Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scrapbooking (expensive hobbies, cheap supplies, and a book review) (Reposted)

Years and years ago, when Creative Memories was just getting off the ground, I read about them in a magazine and wrote a letter (by snail mail, of course) to one of the co-founders, asking if their scrapbooks were available in Canada. She wrote back and suggested I look into becoming a Canadian consultant...because there Weren't Any Then.

Imagine that.

I didn't follow up on the suggestion, for several different reasons. For one thing, I couldn't imagine who (besides me) would be that interested in buying scrapbooking stuff.

Imagine THAT. Yeah, I know. It's on my list of big mistakes to beat myself with.

In the years since then, of course, Scrapbooking as a concept not only became one of the "standard" womens' hobbies slash places to blow a lot of money, but it teamed up with all the developments in Technology (i.e. computers, Internet, and special scrapbooking gizmos and software) to quintuple all the possibilities for page design, embellishment and photo printing. Every craft store has a scrapbooking section. Every dollar store sells scrapbooking paper and stickers. Scrapbook crafters have not only whole boxes and organizers devoted to this stuff, but whole rooms, sometimes.

But you knew that already.

Am I a scrapbooker? Just an occasional one. I've put together small memory books for birthdays, that sort of thing. I like making cards and gift tags. But in the last ten years or so, with cameras all gone digital (including ours, and I thought we'd be the last 35mm holdouts), the truth is that we don't actually have that many printed photos around anymore. It sometimes seems harder to get "real" photos in my hand these days than it did when we had to wait for the photo counter to get our pack of snapshots back from the developers...or when Mr. Fixit's home darkroom was still viable. So any scrapbooking I'm likely to be doing now is not with family photos--it's more likely to be just for fun, with souvenirs or snippings.

And the other reason that I've shied away from the whole scrapbooking hobby is, of course, the huge amount of money that you can pour into supplies and equipment. It's enough to drive you to the list of "cheap hobbies" that someone recently submitted to the Festival of Frugality--things like, um, walking. Or crocheting with plastic bags. (Which does have its fans as well.)

Well, I came across an e-book recently by a frugal scrapbooker who really "gets it," as Amy Dacyczyn used to say. It was free for Kindle when I downloaded it; it's up to $4.99 now, although it's still free for Prime members at Amazon; but considering the amount of money that, as I've said, you could be spending on scrapbooking...and even a nice magazine is going to set you back at least that much...$4.99 could be money well spent here. Especially if it actually SAVES you that much money, and it very well could. The book is Budget Scrapbooking for Beginners, by Phyllis Matthews.

The book is stuffed full of suggestions for alternative materials, alternative sources, using real/found/thrifted materials instead of printable fake/purchased expensive ones, and so on. Even if you prefer some other kind of crafting, I think she covers basics that would apply to quite a few other frugal hobbies and situations...say, making dollhouse accessories, or choosing craft projects for kids. In the case of scrapbooking, a lot of the hype around buying "real" supplies came out of the scary words "acid free," meaning that the materials you use won't hurt your photos. Mrs. Matthews points out that only the materials actually contacting your photos, such as adhesives and matting material, need to be acid free; anything else is fair game. When you think about it, fancy paper, pictures, and writing can come from almost anywhere: even dollar-store greeting cards. Where else can you find scrapbooking supplies? How about the hardware store? The toy aisle? The back yard? The possibilities she opens up go beyond the obvious, and that's what I like most about the book: it proves you can have just as good a time, and produce just as good a finished project, with "found" materials, as you can with the latest and best in hobby-aisle supplies.

The book is illustrated with a few photographs of her own work; a few more wouldn't have hurt, but what's included is helpful. My one quibble with the editing was the frequent use of the word "affect" when I think she meant "effect," and a few other small distractions of that kind. I'm also a bit surprised at one of her pages which uses construction paper as a base; in my own somewhat limited experience, coloured construction paper is one of my last choices even for kids' play projects, as it fades terribly. Maybe Mrs. Matthews just buys better construction paper, but I'd still be careful. Oh--and the other crafting problem we have around here right now is that rubber cement is becoming harder to find (along with safety eyes, which have just about disappeared, but that's another story). Without a bottle of that around, you may not be able to use some of her suggestions.

But overall, it's a good tour through the hobby room of a good crafter who wants to share her smart strategies as well as her passion.  Well recommended.   Linked from Festival of Frugality #373.

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