The Scourge of Scrapbooking

When they started using the word "scrapbook" as a verb, I knew we were doomed.

"I scrapbooked this weekend."

"Do you scrapbook?"

"(He, she or it) scrapbooks."

Boy do they. Folks around the world are spending hours and hours and hours of their lives cutting, pasting, stickering, hole punching, and whatever else it takes to tell the story through creativity and photographs. Gone are the days of boxes for old photos and the obsolete album. Welcome to the doldrums of the new bastardized verb: scrapbooking.

The growth of the scrapbook industry has tripled in the past few years, with new scrapbook stores popping out like your grandmother's gangly mole hair -- unexpected, unattractive and overall mysterious -- all across town. Talk of the activity fills cafeterias, parish halls and women's restrooms -- and don't even get me started on the "I love scrapbooking" license plate frames. It's like the millennial Beanie Baby syndrome -- there's nothing we can do to stop it.

There are sites all over the Internet, distinguished by frilly, frou-frou-frou patches, stickers, balloons, hearts, unicorns, babies and all shades of pastel and pony. There's even a "Scrapbooking University" in Utah, where you can get your scrapbooking degree in a mere three days. Ain't that cute?

Angie Randall, editor of Paperkuts Scrapbooking Magazine, says that scrapbooking has its roots in Utah. Genealogy and documentation is an important part of the Mormon religion, she says.

"(Mormons) love to do our genealogy, and we do try to keep journals. We're told from our prophet to do our best to keep our journals and to keep our history."

Randall agrees that this craft is sweeping the country -- her publication alone has 68,000 readers. She says that part of the appeal is that everyone can be a scrapbooker. Even people who aren't normally good at crafting.

"You don't have to be a crafty person to scrapbook. This is something anyone can do and they all have photos," she says. "I think its really addictive and there so many new, new products that come out all the time ... and we just keep taking photos." And, apparently, it's not just an American phenomenon. Oh no -- Randall says it's picking up quickly over in England and Australia, too.

But just what is this odd activity that people spend so much money and time on?

Jennifer Wellborn works at The Memory Tree, a local scrapbooking store, and gets a taste of the fastest-growing hobby in the craft industry firsthand.

"People like to do crafty things anyway, but it's such a personal craft because you're preserving photographs and memories and heritage and passing it down to the generations after you."

OK. What exactly do you do when you scrapbook?

"You take photographs and take archivally safe materials that won't damage the photos. You put them onto a page and with the page you add the story behind the photo."

Apparently, the task involves lots of cutting, assembling, hole punching, gluing and, most of all, time. Lots and lots of time. And it doesn't have to be a solitary activity, either. People form clubs, classes, conventions, parties -- move over Tupperware. Now there's something keener.

"Scrapbooking's been around for a long, long time. The way our grandmothers did it, they'd take scraps of paper, tickets and paste them in a book. This is called scrapbooking II and it's mainly photographs," Wellborn explained.

One scrapbooker spoke with us under the guarantee of anonymity. She recently had a child, and since she's not working, scrapbooking has become a hobby -- she generally does it for about four or five hours a day. But the woman is something of an elitist scrapbooker, quick to point out that she avoids the frilly, ribbony, tacky mementos commonly associated with the industry -- like creepy little dolls, bubbly letters and fuzzy characters. "It's amazing how much crap there is for it," she says.

Now, imagine what would happen if they'd just take the letter "s" out of the word scrapbook ...

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