Wednesday, 14 June 2006

In the beginning... (long one!)

How did I start scrapbooking? Well, it’s more of a case of WHEN have I not scrapbooked!

I remember being about nine or ten when I thought I should start a diary. So I got a nice notebook and wrote letters to an imaginary friend (a technique which makes journaling easier, by the way, and that I still use today!), first in Spanish and then in English. The latter felt more comfortable so that’s what I’ve used since.

I wrote all about me, my dreams, my plans, my ideas, my activities, everything. For years I carried on journaling, and occasionally I would also include a photo or, most often, a drawing that would help illustrate what I was writing about. Also, these journals were always full of color – using differently colored pens for each paragraph or line or (once only) every word! I would also include colorful doodles along the edges (what a trend setter I was!). I think I spent more time journaling than doing almost anything else in those days!

Eventually I got busier so I couldn’t sit down and write everyday. I was in High School by then and things were moving but I still had to sit and write my thoughts out at least three times a week. I also started adding a few more photos of friends and fun activities I was doing.

Gradually these photos became too much for my journals and I started storing them separately – my first “scrapbook” is a few sheets of that awful self-sticky stuff tied together with yarn. Not very professional but I sure enjoyed putting it together. I included some photos of me, of my friends and a few bits of memorabilia. I kept it for ages until it got lost – and that awful sticky stuff is probably corroding the photos as we speak, anyway.

I then moved on to sticking photos and bits of paper on to notebooks, just plain old Mead notebooks. I would maybe include doodles, some journaling and photos. So that’s a scrapbook, right? At the time I also included lots and lots of newspaper cutouts – I would always find interesting stuff to keep so that’s where it would go. Why, I don’t know. But it may well be the reason I have always been interested in journalism and writing – I love words.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in Florida, nearly at the end of my Disney stint. I had of course taken hundreds of photos during my work experience there and needed somewhere nice to keep and display them. At the same time, I had been working on my “leaving book”. This is a Disney tradition for those of us in the International Program: it’s basically a book where everyone that’s leaving does a page for you. Some people only give you a few words, a photo and their address. Others go nuts and do whole pages for you, with lots of writing and words and stickers and such.

So I put these two together and thought: why not make a leaving book for me? I could use one of the same books (generally a journal or some other hardbound blank book) and put all my photos and bits of paper together in it. I could write down dates and include different sections like “first week”, “friends”, “trips” and so on. This project helped me keep my sanity in the horrible days when I went back home after living in Florida for a while. This book is a valued keepsake in the house now – it doesn’t shut but it does include lots of detail about life in Disney and Vista Way in 1995-1996.

A few years later I moved to the UK and once again I was having adventures and had photos that needed a home. So I bought a “traditional” photo album (not self-adhesive) and set out to record my memories of the first months in the UK. This is much closer to a scrapbook as we know it except that it doesn’t use any patterned paper but it does have lots of stickers and colored doodles. I made a few of these for my first years in the UK.

For some reason that I can no longer remember, I stumbled upon scrapbooking as an industry at this point. I remember doing a Google search for something or other which took me to a page about scrapbooking. I remember being absolutely amazed at the pages I saw – one in particular was about Brighton Pier and the creator had made a little pier made out of bits of paper: WOW.

I read more and more until I felt that I could have a go at this “scrapbooking” thing so I bought one of the Bitty albums so popular then. I got some paper and stickers (all proudly acid-free now that I knew better) and set out to create my first “proper” project: a book with the story of my husband and I, how we met and what we’d done in our first years of marriage. This was our 5th anniversary present and he loved it!

After that, well, the rest is history as they say. I haven’t looked back since – both literally and figuratively. I do have a ragtag collection of weird scrapbooks but I will not re-create the ones I’ve made already. They may not be very pretty or even acid-free but they remind me of a particular place and time where I was and that, on it’s own, is worth preserving. Some of the papers in my first “proper” scrapbooks are not very nice or even fashionable now but who cares?

I remember the excitement when I first discovered that it wasn’t only me doing these things but a whole group of people out there: all of them incredibly talented. I remember the thrill of discovering a new retailer here in the UK, of buying my first set of tools, of completing my first album. But even though I’ve been doing this for a while, the buzz is still there and I love it!

PS. I still keep a separate journal... I have about 13 of the notebooks, all carefully boxed and kept in the loft. It's nearly 30 years worth of journaling in there!

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