A scrappy passion

In increasing numbers, scrapbookers have been quietly preserving their stories in creative ways.

Kingfield’s Nancy Clauss said that despite the pastime’s growing popularity, not everyone wants to own up to being a scrapbooker.

“There’s very much this aura that it’s only middle-aged white women with kids,” Clauss said, a 46-year-old mother of two. “Of course, that’s what I am.”

Clauss said that while she’s not the lone scrapbooker in Southwest, it does sometimes feel that way.

Clauss said that, today, the relationships she forges among the scrapbook community occur mainly online. In addition, she said most scrapbookers are found in suburban or rural areas, making interaction that much more difficult.

Perhaps as a corollary, the abundance of Twin Cities scrapbooking supply stores has quickly dried up.

“So why doesn’t someone open up a scrapbook store in Southwest?” asked Cindy Kozloff, an on-again-off-again scrapbooker in Lynnhurst.

While big box stores — such as Archivers and Michaels — may stock an abundance of scrapbooking materials, Clauss said that it can be difficult for smaller stores to afford the rent, let alone the high-quality paper stock and accoutrements scrapbookers seek. Nonetheless, Clauss said she prefers the smaller, more interpersonal mom-and-pop-style stores that foster a sense of community.

Paper Source at 31st & Hennepin carries a very limited supply of scrapbooking materials, choosing instead to focus mainly on invitations, paper crafts and journal-making, according to an employee. But that’s just about where the line of smaller local supply stores in Southwest ends.

“A lot of local stores have closed,” Clauss said. “It used to be that we would meet people at stores and crop [another word for a scrapbooking gathering] there, and there’s not too many left.”

Still, recent local events have drawn thousands of the esoteric artisans together.

The 2008 Creating Keepsakes National Convention recently drew 2,000 to the St. Paul RiverCentre, and Scrapfest ’08 brought some 10,000 scrapbookers — the largest gathering ever — in September to the Mall of America.

On a national scale, scrapbooking is now a more popular activity than golf.

According to Creating Keepsakes magazine study, one in five American households has a golfer, while one in four has a scrapbooker, making it one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country.

Somehow, though, that craze has managed to stay relatively underground in larger cities.

Clauss, who hails from a small Wisconsin town, said she began scrapbooking in high school, using scissors, Scotch tape and a ballpoint pen on newspaper clippings. Today, however, she’s part a new school of scrapbookers, treating the pastime as more of an artistic outlet.

She follows the lead of Cathy Zielske, a celebrity in the scrapbooking world. Zielske, 42, calls herself a hybrid scrapbooker — using her computer to type the words but still implementing crafts and different physical tools to assemble books.

“People who get into it can take it in many different directions,” said the St. Paul resident. “You’ve got people doing cutesy stuff, crazy mixed-media, art approaches, all under the same umbrella of scrapooking.”

That umbrella apparently reaches far beyond Minnesota.

Scrapbooking has taken Zielske as far as New Zealand, sharing her outside-the-lines approach with others. She recently did an interview with a Brazilian scrapbook magazine and lists friends who have traveled Europe on scrapbooking tours.  

Like any craft, there are moments when Nancy Clauss’ creativity is stifled — scrappers-block, if you will. To combat this, she said scrapbookers motivate one another in the form of online challenges.

When the Southwest Journal recently spoke with her, Clauss said she was redesigning an early-1980s Joe Jackson vinyl album cover.

“People use chicken wire on pages, glitter, little blingy jewel things; people sand their pages; people paint them,” Claus said. “I had a challenge once where I had to put dirt on a page.”

Clauss said she partially inherited the scrapbooking bug from her father, whose memories she recently rearranged and gave back to him for a gift. Also, it helps that she’s a self-proclaimed (but well-organized) packrat.

Clauss recommended that those new to the art form could make a digital photo scrapbook on Shutterfly.com or make use of a number of websites available for scrappers, including Tallyscrapper.com and the commercial arts-and-crafts site Etsy.com.

But Clauss, a mechanical engineer, doesn’t have any plans to start up her own shop in Southwest. Instead, she, and others in the notoriously thrifty culture, will continue to use their own ingenuity in these tight economic times to put a new spin on everyday life.

“I think part of it is typical people get into it because they love it,” Clauss said. “It’s really not a business for people, more than it is a passion.”