather be home with their children. They feel guilty that they're missing a lot of special times. They want to make sure the times they do have together are well-documented."

Brandt said the Martha Stewart effect - or the do-it-yourself, home-decorating craze - also has helped fuel the trend.

"There just seems to be a need for people to put their own hands on it," said Rachel Bolton, a spokeswoman for Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards, which carries a line of scrapbooking materials. "Then when you finish, you have something of tremendous value."

Jean Miskimon spent $50 on materials the day she discovered scrapbooking at a craft store a year ago. She was on an errand to buy Halloween decorations.

"It just kind of clicked," said the Rosedale resident, who is vice president of a public relations agency. Miskimon is trying to organize a free Maryland Scrapbook Club to meet monthly at the AC Moore craft shop in White Marsh.

"My family just loves the results. I feel like it's something creative that I'm saving for the future."

Marsha Wise, a computer software consultant from Odenton, was on maternity leave when she decided to attend a scrapbook event at a local fire hall. She wound up buying a full set of materials to make a book for her son Matthew, now 5 1/2 months old.

"I just went crazy with it since then," said Wise, a former part-time consultant for Creative Memories. "The entire dining room has ceased to be a dining room. It's now a scrapbooking room."

Wise has several books in progress, including a wedding album, one for her four cats and another devoted to her late poodle, Holly. The combination of historical preservation and creativity has hooked Wise, who hopes to get some of her neighbors together for scrapbooking nights.

"There's something very romantic about them," Wise said of the memory books. "Also, I think there's that little girl in you that loves your scissors, your construction paper and your crayons."

Frederick stay-at-home mother Angela Chase has painstakingly charted her family's history through memory books. One includes a letter that her grandfather wrote to her paternal grandmother in 1941, when he was playing semi-pro baseball for the Frederick Hustlers.

Chase, also a Creative Memories consultant, has made albums for a local PTA, a wedding album for her mother and a book chronicling the history of the Little League in Frederick County. She teaches in-home classes on scrapbooking and holds workshops in her home.

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