Work Samples

Scrapper's Delight


Bring your favorite adhesive.

It was my first instruction, and I was already clearly out of my league. I knew all the words, but they were organized in a way I didn't understand.

Favorite adhesive? Is an adhesive something to play favorites with? I don't know. Super glue? Rubber cement? Does Elmer's still make paste with that little stick attached to the lid?

In a couple of weeks, I would attend an all-day crop (which is what scrapbookers call a scrapbooking event), and not only did I have no artistic vision, no organized plan of what to document, no scrapbook itself; I didn't even have a grasp of the basic supplies.

A trip to Scrap-a-Doodle-Doo in Ramsey opened my eyes to adhesive choices I didn't know existed. Thanks to some patient explanation, I zeroed in on my most appropriate sticky solution: the Scotch Adhesive Dot Roller. Was it a favorite? At this point, we don't know. But it allowed for error, giving me time to pull things off the page and remount if necessary. Somehow, I knew that would be necessary.

I arrived at the DoubleTree Hotel in Mahwah for the 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday crop organized by Scrap-a-Doodle-Doo. Already self-conscious about my very small bag of supplies, I watched in amazement as women rolled in hotel luggage carts stacked with containers.

They didn't just bring the books, photos, scissors and some stickers. There were embossers; die machines; containers of ribbons, paints, glitter; and Ziplocs full of vacation maps, postcards and cruise newsletters. They brought shelving, lights, a cup holder that clips to the side of the table -- and, for true scrappers, the cup holder with the personally decorated garbage can attached.

The room is filled with sentiment and rubber stamps. Scrapbooking is their art and the medium is memories -- and photos and stickers and ribbons and shells and paints and glitter and, really, whatever can be placed on a page.

"To me, it's about the page," says Hawthorne's Sherri Caramico, who is sitting next to me and acting as my guide. "It's about honoring the picture and creating a page to honor the memory -- and the art involved in doing it."

Each woman - and they were all women, 24 on this day - had her own story of why she started. Many wanted to create special gifts. Caramico began in 2004 to make her son a high school graduation gift. She is now an independent consultant for Close to My Heart, a scrapbooking supply and software company.

"I just use it to feed my habit," Caramico says of the side job.   

Sue Heilmann of Wyckoff wanted to create a scrapbook of her mother-in-law's 85th birthday party as a Christmas gift. It took onlyone project to win her over.

"The bug bit big-time," says Heilmann, who knew about scrapbooking from her friend Beth Sparozic, also of Wyckoff.

Sparozic says that when she began scrapbooking more than 15 years ago, she could only buy items online if she wanted to avoid the typical stuff sold at your average crafts stores. For these women, such big chains are no nirvana. The ladies want the unique items and personal touch offered by the rare local, independent scrapbooking store like Scrap-a-Doodle-Doo, where they can also take classes to learn new techniques and meet people.

"They're not just scrappers; they're friends," says Sparozic, who began the day by thanking the women in the room for their support during a difficult personal time the week before.

She spoke of the relationships while fighting back tears and mentioned a sign at Scrap-a-Doodle-Doo that reads: Enter as strangers, leave as friends.

"It's very, very true," says Sparozic.

For these women, the friendship is as important a part of scrapbooking as any photo or embellishment. Scrappers call anything beyond the photos "embellishments." As in, "You can never have too many embellishments."

Or as Scrap-a-Doodle-Doo owner Stephanie Mandato said, echoing a statement made many times during the day: "There are no mistakes in scrapbooking, just opportunities to embellish."

The books and every last detail in them are carefully conceived. It all can look excessive, but get to know these women and it's hard not to think that everyone should have something they love this much that results in a bit of preserved personal history.

As the day began, Mandato welcomed everyone, then announced that one friendly scrapper had brought a pitcher of mimosas to share. Now, those were words I understood. Maybe these ladies weren't so different after all.

Assisting Caramico in my education was Lisa Hintze, who drove down from Central Valley, N.Y., to patiently and kindly abandon her efforts to deal with ignorance from across the table.

With mimosa (in securely covered cup) nearby, it was time to give it a try. I opened my book and then pulled out my adhesive, old Christmas cards, daughter's class pictures and a few ticket stubs. Ready to go, I checked with my tablemates.

"You guys aren't going to freak out if I pull out my regular scissors and start cutting stuff, right?"

"You don't have a paper trimmer?" they asked urgently and in unison.

I would be sharing Caramico's paper trimmer the rest of the day. She would share tips and advice lost on this novice. Hintze eventually offered me a ribbon and showed me how to place it on the page - my first real embellishment. I was in. But my book still looked like a glorified photo album sitting near their elaborate work.

Could scrapbooking be done on a smaller scale? Of course, but it wouldn't be scrapbooking, really. These women don't see excess; they see art and entertainment, relaxation and expression, escape and companionship. For these women, this is fun.

The bug didn't bite but the sentiment stuck. I will now make a bigger effort to document trips, milestones and everyday fun. Looking at my photos made me want to take more trips and make more memories. And thanks to the scrappers who welcomed me into their world, I hope to return home to someday, with or without embellishment, dot-roll it all into a book for posterity.