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Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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Are Some Scrapbookers "Crazy"?

Reactions from retailers, vendors, and others in the business.

Compiled by Mike Hartnett (November 19, 2007)

(Note: These are reactions to the CLN commentary published in the 11/7/07 issue. To read the commentary click on CLN Archives in the right-hand column.)

We All Need a Community.

I think you are on target with the comments; we all need to belong to some type of "community," group, or organization. As humans, it seems we all have a need or desire to be part of something bigger than our own self; some people find that at scrapbook stores, others find that connection at church. – Mark Lee, DreamSolutions Marketing Corp.

Cooperate – AND Compete.

In reply to your article, "Are Some Scrapbookers 'Crazy'?": No, they are more competitive than rubber stampers though. All of the old salts in stamping know each other, and as far as I am concerned, support each other. Tim Holtz is better known than Dee; I think that is terrific. Tim has earned it. Stampa Barbara , our chief competitor with our six stores over the years past had fabulous stores. I, for sure, was a fan. Gary Dorothy, owner of Stampa Barbara, now living in Palm Springs sent me congratulations when an email went in error in his direction. Owners of stamp companies go to dinner together. Rob Bostick is a competitor and we recommended him for the CHA Board. I could go on and on.

So what does this do? If we say decent things about each other the word gets around that stamping is a decent thing to do. We did this with our first store, sending people to other stores and they did the same for us. We all won. It seems to work. It is certainly more fun.

Stamping, kind of an odd craft, has lasted for about 36 years, possibly because of some cooperation between us. I am not sure scrapbooking, around for about 15, will last another 20. I hope it does. – Warren Gruenig, Posh Impressions

Feeling Validated.

I wanted to let you know that I have had students tell me in the past that they do not feel validated as a scrapbooker if they do not make the HOF. This was a few years ago but it looks like things have not changed. – Julianna Hudgins

SAHMS Looking for Drama.

I read some of your article on the scrapbooking insanity that has begun to takeover this hobby and just wanted to add my opinion.

I am not anyone of importance in this industry, just a scrapbooker who has been published some and is on a fairly prolific scrapbooking website's "design team." I used to be VERY passionate about this hobby, but the craziness that has been taking over has reduced my love for it somewhat.

But my opinion (and that's all it is, my opinion) is this: a very large percentage of scrapbookers are stay at home moms (SAHMs). I believe that they do not find their everyday lives interesting (or fulfilling, or however you want to term it), so they find drama elsewhere. They have nothing better to do than to email a rafting company about if someone took a picture. They have nothing better to do than to rip others to shreds when they have no clue about what's going on behind the scenes – after all, when you tear someone down it lifts you up. I could go on and say more, but I'm quite sure you don't have time for all that.

So that's my quick two cents worth. I don't think you'd use any of this anyway, but I am not comfortable signing my real name because if it ever got out, these crazy women might hunt me down – and I'm really not kidding about that. – A working mom who has enough drama in her real life that she doesn't have to look for it online

Not Validate, Celebrate.

Mike, I thought your comments on scrapbooking were a bit offensive. It reminded me of a term one arts and crafts distributor used to use for small, female owned craft shops. He called them "therapy shops" because it was cheaper for a husband to let his wife spend time and money on a craft shop business than it would be to pay for psychotherapy.

Does scrapbooking validate my life? I'm a wannabe scraper. I've been buying supplies but I've

only made a couple of pages. As I've lugged boxes of supplies into a new home, I've had plenty of time to think about why I've spent so much money on supplies. I think any creative pastime involves a desire to have a lot of choices on hand, whether it be scrapbook papers, yarn, or paint brushes. Some of my buying was fueled by "wishful" thinking, the pages I thought of making

and still hope to make. What fun it is to buy new tools and new materials! It's exciting to do a small sample, perhaps in a store make-it/take-it creating the desire to stock up on necessary supplies to do more at home.

The question is WHEN? And maybe that has done in some of the customers and potential customers who have cut back on buying because they've faced up to the fact that they never get those projects done. It took me three years to finally knit a scarf that an avid knitter could have made in a weekend.

Since I'm 50+, I simply hope to capture the memories I forget all too easily. This weekend I found a stray photo of our son taken 30 years ago. It reminded me of the child he used to be and stirred up emotion and thoughts of the years that have so quickly flown by. I simply need help remembering!

Pictures also remind us of details we've forgotten. The color our hair used to be. The outfits that were popular that year. My husband will enjoy the scrapbook pages when I finally get them made. He loved last year's calendar of family events with a photo of our dream house on the cover. He tends to be a workaholic who is presently renovating our dream house. I'm the creative talent in the family (one of the reasons he married me), so although he has taken some of the pictures, he'll leave it to me to organize them.

Does scrapbooking validate our lives? No, it celebrates them. And, I bet there are more than a few people who have taken pictures of a tantrum. I have. It's part of the whole child. Our son has friends among his roughneck crowd of off-road wheeling enthusiasts who take both still photos and videos then post them on the club's website. It's a way of sharing the good times with people who weren't there, proof that they managed an obstacle course, and a way of providing details of damage and emergency repairs.

My son started an album when he was in the Marine Corps. It's not a fancy scrapbooker's album but a simple album of photos so he can share his life with friends. Photos from home were one of the few things we were allowed to send him when he was in boot camp. The guys enjoyed seeing everyone's pictures from home and what their family looked like. They came from different backgrounds. The album didn't validate his life, it revealed it to new friends. He continued to add photos and captured experiences his old friends back home would never have.

His album documents his life. It doesn't "validate" a daydream or show a life that didn't quite happen the way it appears. We know we've had happy lives. We don't need proof of it but it's a way to show people who weren't there, what happened. A photo does a good job of reminding me what the glacier in Alaska looked like. I've forgotten what shirt our son wore on the first day of school but can re-live that moment when I see the photo I took.

I'm not surprised that there's been a hullabaloo over a scrapbook contest. Envy is truly a monster. I know many successful creative people and it seems there has always been a few other people who've predicted failure and false steps for the ones who have done very well.

Perhaps your comments struck the wrong chord in my head. I don't think people craft as a second choice to something they'd really like (the dream house). No matter what the craft, there's a myriad of supplies, colors, and ideas that fascinate us, that challenge us, that bring a satisfaction in accomplishment. Yes, there's also the fun of crafting with a group and making friends based on a mutual passion. There's something about color and textures that excites my brain. I'm going to scrap, paint, knit, etc., even if I don't have a community to do it with. – Donna M. Frost, Quarry House Distributors

Underestimating Their Anger.

You asked, in your last sentence, if you were not 'getting it', or missing something. In a word YES! I have been following the drama on blogs and message boards over the last couple of weeks, and this is so NOT about a bunch of housewives losing their tiny minds over some SB contest.

(Leigh describes the uproar over the CK HoF contest, CK's initial reaction, the inadvertently leaked email about an online class, and another leak from a Two Peas exec.)

The point is, these women are from all walks of life. They are at-home moms, cashiers at Wal-Mart, doctors, lawyers, business owners, and above all, consumers. Consumers who spend their money going to CK Universities, paying $300 for an online class with Heidi Swapp, and shopping at 2Peas. They are not stupid, and they had VERY valid issues about how they are treated – and perceived – by the industry they give their hard earned money to.

None of us likes to be viewed as an idiot, fed stories that are so obviously BS, disrespected by those we admire, or treated in a manner that makes us feel bad about ourselves, and these women have experienced all of those things in the last couple of weeks. Their anger is valid, palpable, and is going to bite certain companies in the butt. They are ready, willing, and able, to put their money where their mouths are. I think some in the industry have badly underestimated their anger.

Don't make the mistake of focusing on the few who posted to the blogs and message boards, using bad language and making vituperative comments. Pay attention to the intelligent and sentient posts made by the majority. Actually, the ones who express themselves with profanity are probably the most dangerous. They are the ones who have very little voice in the world, and something like this gives them validation, and power, for one of the few times in their lives. The intelligent ones have had their intelligence insulted one too many times. – Leigh Edwards, former ACCI Board member, former owner of Limited Edition Rubberstamps

Any Different?

Are scrapbookers’ vanity pages any different than knitter’s blogs? We’re all looking to validate our existence and find meaning in our lives, so we record our memories in various ways because we want to show that we are passionate about something, be it our families, new dog, or that incredible new cashmere addition to the yarn stash. – Jaime Guthals, Interweave Press

Ugly Behavior.

On a recent flight to a national trade show, I was seated in front of two "Masters" in the memories field. I was truly saddened to listen to them go through major scrapbook magazines and put down everyone's work – every page was picked apart. It somehow gave them a great sense of pride and pleasure to do so. YUCK.

We were not all blessed with the same talents, and when I started Magic Mesh nine years ago (from a tiny bedroom), it was my sincere joy to help folks who said they "were not creative" (as if it were a four letter word) to express themselves and take pride in what they COULD learn and do! This inspired them to do more and go on to the next level of techniques.

Nine years ago, the companies in business were mainly folks like myself, who saw the joy in crafting and made a decent living sharing their passion and inspiring others.

Card makers gave their crafts away – handmade, heartfelt gifts. They did a lot of "collecting" of art materials, but I never heard them pick at each other competitively like some of the "nose in the air" scrapbookers of late.

I was given lots of advice over the years: start your own rubber stamp line, and sticker or paper lines, go to China, take labor to Mexico. My answer was again from a more personal point of view: "My friends in the industry have those kind of companies and I'd rather work with them and cross promote – and folks in my small town really appreciate the work."

Could I make a lot more $ doing things differently? Probably. Do I have all the answers? Heck no, but I do believe that if we put our hearts and goals together, we could all benefit from each other and be known for bringing positive things out in crafters once again – not scare them off with such overwhelming works of greatness and boast about it.

My boys, 8 and 11, love my pages featuring their smiles. They don't care that the pages are not the best in the world; they are the best in THEIR world. And it's sad to think we could be intimidating average moms out of having such simple, good experiences!

Some magazines today would make any newcomer say "I could never do that or have TIME to make a layout that intense," thus scaring off all the potential new starts.

I was told when I started, by a dear distributor friend of mine, "You know this is gonna be a fad – two years, maybe three." I said I thought it would be much more than that, but I knew he saw just how invested I was in my dream of making everyone feel cool about making stuff – kids, beginners, and very advanced. He just wanted to take care of me as a newbie.

Now we laugh about the statement, as he is still selling my entire line (which has evolved from 6 items to 60).

Am I a rock star in the industry? Nope, but I have a BRAND that is known for something and for that I am proud. I think if creative folks out there worked to build the other papercrafters up, the category would continue with great strength. But to show off by putting others' expressions down, that's just ugly behavior....no matter how you crop it! – Karan Smith, Magic Mesh

A Scrapbook Retailer Comments.

I love your article about crazy scrapbookers. And yes, your observations are true, but more so they want to "be somebody" who knows something, who has a reason to blog, boast, or complain. It about not having a life. These women have to "belong"; we all do, but these women have found the community of scrapbooking fills a need to belong that they don’t get elsewhere.

CK is a big business so a controversy involving the Hall of Fame eventually makes headlines. While those headline should read "Women who have nothing else to do spend their lives poking holes in every contest they can."

(Note: The writer then proceeds to describe problems she and other retailers have had running contests and promotions.)

There are private boards where a handful of scrapbookers bash the stores, manufacturers, and publishers. I hear about some of these comments.

What our industry needs to keep in mind is that these scrapbookers are a minority; we should ignore them and not let them have the power they have. These people are NOT Connectors or Mavens (Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell). There has to be another label for them as their motivation is negative. For them scrapbooking has little to do about their pictures.

Honest, that is the truth. It is the herd affect, they are acting crazy but since they are doing it as a community they don’t see the craziness of their actions.

Please do not quote me without permission. I love my customers, but these women are crazy. – Name Withheld

A Good Title.

Selective Memories is a GOOD title for making albums, I think. To me, it implies choice, not the blanket omission of life's rough spots. It strikes me as completely appropriate that someone would want to create an album that contains life's highlights and happiest moments but not the funerals and hospital gowns. I don't think it's a lie or self-deception, it's simply a decision of what to put in and what not to put in – something that can and does evolve and change over time.

For every person whose album is filled with children in adorable Halloween costumes, weddings, and birthday parties there is another who uses a scrapbook to work through the loss of a pregnancy, the struggle with breast cancer, the death of a young soldier or a parent. Still others create pages about people they never knew to make a connection to a distant past, sunny or not.

Even the happiest pages become something different when someone featured dies or has significant challenges. Every photo of my mother shows her happy and chic. She died too young for me to show her wrinkled; she never posed for the camera unless she looked good. Some might chronicle a visit to the cemetery, I prefer the image of her in a beautifully tailored coat my grandfather made. The loss is no less real either way. It's such a personal decision, each album as unique as its maker.

People use their scrapbooks to explore who they are - or were - at a given moment which means that some take a more introspective approach, warts and all and others leave them out. I'd rather have my picture taken when I'm dressed for a party than when I'm cleaning the tub (my mother's influence for sure). Though I do think that it might be fun to chronicle housework in a scrapbook page, some nice inky smudges as a border, a photo of the products we use in 2007 that will someday look dated and old-fashioned.

Selective Memories? You bet!– Judi Kauffman, freelance designer and author

(Note: To read comments from consumers who read the commentary on Two Peas and emailed CLN, click on Memory, Paper & Stamps. To add your own comments, email CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)



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