Diversions: Memory Making 

Scrapbooking craze brings fun times and big business.

Call scrapbooking a hobby, and many will take offense. "It's about leaving a legacy," says Dolores Settle, a scrapbooker and consultant for scrapbook supply home-retailer Creative Memories.

The Mormons started scrapbooking as a means of preserving family lines, but today's version is far from fancy-free. An estimated 20 million scrapbookers dedicate their pages to everything from weddings to baby books to candid before-and-after nose-job transformations. There are even scrapbook embellishments devoted to making scrapbooks about ... scrapbooking.

The three-part scrapbook recipe includes taking photos, adding embellishments such as stickers, frames and buttons to the layout, and "journaling," or writing captions. ...

Some scrapbook fans say the benefits are more than page-deep. "It's one of the largest self-esteem builders for kids," says Elissa Gellis Mast, who runs two Richmond-based Memories Galore scrapbooking stores with her family. They opened the first East Coast scrapbooking store in Midlothian in 1998 and followed up with a West End store last year. "It's a very high-maintenance business," says Mast, whose staff needs to keep up with the latest trends and deliver special attention to customers. All sales associates are scrapbookers.

"Nobody goes home to scrapbook by herself," says Cheri Beth Fisher, a Creative Memories consultant. Fisher opens her home to after-hours scrapbooking parties, or "crops," a few times a month. She invites friends and clients, and they, in turn, purchase their supplies through her. When Fisher started to spend a ridiculous amount of money on scrapbooking supplies, she decided that selling the supplies and reaping the profit could offset her expenses.

There are also two megacrops each year, including one in October, for which Richmonders set up shop at the Atlee Community Church.

"We all get together to make fun of our husbands and talk about our kids," jokes one attendee, Trena Carroll. "It's cheaper than a therapist."

Carroll travels around to attend as many workshops as she can and, like many other scrapbookers, has made some long-distance friendships.

Everyone has a different style and approach, from the layout of her book to the layout of the work station, and everyone has a well-stocked supply of sweets and snacks. Some appoint their work areas with lamps, trash bags and cup holders. Having open beverages near the workspace is a major breach of scrapbook etiquette. So is "borrowing" someone else's tape.

But imitation is OK.

"It's flattery," says Judy Robins, who has printed out several layouts she found on the Internet for inspiration. That's not the only trick Robins has found. "If you want to lose weight, you can just trim it off," she jokes, while snipping photos.

Scrapbookers can take anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours to complete one page, although Fisher says she once had a client who spent four weeks on a page. The work rate is often determined by the amount of socializing.

Mast opens her store for Friday Night Crops and all-night scrapbooking pajama parties. There's food, refreshments and classes. "We stockpile M&Ms," Mast says. "It keeps everyone in a frenzy." And while the shoppers are almost by rule 17- to 58-year-old women, some couples make it a date night.

"A lot of men get dragged in," Mast says, which is why she brought a couple of couches into her Midlothian store. Mast hosts an occasional Guy's Night Out, where men are invited to come pick up supplies for their significant others.

"Many of them come in with long lists and confused looks," Mast says. "One guy even came in with a detailed map of the store."

So far, this seems to be ladies' territory.



Getting Started



So you're ready to sift through your old photos and make a go at scrapbooking. Where do you start? First, relax. Most scrapbookers agree that putting a book together is not as overwhelming as it seems.

Memories Galore offers introductory scrapbooking classes at its Midlothian location, and the store will also host Friday Night Crop scrapbooking events this month. For more information, call (804) 744-6500.

Creative Memories is a grassroots scrapbooking supply company that follows the Tupperware sales model. Consultants invite you to home classes and workshops for scrapbooking tutorials where you can purchase supplies directly through them. To find a consultant, you can check out www.creativememories.com.

Here are some other local resources for supplies:

Michaels Stores

4700 Commonwealth Centre Parkway, Midlothian

11647 Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian

Ben Franklin Crafts & Frames

8524 Patterson Ave.

Willow Lawn Shopping Center

3500 Pump Road

7026 Mechanicsville Turnpike

9744 Midlothian Turnpike

Chesterfield Crossing, Midlothian

Memories Galore

3991 Deep Rock Road

4800 Market Square Lane, Midlothian

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