Reprinted from Winter 2007 issue of Jewish Woman Magazine
Embellishing MemoriesDiscovering the Joys of Jewish Scrapbooking
By Judith Stern Friedman
Tucked into closets and basement boxes, unlabeled photographs of family vacations, birthday parties and Chanukahs past have all too often fallen into the backdrop of our lives. Now, however, we are discovering the value of these treasures in telling family stories. Out of the dark and into protected albums, photos connect the generations and remind our children that being Jewish is important. Mounted on beautifully decorated papers, enhanced with carefully handwritten captions and embellished with souvenirs, family photos and their stories come alive through scrapbooking.
Family archivist Michelle Schneider of Highland Park, Ill., assembles scrapbooks not only for her family, but also for herself. "It's a creative outlet," she says. "There's a feeling of satisfaction and pride to show my family what I've done." In 12 years of scrapbooking—and still going strong—she has documented the lives of her husband and four children (now ranging in age from 16 to 25 years). For bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, Chanukah, Sukkot, Passover, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, family vacations and even accomplishments such as earning a driver's license, Schneider can point to scrapbook pages that help them relive and rejoice in the milestones.
Schneider's passion began in 1995 with her oldest son's bar mitzvah, when she decided to chronicle each year of his childhood. "I had to organize my photos in boxes. There was no rhyme or reason to them," she says. Desperate to realize some sense of order, she turned to Chicago's Monica Friel of Chaos to Order, which specializes in helping people organize their lives. Schneider initially paid Friel to organize her photos and create scrapbook pages until she realized she could do it herself.
Now Schneider admits she's addicted to scrapbooking. Each two-page spread takes about an hour, although she warns it could occupy all her time. She meets her sister, Judie Smith, twice a month at various local scrapbook stores to assemble pages and spend time together. Though they could participate in store scrapbooking events (called "crops"), they prefer "table time" on their own. "We both look forward to Fridays," Schneider says. "That time is really important to us."
Schneider is one of millions of people participating in one of the country's most popular and fastest growing crafts, accounting for $2.6 billion in annual sales according to the Craft and Hobby Association 2006 Attitude and Usage Study. Individually spending an average of almost $200 a year on scrapbook supplies, scrappers are willing to invest time and money into their most precious volumes. During the day and into the wee hours of the night, people of all profiles—teens to retirees, stay-at-home to full-time workers—are realizing the rewards.
In Search of Jewish Resources
The enthusiasm is clear in the rapid rise of scrapbooking supplies available at most national retail crafting chains, such as Michael's and PaperSource. "When I first started, we decorated white pages with stickers," Schneider recalls of her early scrapbooking days. Finding inspiration for Jewish-themed pages was a stretch.
In the past few years, however, Jewish-themed suppliers have stepped up to the demand. Fine Arts Scrapbooking store (Deerfield, Ill.; 847-948-0300; www.fineartsscrapbooking.com) caters to a largely Jewish clientele with papers, stickers, stamps and rub-on images for documenting Jewish occasions. "People are coming in specifically for Judaica and they're grateful that we have it," says shop owner Marci Holzer. Manufacturers such as Shalom Scrapper and Be Blessed keep adding to their lines of Jewish embellishments for bar and bat mitzvah sign-in books, Jewish holidays and trips to Israel.
Scrapbooking also has pervaded the Internet: Dozens of sites offer tools, supplies, layouts and blogs (see sidebar). Find pages with bagels real enough to nosh, dreidel charms and stamps that express nearly any sentiment. According to Dave Riba, owner of Ruth's Jewish Stamps, "Scrapbooking is people's way to express tradition in a personal manner. It's both life cycle and a little bit of Yiddishkeit." The newest of the company's nearly 500 designs include matriarchs, patriarchs and other Biblical motifs.
Another Internet source, scrapbookscrapbook.com, in 1998 became the first to offer free Web-based scrapbooking designs. Today the site has more than 2,500 printable images and enjoys as many as 8,000 visitors daily. According to owner Lundy Wilder, people are scrapbooking all over the world. Her offerings include a variety of printable Israel-themed papers, both ancient and contemporary, as well as a set of alphabets, backgrounds and clip-art stickers.
How to Get Started
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
- Photos organized chronologically or by topic, such as holidays, family vacations or life-cycle events
- Good-quality scissors
- Paper trimmer
- Double-sided archival tape, adhesive and/or a glue stick (more than one kind adds dimension to the page)
- Scrapbooking album
- Archival paper to fit in the album (usually chosen to coordinate with the photos or theme)
- Archival pens in various colors
- Optional embellishments: Save bits of ephemera, including ticket stubs, napkins, matchbooks, programs, menus and other items that can be affixed to a page. Also visit the Internet or your local crafts or scrapbooking store for stickers, stamps, tags, tokens, die cuts, punches, paints, braids, ribbon and countless other embellishments.
PAGE DESIGN BASICS
- Plan your layout. Place the elements on your page, which might include a title banner, photos, captions and embellishments. Remember, not every photo has to be in a scrapbook. Choose only the ones that tell the best story, and let those photos guide the rest of the page.
- Add the words. Write commentary by hand right on the page or on a label affixed to the page, or print a message from the computer. Also consider saving e-mail, letters, postcards, journals and other personally written documents. Describe who, what, when, where and how to add depth and meaning to your page.
- Affix. Consider the best way to attach elements to the page, making sure your adhesive is archival. Clear dots and foam add dimension. Braids, eyelets and photo corners open possibilities for layering papers.
A Hobby with History
Scrapbooking in various forms has been around since the Renaissance, when artists and philosophers gathered treasured ideas into blank journals called "commonplace books." In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, brightly colored paper remnants, or "scraps," could be purchased from specialty shops, spawning "scrapbooks" as we know them today. People continued keeping diaries and journals, and women assembled friendship albums, collections of quotes, calling cards and woven strands of hair and ribbons as reminders of their friends. Even famous Americans Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain kept personal albums of news clippings, writings and other revelations.
In 1888, George Eastman's invention of the Kodak camera popularized photography. Scrapbooking waned through the 1940s as people became focused on photo albums. Then in the 1970s, Roots, Alex Haley's acclaimed book and television series about the African-American experience, helped raise awareness of family ancestry. At the same time, the Mormons were requiring church members to document their family histories. An international genealogy conference in Utah, where many of the family albums were displayed, led to demand for scrapbooking supplies and sparked the current craze.
Today, with the explosion of technology and Internet use, scrapbooking is ever-changing. The newest digital scrapbooking allows scrappers to assemble entire pages on the computer. Others are scrapping smaller projects, such as calendars and greeting cards. As for Jewish scrapbooking, stories of our survival as a people, along with our family and individual sagas, are the stuff of deep and meaningful art. "At the end of the day, it's not about your bank accounts or designer handbags," says Holzer. "If a building were burning, you'd be grabbing your family photographs. It's all about preserving your family's legacy and not letting the stories die."
Judith Stern Friedman is a freelance crafts and home decorating writer who contributes regularly to Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest magazines and books, and Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion magazine, among other national titles.
Jewish Scrapbooking Web Sites to Explore
These Web-based resources offer Jewish-themed papers, stamps, stickers, die-cuts, charms, ribbons, layouts and practical tips to help you document your stories.
5714 16th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Elkins Park, PA
(Web site only)
P.O. Box 3212 Beaumont, CA 92223
Ruth’s Jewish Stamps
946 Main St. Safety Harbor, FL 34695
15342 Fort Morgan Road Gulf Shores, AL 36542
P.O. Box 285
Coppell, TX 75019-0285