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Preview: The Clutter Museum : First Thoughts: Scrapbooking and Feminism

Comments on The Clutter Museum: First Thoughts: Scrapbooking and Feminism

Updated: 2011-11-01T10:05:51.746-06:00


I'm Kristine and kind of new to scrapbooking. ...


I'm Kristine and kind of new to scrapbooking. I had this idea to make a
scrapbook for a friend of mine for the forth of July.
So I was looking around and found this site
Which had a great article on making a July 4th page (
Does anyone know any other good resources?
Also - I signed up and they sent me this whole 100 page book with all these great tips.
Totally unexpected but it is great.

What a great post! I, like you, was unaware until...


What a great post! I, like you, was unaware until recently that "scrapbook" could be a verb. I'm a stay at home parent and have been invited to several 'scrapbooking parties', none of which I have attended(BTW, I am also an alum of the same delighful midwestern college that you attended).

Anyhow, your comments about wanting to feel 'accepted' by the other moms rang so true to me. I have to agree with P.S. who said that you will soon be very frustrated with those who won't appreciate your interpretation or viewpoint. My girls are 5 and 3 now and I have completely given up on the play-date as I have not been able to find a group whith whom I have much in common. I think it's easy to assume that just being "moms" together should make us all friends. But, the reality is we need to find the subset of moms with whom we really have some deeper issues in common. Good luck with the diss and the new mama gig.

I came to your post via and...


I came to your post via and just LOVED this. Wow. You tickled my half awake mind into high gear this morning. THANK YOU!

When I worked on that scrapbook magazine launch, s...


When I worked on that scrapbook magazine launch, something that struck me about the hobby was that the women were, essentially, doing the same thing I was doing professionally as a layout-oriented graphic designer. Granted, many are being "art directed" by the companies themselves, but the way the average woman could be a layout designer sans any deep knowledge of typesetting and grids, without any real training apart from their local scrapbook classes, struck me as very democratic. Still waaaay too conformity-pushing and way too many stereotypical themes for me to deal with, though, to be anything more than a closet embellishment junkie!

An aspect of scrapping you should definitely study is the idea that the hobby has Masters, and a defined hierarchy amongst those in the serious scrapping "world." It's simlar to how model horse enthusiasts practically canonize certain artists, but with the sort of freaky/delicious Mean Girl Stepford quality you should find irresistible. ;-) All over the magazines is the idea that these particular women are so much better than you at organizing their personal memories and inner aesthetic (read: buying the right materials and using them the right ways)... I find it disconcerting but their accompanying biographies in any "Masters" issue are durn interesting, always emphasizing their wife and mother role.


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You asked, among other interesting questions, "Sho...


You asked, among other interesting questions, "Should I have shown that I could adopt the aesthetic and use the tools (literal, metaphorical, and symbolic) of the other scrapbooking moms? Would it have been more polite and acceptable to use (and then purchase) the tools created for and used by the other scrapbookers? Or was it better for me to forge ahead with my own vision, Creative Memories ideals be damned?"

This is essentially the same set of questions that many creative people (regardless of gender) ask at some point when they engage in group activities. I have seen it many times in camera/photo club circles. "Do I subscribe to the dominant aesthetic and subject matter, even if they're not my own? Should I buy equipment to help make images that fit into that aesthetic? Will I alienate people by going against the grain, or is their room for exploration?"

Several years ago, Dona Schwartz made an ethnographic examination of the differencces between fine art and camera club aesthetics. When someone in my camera club dug it up, it spawned a lengthy discussion. Essentially, new people find the composition rules and product talk helpful in becoming more proficient creators; while more technically advanced photographers and artists usually move on to rule breaking and reduce the emphasis on tools.

(Maybe you're just really advanced for a first timer!)

Perhaps a reasonable question is whether the scrapbooking and photographic hobbies are similar enough to draw these parallels. I suspect so, especially given what Kate and the Queen said. But I find it amazing that while both men and women engage in preserving family memories via photography, scrapping is aimed at women.

Scrapbooks tend to have more narrative structure and cohesion than sets of photographs. It can be argued that for most people, they require more time and effort to make than photographs and even photo stories. They explicitly include more value judgements, hopes, and desires, too.

Doesn't this all sound like the typical things said about gender roles in families? Women are more articulate and feeling. Women invest more effort in the family. Women educate and shape values.

But now I'm out of my league...

Don't forget, though, that just like all other tac...


Don't forget, though, that just like all other tactile creative endeavors, the process is a significant part of it. I think average women who don't create what is commonly called "art" also do not have a lot of oppourtunities to be creative (in a creating non-practical things kind of way).

The act of choosing paper and accessories (whether they are approved scrapping accessories or bits and bobs from life like old buttons, scraps of fabric, yarn...), conceptualizing a visual narritive and then assembling is akin to being an artist for many women. The act itself, removed from the the issues of narritive is a significant part of the story, I believe.

Okay, I'll start at the superficial level first. ...


Okay, I'll start at the superficial level first. The scrapbook page that you made, with Lucas as your little gangster and that hilarious picture of Mr. Trillwing and Lucas, made me laugh out loud helplessly. (Not so good when I'm pretending to research, to get some bloggy time away from my parents.)

It was also very satisfying for me to see you subverting the oppressive scrapbooking culture. I used to work at an office supply store, and the scrapbooking women were frightening. There were a few who'd bought into all the propaganda, without fully understanding it. They'd get so scary about acid-free products. As someone who has dealt heavily with archival materials, I appreciate all that acid-free stuff. However, I do have a problem with that woman who yelled at me because the only acid-free page protectors we had in the store came loosely in a box, and not sealed up in plastic, so that "How can you tell if acid hasn't gotten in there?"

As one who has dealt with memory theory and commemoration rather heavily (and wishes to do so more heavily), I found your analysis of all this fascinating, especially in terms of women imposing narratives and control onto their lives. I think that's always what has kept me away from scrapbooking: carefully cropping photos and arranging them out of their context. But is not the act of arranging uncropped photos in an album also an act of construction? Whatever is included in the photo is what will end up being connected and remembered.

Now I have to think all this out. Also especially because I was just comparing the mindset of blogging to photography (always observing everything with the question of how you can frame this and make it permanent). But blogging as scrapbooking? I'm going to have to think about that more.

Okay, I don't know if all my ramblings made sense. I keep being interrupted by my mother, who is currently taking over my kitchen.

P.S. I second what Phantom Scribbler says about not wanting friends who don't appreciate the awesomeness of your experimentation. Because your scrapbook? Is AWESOME!

Have you seen the scrapbooking boards on craftster...


Have you seen the scrapbooking boards on craftster? They would make for interesting research.

Great post!!I like your scrapbook pages better too...


Great post!!

I like your scrapbook pages better too. I kept scrapbooks all through high school and college, back before pre-printed pages and scalloped-edge scissors (and it was nearly impossible to find a real scrapbook--I got two of mine at estate sales), but I find the current scrapbooking craze kind of bewildering. Especially Creative Memories--the way it's pitched to the "consultants" as some kind of empowering entrepreneurial opportunity for stay-at-home moms really bothers me.

Another thought (I promise I'll stop after this). ...


Another thought (I promise I'll stop after this). One of the many things that bothers me about shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is that it strikes me as 3D scrapbooking on a grander scale. It's that same kind of combination of commercialism, overwrought sentiment, and cheesy "theme rooms" that really do look like something straight from a scrapbook.

I like your scrapbook pages better than most any I...


I like your scrapbook pages better than most any I've seen.

oh, wait... New Kid just said that, too!

I have been icked out by scrapbooking for quite a while, and your post helped me make sense of why it's problematic for me. That's a very interesting point about seeking to control one's narrative and role.

Kate, Thanks so much for your thoughts. I'll defi...


Kate, Thanks so much for your thoughts. I'll definitely follow up on those!

New Kid, thanks for your comments on my little attempts at scrapbooking. I don't know what I've gotten myself into, really. I have this way of finding myself in communities of hobbyists and getting way too involved (witness the dozens of model horses lining my bookshelves, which I should write about here because I'm not keeping up on my blog dedicated to the subject--yes, that's how obsessive I am), so I need to watch myself.

And PS, you're absolutely correct. I guess I'm in desperate-times-call-for-desperate measures mode. The good news is Lucas's fabulous doctor invited us into her childcare co-op, so I should definitely follow up on that.

Thanks again, everyone. I can't believe people actually read (or even skimmed) all that. :)

What a great post. But, oh, let me advise you now...


What a great post. But, oh, let me advise you now: if this is the sort of thing that you have to supress in order to be liked by the people in the scrapbooking class, then I humbly suggest that those other mothers are not ideal playgroup candidates for you. Trust me. After the initial pleasure of having successfully negotiated entrance into the world of playgroups wore off, you would find yourself wishing that you could stick hot pokers in your eyes rather than have to make (heavily edited) small talk with these women for two hours a week.

The women you want for your playgroups would be the ones who look at your scrapbooking experiments, laugh with delight, and yell, "These are AWESOME!" Then they would engage you in a long conversation about, say, the uses of the color pink in Creative Memories products and the reinforcement of gendered assumptions about childraising.

This is a fascinating post. To be completely un-in...


This is a fascinating post. To be completely un-intellectual, can I say that I like your pages so much more than the standard, idealized models set forth by Creative Memories?

Oh, this was such fascinating and terrific reading...


Oh, this was such fascinating and terrific reading. You hit a lot of my intellectual interests, too, like narrative theory and the power balances of media creation and the role of corporate organizations in shaping cultural consciousness and... well, all of it, really.

One phrase that struck me was:
But when we scrapbook, we're not just "telling stories" as a journalist, or even a photojournalist, might. Instead, we're imposing narratives, and therefore fairly explicit meanings, onto our lives.

In media studies, much of the point is that journalism also imposes a narrative, despite journalists' assertion that they're "just telling what happened": framing takes place regardless of any desire to remain "objective." So a big issue of contention is the question of who, exactly, has the power to shape the meaning of our experiences and our perceptions of the world around us?

As I read, I was thinking about Berger and Luckmann's notion of commutation, juxtaposing perceptual frames of different realities: you have your lived experience with your son, your desire to express it in certain ways, and a social expectation for how this expression will be rendered, all shifting and blending together to mold your thoughts.

I also was thinking about reality television, how we are used to the idea of packaging experiences so that they appear a certain way. There's a book by Mark Andrejevic called _Reality TV: The work of being watched_ that brings into play a lot of theories that might be interesting in terms of scrapbooking as well: do scrapbooking people/moms experience everyday life with an eye to how they will edit it visually on the page later? I've frequently heard bloggers and diarists say that they imagine their own narrative accounts of events while living them, so it seems likely that the very fact of "being a scrapbooker" would alter perceptions in some more or less subtle ways. Maybe.

Some work on social memory might be interesting, too, playing into a sense of manufactured nostalgia that is very big these days. Carolyn Kitch's book _Pages from the Past_ might be helpful there.

Oh, and, uh, hi. Rude of me to go all geeky before even introducing myself, wasn't it? Sorry, I just got excited. I'm Kate from The Neurosis Factory, a PhD student in communication. Nice to meet you. ;>

I hope you write more about this subject, because (as you can tell) I think it's terrific.