Crafting Memories

You don't have to be an artist to make a creative scrapbook of your treasured memories


Do you have shoeboxes filled with playbills, movie-ticket stubs and graduation programs that you can't bear to throw away? Are your honeymoon pictures languishing in the camera?

Maybe it's time to book them.

In the last half-dozen years, scrapbooking has become a popular hobby, with stores, Web sites and clubs springing up for those set on documenting their lives in colorful and creative ways.

"You get addicted to it," says Barbara Ominsky, a former elementary school teacher who opened a scrapbook store, Great Scraps, in Millersville 3 1/2 years ago.

In a back room of the store recently, nine enthusiasts - eight women and one man - were gathered in a class to hear Grace Gede talk about using textured paper. For 90 minutes, the students practiced tearing and pasting paper as they created colorful miniature scrapbook pages.

"I like working with the color, the pages, the whole tactile sense of it," says Bonnie Bradley of Bowie. She says she started scrapbooking about a year ago when a friend who was doing it got her interested. Now she is motivated by her 3-year-old grandson. "I would like to start chronicling his life," she says.

Children are often a reason that scrapbookers get started. Joyce Wetzel of Ferndale says she wanted to make a gift for her granddaughter, who was graduating from high school. She compiled photographs of the two of them in an album and gave it to her granddaughter for an 18th-birthday present. "She'll have something to remember the fun we had when she was growing up. Something to remember her granny by," Wetzel says.

While creating a record to leave for others is one draw to scrapbooking, another attraction for many enthusiasts is the chance to meet people. Stores and Web sites frequently sponsor "crops," where scrapbookers can gather to work on their pages and show each other what they have done.

"A crop is like a quilting bee," Ominsky says. "When we finish a page, we have everyone `ooh' and `ahh.' "

At the Baltimore Scrapbook Meet-Up Group, members get together once or twice a month to work on their albums and "talk about anything that is happening in our lives," says Amy Doster, one of the group's organizers.

"We will bring food and eat and talk," she says.

The meet-ups also give scrapbookers the time to work on their pages. "You're not bothered by the husband or kids," she says.

And there's something about cutting up pictures and punching holes in paper that can be relaxing, Ominsky says. "It's really very therapeutic. If you have anything on your mind, it just melts away."

Ominsky says her own interest in scrapbooking started about seven years ago when a friend invited her to a Creative Memories demonstration. This company, a bit like Tupperware or Pampered Chef, has consultants who give in-home demonstrations of its scrapbooking products.

Dottie Horsmon, a Catonsville Creative Memories consultant, says she has four to six parties in her home each month. "We want to help people preserve their memories at their best," she says.

For Horsmon, the appeal of scrapbooking wasn't necessarily the socializing or the artistry. She had a practical reason for getting started - she looked at pictures fading in her photo albums and wanted to do something to preserve them. The scrapbooks she uses are made with acid-free pages guaranteed to protect the photos.

"Most people have boxes of photos. We want to get them from a shoebox to an album that is going to preserve them," she says.

The rest is up to individual interest, she says. "You can be as fancy as you want or as simple as you want."

"It's a very personal craft," agrees Lisabeth Schaffer of Rockville, who organizes scrapbooking retreats. "I am into arts and crafts, but a lot of my customers aren't necessarily."

In fact, some people are drawn to scrapbooking because they do not see themselves as particularly talented in other arts.

"I like scrapbooking because I can be artistic without being an artist," says Vicki Blauch, who works in a scrapbooking store in Eldersburg.

Doster, an administrative officer with the National Institutes of Health, says she got started in scrapbooking after she tagged along to a craft store with her mother, who had always enjoyed arts and crafts.

"I was never a crafty person, but when I saw this, I said, `Oh, this is something I can do,' " Doster says.

Scrapbookers range from kids just old enough to handle scissors to great-grandmothers. Most are women, local hobbyists say. But Kenny Rudd, a logistics manager from Bowie, didn't mind being the sole guy in Gede's class the other night. "I'm just artistic," says Rudd, who has been working on scrapbooks for a dozen years, making them for gifts and to sell. His latest is an album chronicling a recent family trip to Walt Disney World.

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