This is not about class warfare, or even the one percent or the 99 percent. This is about taking scrapbooking classes. To be honest, my experience at the class I took yesterday.
I have to say right up front, that I am not a cropper or scrapbooker. I loved the original idea of scrapbooking as a gateway to creativity, but left the arena when I began to notice an alarming number of items, supplies, equipment and tools that were one-thing specific. A tool to punch a hole. Another tool to punch a larger hole. A tool to cut a 12-inch sheet. A tool to cut a 10-inch sheet. I began to see the scrapbooking arena as being consumed by retailers who want to sell you more and more equipment because you believe that your next purchase will make you an artist. This is a hard idea to overcome.
The products and tools being turned out for scrapbookers are lovely and tempting, but so many of them don’t encourage creativity, they chase it out of the room and replace it with accuracy and project completion.
It had nothing to do with creativity, it had nothing to do with meaning-making. It had a lot to do with peer pressure. Scrapbookers became brand loyal. If you had the blue one, you needed next year’s pink model. You bought the pink model although the blue one still works just fine? Good job! We love you! And like getting a nod from the boss, it is deeply satisfying. And has nothing to do with creativity. Or with meaning making.
Why do I say all this? Because I took a scrapbooking class. I was the only one who did not arrive wheeling a suitcase of equipment. The instructor came in, put five plastic boxes, one in front of each small group, and returned to the front of the room. I’m not pretending she represents all scrapbooking instructors. She did mention the brands she represents. And then, to my amazement, she recited the assembly instructions for all five kits, one after another. She moved smoothly from box to box, picking up the completed piece and describing how we were to peel this sticker and apply it to that transfer sheet and then transfer it again, noting sheet colors and decorations by brand name. I began to take notes and she told me not to. “Just follow what I say. As soon as you know what to do, start.”
Women (there were no men in class) jumped, snatched kits out of the plastic boxes and applied themselves with a fervor and concentration. Tools flashed. A woman next to me asked me where my tools were. I held up my journaling bundle. She shook her head. “You’ll never keep up with just that.” It seemed the goal was keeping up and completing. It was not a technique class by my definition, it was a multi-project class.
One of the coloring steps was interesting. I applied a color I like. The instructor was suddenly over me, tapping my transferred sticker and saying, “Pink. This is not supposed to be indigo, it’s supposed to be petal. Start over.” I nodded, and waited for her to leave. I’m not a fan of pink. I continued on the indigo. The woman on my right looked at my work and shook her head. “That’s not right,” she said kindly, “You are doing it wrong. You’ll be here till midnight.”
I am not criticizing the women or the instructor. Many women left with completed project that looked just like the completed kits at the front of the class. I felt I’d spent two hours in a factory, failing at lining up the chocolates.
For me, this is not creative work, it is assembly work. It fosters perfectionism and obedience. It doesn’t allow for variation, play, or exploring. For me, there was no meaning making.
Maybe a few people who are scrapbookers want more play, more exploring, less dependence on tools, more on intuition. Maybe they want a way to discover who they are, and what skills they have and how those skills can be important to them. If so, I’m interested in you. I’d like to know what your next step to creativity is. I’d like to know what you love about scrapbooking and what you don’t. I’m interested in meaning making and how we experience it.