Monday, August 28, 2006

Scrapbooking Books: Review

When I shopped for my scrapbooking stuff last year, I also picked up a book on scrapbooking. I didn't have any idea which publishers were good so as usual, I let my nose guide me to the sales stacks. This was the only book I saw.

Not really THE ultimate

The book is hardbound and very thick and was published way back in 2000 so my first thought was the precious real state it was going to occupy in my luggage. But my DH convinced me to get it so I would at least have one reference for when I scrapbook. The Ultimate Scrapbooking book is not really the ultimate because it was written prior to 2000. Some of the layouts were made in 1996-1998, so there are many new tools and supplies not covered here. The book gives a listing of the materials and supplies you need to make a featured layout, along with step-by-step instructions. While I found the techniques on matting, framing, lettering, etc., useful, I don't open the book that often because simply put, the featured layouts are not that exciting or inspiring. I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone.

My sister Marissa is the one who knows her scrapbooking books. She very thoughtfully included two scrapbooking books from Creating Keepsakes to my shipment of scrapbooking goodies last summer.

If you should ask me what book you should bring in case you were snowbound in a log cabin with nothing but scraps around, this book would be it.

The Encyclopedia of Scrapbooking (Leisure Arts, Inc.; 2005; $5.99 on sale) is a must-read and must-have for all scrapbooking newbies. It discusses scrapbooking fundamentals, moving on to beginning embellishing to intermediate and then to advanced embellishing. Every other page presents a technique - from using a paper trimmer to heat embossing to stamping and machine stitching. Anything you can possibly think to do, it's taken up in this book. Each technique is adequately described and wonderfully illustrated. The featured layouts are so perfect you would be tempted to make one on your own. And why not? With this book as a guide, you would be making beautiful pages in no time.

Who says you can't teach new tips and tricks to old dogs like me?

Scrapbook Tips and Techniques, also by Leisure Arts Publication (2004; $4.99 on sale), is a good companion to the aforementioned Encyclopedia. Once you're feeling confident about your scrapbooking, you can add on by using the tips and tricks featured in this book. The book has chapters on cooking up quick pages, sketches by Becky Higgins, journaling and as a bonus - 50 favorite quotes. The layouts are also awe-inspiring. I am very much tempted to scraplift each and every page.

A jewel dug up at the Booksale in Robinson's MetroEast

The Art of Creative Lettering (Becky Higgins, 1999, P410 on sale) is an old publication by Creating Keepsakes. The newer CK publications on lettering now come with a fonts software CD. But for those who like the appeal of hand-written titles and journaling in their layout, this book is a good resource. It features 50 fonts that can be used for scrapbooking and cardmaking. Becky Higgins illustrates six basic structures that can be easily modified into other designs. The letters contain the numbers from 1 to 9 and both upper- and lowercase letters. While I don't like my own handwriting much, the book can almost make me believe that with a squiggle here and a curlicue there, I could produce such decorative titles.

Pages upon pages of groovy gift wrap of the 1960s

This last book has nothing to do with scrapbooking but my DH lent it to me as a reference for matching colors. The 1960s is known to be the most "visually far-out and faddish of decades." I look at this book and think, oh, why, oh why, couldn't they make patterned paper for scrapbooking like these?

Of course, in the end, nothing can replace watching real people actually using the tips and techniques featured in these books. Or the value of taking up the cudgels, or in this case, your tools, and decisively making layouts. Tools and books can only get you so far. What matters is how you apply them.

Happy scrapbooking!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Scrap Better: ScrapMeet 2

I must have visited all the scrapbooking sites in the world wide web since I got interested in scrapbooking again. Most of the websites are hosted in the U.S and until mid-August, I didn't know that there were any scrap sites based in the Philippines. By serendipity, I clicked the link "Scrapping" from a website that has nothing remotely to do with scrapping and I ended up at My Scrap Works . From there I read that they were going to host a Scrap Meet for scrapping enthusiasts.

Having bought all my materials from abroad and not knowing much about the local scrap scene, I decided to get myself a ticket. I think I must have been one of the last few to nab one. The minute I lay my hands on the ticket, I knew I was going to have a blast.

If the tickets were any indication, I knew I was in for a creative good time.

I was also quite happy to stumble onto, so I anticipated that even if I hadn't been able to convince my dearest friends to accompany me to the ScrapMeet, I knew I wasn't going to be totally alone.

I arrived early enough to be able to register for the activities which had limited slots and to have a leisurely walk around the huge room. Vendors and their wares were set up at two sides of the room. The items they had were enough for any scrapaholic to swoon in excitement.

There were at least nine stores present

There were also tables set up for "zero-to-done" demonstrations. And here was were I spent most of my time. After all, I came here to learn. Reading books and magazines and browsing at websites can only get me so far. I needed to see experts actually putting a layout together. And I wasn't disappointed. I was amazed at the demonstrators' talent and creativity, and their willingness and patience in answering our questions.

Zero-to-done demos

I didn't do much shopping. I have more than enough patterned paper and cardstock to last me several albums. (Speaking of albums, I was lucky enough to win one in the raffle. The major price was an HP Photosmart printer, but since I have that, it was no big loss.) Most of the items for sale were embellishments but I believe these provide the finishing touches. And I don't have any right to buy any of those when I haven't really started yet. I was really tempted to get heat embossing tools though because I was so inspired by the possibilities, as demonstrated by Alidz. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my bank balance), the stores that sell them don't accept credit cards. I only brought so much cash with me to curtail my spending. But I did succumb to getting two border stamps (P385) from Stampin' Grounds and two 59 ml. bottles of bronze and gold paint (P300) from Craft World. I plan to try out stamping with acrylic paint instead of the usual ink pigments. And, ok, five different colored bazill 12x12 cardstock from My Little Attic for P175. A scrapper can never have too much cardstock.

There were other things to do like having your portrait taken by professional photographers in a room fully set up like a studio. I had a blast making out like the next America's Top Model (giggles here). I also had a chance to talk with one of the photographers, Allan, about the advantages of getting a digital SLR. Had a photo of my DD (dear daughter) printed out for free at the HP booth. Sat in on a one-hour lecture on a photo-editing software called PhotoFiltre and Font Management. Mabelle (the owner of and one of the hosts of the event) clearly demonstrated to us the merits of using the software. A free copy of the software was given out as tokens. There was good food from the merienda buffet and good company from fellow scrapping enthusiasts all throughout. I was more than happy to meet some members of pinoyscrapbookers. I could finally put faces to the names of the people I constantly e-mail for tips and advise.

Kudos to the organizers of ScrapMeet2, specially Lala, who showed me where I can buy a ticket. It is good to know that scrapbooking is alive and well in this country. I look forward to the ScrapFest to be hosted by the Scrappin' Moms on September 17, 2006. Hopefully, by that time, I'd have convinced my dearest friends to share this passion with me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Great Digital Divide

As I was placing my negatives into airtight containers, I thought, what a boon it would be if all my photos were in digital format. I can then easily retrieve, edit, crop and print out photos as needed. Compact discs are also said to last a hundred years, so I will be ensuring that my mementos will last longer.

So I set out to scanning my negatives into my computer. My Microtek ScanMaker 4900 comes with a film adapter. Of course, a scanner dedicated to slides and negatives is better but I have to make do with what I have.

I plan to make prints out of my digital files so I have to scan using resolution and scale high enough to be able to print decent 4x6 photos, at least. As negatives are small (35 mm) I will have to scan them at 2000-3200 ppi. This will allow for prints that are not pixelised or sabog.

However, because of the huge bytes required, it takes at least 25 minutes to scan one shot. Now, I don't want to spend the rest of my life glued to the scanner, so I had to figure out another way to get my negatives into disks.

From film to CD

Many photo shops in Manila already offer this service. So I called around for the prices. Below, I am sharing with you the results of my badgering the sales clerks.

Columbia Photo

1st 3 rolls -– P295
Succeeding roll -– P75
W/ 36 photo index -– add P50
More than 36 shots (considered contact print already) -– add P120
File size: 1.44 MB

Island Photo

40 pictures -– P150
3 rolls -– P350
W/ index
File size: 72 kb

Per roll -– P195
Index -– P75
File size: 300 kb
10% discount negotiable

Picture City
1st roll -– P125
Succeeding rolls -– P100
Free index
File size: 2,048x3,072 kb

I had to rule out Island Photo and Kameraworld immediately because of the low scanning resolution. 72 kb is only good enough for website viewing and 300 kb is not good enough if I wanted to edit and blowup my prints.

Between Columbia and Picture City, Columbia is cheaper, but I want index prints to go with my CDs so I can easily see the contents without popping it in the computer. Picture City provides the index for free. You have to pay an additional P50 - P120 at Columbia.

So in this case, Picture City is my logical choice. However, when you avail of this service, you have to stress to the sales clerk that you want your resolution set at 2048x3072 kb. When I had my first batch of negatives scanned to CD, it came back at around 500 kb per file. Nowhere close to the promised figures. Scanning at lower resolution is quicker work and some people will take shortcuts. So make sure you get your money's worth.

Here's a tip for those who are still using film cameras (which I personally feel still produce the best prints). If you are not sure that you want all your shoots developed, just have the roll developed first. You can have only the shots you are happy with printed. Developing fee is only P50. That saves money on bad shoots. Then if you want them converted to digital format, just add P100 and you get a CD and index print.

P.S. I have put on hold my digitization project. When I computed the costs, I will be spending at least P10,000 for the hundred or so rolls of negatives I have. Maybe I should just go back to scanning manually.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Saving my Photos

During the 4-6 weeks (I've lost count) that the balikbayan box was in transit, I decided to do some organizing. In preparation for some serious scrapbooking, I finally committed myself to rescuing my photos from the magnetic albums. The least I could do was to stop the deterioration now.

I was able to get photo boxes from Save on Surplus in Marikina Riverbanks for only P100 each. I figured all I had to do was remove the photos from the albums and file them in the boxes chronologically.

Only four boxes of the kids' photos to scrap? Not really. Digital photos not yet included.

Removing the photos from the albums was not easy. The glue was very sticky and I had to be really careful not to accidentally tear the photos. I used a mini spatula to lift the photos and where they were most stubborn, I used dental floss. Some adhesive was left at the back of the photos and I got rid of those by wearing a sock in my right hand. I would then patiently rub the adhesive off. It wasn't easy. Then some photos curled up around the edges so I had to place them under a three-volume dictionary to straighten them up.

All in all, it was a mind-numbing process. I'm glad that I had American Idol Season 5 to keep me company throughout. It took me longer than I planned, too. As I filed the photos, I also made notes on dates, names, etc. for future journaling.

After the photos were safely tucked away, I turned to working on the negatives. Here's a tip: It is more important to preserve the negatives because these are the original shots. The photograph is just a copy of the negative. So it pays to also keep the negatives for posterity.

I wasn't as conscientious in storing the negatives as I was with my photos. And I had thrown out the envelopes they originally came in so I had to guess the dates when they were taken. I strained my eyes peering at the negatives to figure out the whos, whats, wheres and whens.

I also wanted to transfer the negatives to acid-free sleeves but these are not available in the Philippines. So in the meantime, I slipped my negatives, sequentially arranged, in a three-ring binder. That will have to do for now.

Saving the negatives as well

There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that there's a place for everything and everything is in it's place. And as Taylor Hicks sang his winning song, I carefully and lovingly placed my photo boxes and ring-binders in storage. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Personal Shopper

Who can live without them?

Early this year, I resolved that I would finally get scrappin'. Pressure from my DH (dear husband) is mounting. Also, I know that the longer my photos remain in the magnetic albums, the sooner they will deteriorate. It's like an acid time bomb.

But first, I must learn more about the latest trends in scrapbooking. I surfed the net and browsed through endless image galleries for inspiration. Finally, after weeks of relentless research, I came to an iron-clad conclusion: I need more stuff!!! I mean, who can scrapbook without eyelets, brads, ribbons, die cuts, punchers, templates, fibers, wires, beads, stamps, stickers, (add more here as you wish)? No decent scrapbooker should be caught without those. My stacks of paper, scissors, glues, and multi-colored pens are severely lacking. They're not just enough.

As my daughters put it, "I am in paper heaven!"

Enter my blood and scrap sister, Manang Marissa.

Manang Marissa's U.S. address is like a P.O. box for me and my DH. Stuff we order online -, e-bay, etc. are shipped to her house. She is cool with that.

But this time, I needed something more. I needed her to actually go to the stores and scour the sales bins for items that I wanted. With her talent and love for scrapbooking, it was no hardship for her. She has an eye for what works and a radar for cheap finds. I'd like to believe she had fun shopping for me. She was able to get me Chatterbox, Memory Makers and Deja Views paper at three for a $1.00. She also got me stamps and stickers at half the original price. She was indefatigable. She shopped up a storm and everything was quite a find.

Stamps and ribbons galore

Each night, she showed me the things she bought by webcam. Thanks to her, I didn't have to be in the U.S. to be able to shop U.S.-style.

Charmed, I'm sure.

I never really thought to fill up a whole balikbayan box, but the many stacks of paper (I also ordered online at Jo-Ann's) took up precious cubic space. Add to that the two books on scrapbooking from Creative Keepsakes (also on sale at around $5 each) and 12x12 sterilite drawers. She also thoughtfully provided me with a box of Frango Mint chocolates - to reward myself with everytime I completed a layout. (That was, of course, the idea.)

Scrapbook paper and chocolates don't mix.

It's like Christmas in the summer.

Some of my friends tease me that they want to borrow my Manang. Sure! But they have to fall in line.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shopping for Scraps

For a long while I haven't been updating my photo albums. The albums were safely in the cabinet while the digital shots were religiously copied to disks. But that's just about it.

It was my sister Marissa who got me into scrapbooking again. Long distance this time. She sends me copies of layouts she made through e-mail. As usual, they were creative and interesting. She does both paper and digital scrapping. Though lately, she has concentrated on the latter. It is her way of connecting with loved ones here in the Philippines. We would e-mail her our latest pictures and she would get our stories about them. Then she would scrap and send her finished products back to us.

A sample of Manang Marissa's work

When I went to visit her last year, the first store we visited was Michaels Arts and Crafts Store. I went ga-ga over the stuff that were on display. I was like a kid in a candy store. So many paper to choose from. No. Not choose. I want them all!!! But as always when I am in the U.S., I mentally converted the prices to pesos and I ended up not buying much. I did zoom in on the sale bins which had the Slabs for half the price. Slabs are a collection of 180 sheets of patterned paper with 60 designs of 3 sheets each. At $19.95 less 50 percent, it was a very good buy. Roughly P3.00 a page. At the time, they had Slabs IV and V on sale.

Paper from Michaels and Jo-Ann's. Stocker boxes from Japan (Everything P88) Home Store

I also placed quite a number of The Paper Company 8 1/2" x 11" cardstocks in my basket. At $1.99 for a value pack of 50 sheets, it came out to only P2.00 per sheet. And the colors were already color-coordinated.

Cardstock from Michaels

I just picked up some Pioneer 12x12 albums ($9.99), extra protective sleeves, photo-safe glues and I was done. I was very happy with what I had.

My sister was giving me a set of Kraft Edgers scissors, Sharpies, gel pens and more paper so I didn't really need to buy any more. Also, at that time, I wasn't really into scrapbooking mode yet. Thus, I concentrated on the basics.

Stackable shelves from Japan Home store, contents from Manang Marissa

I thought I was a very prudent shopper but it still came out to more than $100.00 at check-out. It does add up - the "few" items here and there. And of course, there was the sales tax. I just consoled myself, "Hey! I may never pass this way again."

Post-script: My dear husband says that in terms of opportunity costs, the stuff I bought actually cost me more. That's because I didn't take them out to use until a year later. (Thank God, the paper are acid-free so they are still as good as new). Well, that's what hoarding is: accumulating things and hiding them away for future use. Let's just say, the future is now?

Paparazzi Parents

Perhaps it was the severe lack of photos in my own childhood that caused me to go overboard when I had my first child. We had been taking photos of Diego the second he was born. My husband and I took Lamaze classes so he would be allowed to be with me in the delivery room. To support and comfort me, of course, but basically to make sure someone took photos of THE event.

The lengths we would go to for that perfect photo op. In my case, it was foregoing any anesthetic. Hehehe. But seriously, natural child birth was the perfect choice for me and my family for much more relevant reasons.
(This is one of my first layouts using acid free materials - June 2006. I am currently in the middle of transferring my photos from magnetic albums to photo-safe scrap albums. I know the layout is not perfect (yet), but the baby certainly is.)

We took a lot of pictures of the baby sleeping, sneezing, sleeping, all the momentous firsts, crying, laughing, smiling. And because at the time I STILL DIDN'T KNOW ANY BETTER, I mounted the photos on bigger magnetic albums. Between parenting and working though I didn't really have time to add captions but at least (or so I thought) the pictures where safe and organized chronologically.

We have had two more children since then so you can imagine the number of photo albums I have to get back to and work on "when I had the time." It's funny though, that by the second child, we seemed to be taking less pictures. And her photos were not put in the albums as diligently as the first-born's. Hmmmm...I heard it said that most parents experience this photo-fatigue at one time or the other.

Things changed when our youngest was born in 2002 and I bought my very first digital camera. Wow! You can take all the photos you want and then choose the best for developing and store the rest in your computer. You can also preview your shots as you take them. No more guesswork and no more waiting to know if you got that exact shot you were aiming for. How cool is that? Sadly at that time, it was still quite expensive to have digital prints developed so again, I still have quite a backlog of photos to scrap. I am about 18 years (computed by adding my kids' ages: 8+6+4) behind. That's almost half my lifetime. And in the meantime, we're taking more pictures. It just keeps piling up!

But I will get to that all in good time. Besides, taking photos is only half the fun.

Meanwhile, I continue to be a paparazzo - fully equipped with both digital and video cameras. And I am not alone in this world. In the photo below, my co-parents and I rushed to take the front row seats at our children's graduation program. When the emcee announced that we could now take the photographers' row, there was a whoosh and a flurry of activity as we all hurried to get the best seats in the house. Our own children were more disciplined than we were actually. I half expected mommies and daddies to fight over the seats. Hahaha.

Expectant parents. Our children are all celebrities in their own right, aren't they?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Life in Photos

I spent the summer after my high school graduation scrapbooking with my eldest sister, Marissa. She is the most creative of us, eight siblings. She wrote poetry, sketched, designed T-shirts and made cards. She used to cut out drawings from gift wrapping paper, added 3-D embellishments and sold them. From her I learned to use the 25-centavo coin to make circles out of felt paper. With a few lines and with the whisk of a scissor, these circles became flowers that she added on to her cards.

She also gifted me with several photo albums. As she scrapped her oldest son's photos, I scrapped along with her. We printed out captions using a dot matrix printer, mounted them on colored paper and cut them with decorative edges. Recently I was heartened to find that Provo Craft Paper Shapers has scissors that produces exactly the same edge (34-0032).

When I took out my photos from the shoe boxes (Zenco Footstep) where I kept them, I was saddened that I only had very few photos of my childhood. Cameras, film and developing were quite expensive then and my parents couldn't really afford that luxury. The few photos I had were given to me by an aunt who had a daughter almost the same age as I. I was usually just an "extra" in her daughter's photos but I am glad that at least I had those precious few photos to scrap. I only have 9 pages of pre-high school photos. One page I was a 7-month old, then I was in grade 1 and then I was in grade 6.

But still each photo brings back a deluge of memories each time I look at them. Looking at a photo of myself in a short dress (I know that it was red, even though the print is black and white), I remember that I had another red dress I really liked. And that it was bought for a Valentine party in kindergarten.

I only had one photo when I graduated from elementary. There I was in my white long-sleeved uniform (a sign that I was moving up to high school) right beside my father's motorcycle. There was not one photo taken during the actual graduation ceremony.

High school was different. My friends and I had group photos and individual portraits taken at the many photography studios in town. This was before the advent of "Photo Me" kiosks. I was also able to borrow a Vivitar camera which used a 110 film (remember those?) from a relative for school occasions - programs, parties, outings, etc. Still, the photos were few and far between. Unfortunately, my measly allowance couldn't cover more photo ops.

When my sister returned to the U.S. after that memorable summer, she left me her Canon camera (135 film). Thus, I was able to document much of the fun and frustrations of my college life. Buying films and having them developed wasn't much of a burden because my roommates usually shared the costs. Sometimes a 36-shot film lasted us months. We only used up a whole roll in a day on special occasions like dorm open houses and outings. I continued to scrap the photos I took, writing down names, places, events and dates. I used few embellishments as I chose to focus instead on the captions.

If only they were acid-free! The cards, not us girls.

Life continues on, and so does my desire to capture it on camera. When I open my old albums, I am transported back to how I have lived, loved and laughed so far. And always, am I ever so glad I scrapped.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Starting Scrapping

I actually started scrapbooking when I was in high school. It's not the scrapbooking we know now, but it's still scrapbooking. Twenty years ago no one knew about acid free, lignin free materials. All we cared about was posting our photos in albums. We thought that the magnetic photo albums were the greatest thing to be invented after Polaroid. They gave us room to exercise flexibility and creativity in mounting our photos. Unlike the regular slip-on albums which were quite boring. You had a dilemma when you have a photo taken vertically among a sea of horizontally placed photos. You literally had to rotate the album to view it. And where do we place the captions especially if we had long descriptions?

My high school barkada. I used the song "Ever Since The World Began" by Survivor in the journaling. That song was a hit at that time and was meaningful to us.

We clipped interesting bits from newspapers and magazines to put in our albums. We cut the pretty drawings from stationeries to add interest to our photos. Greeting cards from our main crush were placed right beside that stolen shot of him sitting in the bleachers. And the love letters, ah, the love letters were carefully placed between the magnetic sheets of our albums. Including those tickets for movies we saw unchaperoned and the menu that we stole from the restaurant where we had our first date. If we could have scrapbooked our first kiss, we would have.

I thought I was being so clever! (Yes, that is the Keebler elf. I cut him out from an empty cookie bag.) But the acid will eventually eat away at our albums. See the edges turning yellow already?

Fast forward to now. Scrapping gurus are telling us that the magnetic album is the worst way to preserve your memories. Magazines and newspapers are highly acidic. Our wonderful letters and stationeries will eventually turn yellow and eat into our photographs. All the loving care that went into scrapbooking our life will literally dissolve before our very eyes.

Suddenly we find out that everything we used, except for the actual photographs, will not last long. But we want our memories to last, long after we are gone, so what do we do?

Enter 21st century scrapbooking. Hoard lots of acid free, lignin free paper. It helps that the designs range from pretty to cutie. Use acid free pen - nope, that Bic ballpen will have to go. Adhere with photo safe glues. Cut with precision cutters. Write captions or journal using computer fonts and printers. Have different colored pens at the ready. Different tips are a must. Get punchers and die cuts of the English alphabet, not to mention the entire flora and fauna of North America.

Truly, from simply arranging and captioning my photos, adding a few scraps (the word really means leftovers or discarded materials) here and there to make them more memorable and interesting, scrapbooking has ballooned into something that is sometimes frustrating and complicated, but always exciting. And yes, it has become quite expensive, too. You didn't think that making things free of acid, lignin or whatever comes free do you?

Does that mean I don't scrap anymore? Not on your life! There's still too much living, loving, and laughing yet to scrap.