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By: Patricia Ann Chaffee

Scrapbooking in its different forms has appealed to people as long as there have been memories to gather and life stories to celebrate. It is a craft that is all about recording memories and regardless of whether you choose to scrapbook online or on paper, it has enormous appeal. According to a 2012 survey done by the Craft and Hobby Association, scrapbooking/card making/paper crafting, make up the largest percentage of the 62.5 million people in America who do crafts. Nearly half report actively participating in craft making for more than 10 years.

Although some folks are not new to recording memories, it is often at a point in life when something significant happens, that they often begin, according to the owner of Papercraft Clubhouse in Westbrook, Connecticut, Tracie Larson. “People start to scrapbook when a big life event happens,” she says. “I think it is a great way to preserve memories of a loved one. But it can be very overwhelming initially.”

Often times people will come into her shop looking to create a memory board reflecting someone’s life to display at a wake or memorial service. But later on when the dust has settled and life is quiet again, folks may be looking for other ways to remember that loved one. Tracie recommends beginning by focusing on one specific event, like a trip or when a child was born or another joyful happening.

Tracie LarsonTracie LarsonBeginning with photos is a great place to start. And page by page a scrapbook comes together with the use of fanciful papers, embellishments, and things as simple as adhesives and scissors. It can also be very elaborate and tools can be used that go way beyond grade school glue and scissors. Ephemera, like tickets stubs, theater programs, brochures and postcards can be added, anything that resonates with you. And for those who are sure they don’t have a creative bone in their body, this activity harkens back to a time we all know well. Kindergarten. And who didn’t like to cut and glue back then? Like riding a bike, we can do it again. It’s art for everyone and every ability.

For those of us who still aren’t sure about where to begin, classes are offered at libraries, senior centers, retreats and shops like Papercraft Clubhouse where Tracie and her staff create enriching experiences for people who want to explore paper crafting. That includes rubber stamping, mixed media, card making and art journaling as well as scrapbooking. A calendar of events can be found on her website at PapercraftClubhouse.com.

One of the things she offers is a “Crop” which takes place from 10 a.m. until 12 midnight once a month. Scrapbookers register for $30 and with room for 30 people, they show up with all their gear. What they don’t have, they can purchase at the store, and they craft a scrapbook one page at a time, giving shape to their memories, enjoying dinner which is provided, and basking the camaraderie of like-minded souls. It is as much about fellowship and socializing as it is about the craft. Presenters from all over the country offer workshops and Tracie even has a small group or one on one sort of experience where one of the staff will guide you to create something special.

“What beginners don’t often realize is that these scrapbooks will be around many, many years,” said Tracie. “When my grandmother passed away there were so many photos from the 1940’s and I couldn’t name the people in them. And she was gone.”

Tracie first fell in love with scrapbooking when she attended a home party, years ago and made a scrapbook page of her first puppy. Then she didn’t do anything with it until her kids were born. They are now 12 and 13 but she wanted a record of their growing up. Eventually she went to work at the store, where she eventually bought the equipment and inventory and re-envisioned it to create her own unique, Papercraft Clubhouse.

Working with a staff person, crafters can help to pare down and group the photos in a way that tells a story. They teach the basics like how to use a trimmer, what the best adhesives are, and what kind of scrapbook you might want. Tracie believes that journaling is a big part of the scrapbook making process. “If you come here and want to make a scrapbook, you need to write things down. Future generations need the details.” She suggests if you don’t want to do it in your own handwriting, identify it in some other way. “I think handwriting is a very personal way to remember someone too, but you can’t let that be an obstacle. A page can have photographs and few details for the public to see and you can create a personal pocket for things that are just for you to see. It’s whatever you want it to be.”

People create scrapbooks not only for the finished work that they can return to again and again, but also for the process of discovery and remembering that takes place while it’s being made. Perhaps a journey is taken for each event that is being re-created. This craft provides an emotional outlet that can be very relaxing. “It is putting things together in a way that pleases the eye,” said Tracie. “But I can’t stress enough, for frequent scrapbookers, it is about community too. During one of our crops it is an all day event.” Even a few men show up with their wives in tow. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But either way they bring their equipment, pending projects and even their knitting. “It’s 12-14 hours of communing with friends or alone. If you want to be anonymous, you can be, but most people don’t want to. It is a very welcoming community. You share your story and they share theirs.”

“I have been comforted by scrapbooking through the loss of my sister, and now my father. It is very therapeutic and helps ease the pain as you remember the good times through the pictures you are scrapbooking. It also helps to focus on something other than your grief,” said Scrap-a-way Retreats (www.scrap-a-way.com) owner and event planner, Rosann Maneca. Scrapbooking retreats are another way people come together to immerse themselves in this process of remembering and honoring a person or event.

Does Tracie think it is a healing experience? “Oh, I think so. I think most people, when they are making a scrapbook are reminiscing while they are doing it. It’s good to remember the wonderful things. It’s not always easy, but it’s always good.”

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