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Scrapbooking: A Man's Perspective
Can men scrapbook?
"What are you doing here?"
I started scrapbooking in 2008 when my then-girlfriend bought me an empty book, a stack of cardstock and showed me how to preserve memories and souvenirs to show off in a book. I have filled three scrapbooks since with memorabilia from our adventures and become rather good at it if I do say so myself.
While shopping for supplies, however, I notice a marked gender gap in the people involved in this delightful hobby. Craft store scrapbook sections, while growing in prominence, never seem inhabited by men. At the same time, scrapbook boutiques, charming and useful though they are, only ever seem populated by ladies, usually pleasant and helpful but often wearing an expression of "What are you doing here?"
An example of a Commonplace Book, the earliest example of scrapbook
A very brief history of scrapbooks
Scrapbooks go back over 500 years to the 1500s when people used to compile books of all the information they gathered in their day-to-day lives. These were called "commonplace books". Unlike journals, which were also widely used during that time, commonplace books followed no chronological order. They contained everything from favorite bible scriptures to poems and letters, drawings and diagrams for daily use.
You could think of commonplace books as a sixteenth-century computer desktop with all files and documents kept in one place, if not well organized once there. This style of collecting useful and important information into one place was used by everyone, but found wide use among the academic communities of Europe. Flowers could be pressed in a commonplace book and even colorful small trinkets.
As printing techniques got better and people were able to access more reading material, some authors left a number of pages empty at the end of their works to give readers a chance to scribble notes and meditations on the material. This tradition continues to this day.
Along with the printing press, image production also improved and people's personal books began to contain such things as colorful postcards and paintings. This would really take off with the invention of photography, which allowed for a more affordable and precise form of portrait-making.
Scrapbooking grew in the 20th century, incorporating both the photographic and journalistic nature of personal record keeping. Now there are entire industries devoted to producing the materials for building a scrapbook from the sticky squares that hold photos in place to the increasingly- elaborate scrapbook paper itself which can be a work of art on its own. You name the occasion; there's undoubtedly supplies out there to make a scrapbook page for it!
With such inventions as the Cricut, which gives people the ability to create their own scrapbooking materials, and the ability to print large numbers of photographs at once, people are able to do more and more with their modern commonplace books. Albums these days even provide plastic to protect pages and keep everything in place!
Can scrapbooking be masculine?
Living in a world where gender roles are no longer completely clear and insecurity runs rampant, it seems men almost fear the possibility of adopting hobbies which society sees as feminine. But I see no reason whatsoever why men should not scrapbook their precious memories. Indeed, I think scrapbooking has a lot to offer to the modern man which he will find rewarding and, to some degree, even therapeutic.
- It provides an opportunity to use the souvenir junk you held onto from things you've done. Tickets, programs, pamphlets, crushed flowers, photos and many more small items make wonderful scrapbook pieces. For example, I recently scrapbooked my own customs seizure form from a certain trip in college when I tried to bring absinthe home and it was confiscated. What would I have done with it otherwise? Probably thrown it away. Now I have it set up in a creative setting where it can make an excellent conversation starter.
- When scrapbookers set up their pages, they get a chance to relive good memories and express them in an artistic, personalized nature. A scrapbook page becomes a living memory of a moment which brings recollection even after long years have passed.
- Once finished, scrapbooks have a variety of uses when shared with others. They can be set on the coffee table for guests to peruse during visits, starting conversations. Meanwhile if kept safe scrapbooks can be handed down through children and grandchildren to preserve family memories down through the generations.
- As a man interested in the study of history and possessing an ego, I see scrapbooks as a perfect venue for celebrating a man's every achievement in his own personal mobile museum! This can do wonders for a man's self-confidence because it reminds him what he has accomplished, who he loves and who loves him. It tells him where he has gone and what impact it left, what chances he took and how they paid off. I am not sure I know a much more therapeutic way of showing a man what kind of life he has led.
- If the lady of the house is also a scrapbook enthusiast, scrapbooking and craft time can be a great bonding experience. Make a date of it. Go to the store and pick out pages together, chill a bottle of wine, get into your lounging clothes and have a trip down memory lane via artwork together!
Vote Ye Swabs!
Can scrapbooking be masculine?
Manliness and Memory
There is nothing emasculating about scrapbooking. On the contrary, the keeping of a book of memory and mementos is a time-honored tradition which gives people a vivid look into the past. While I might continue to get gut-checked by little old ladies in the craft stores, I plan to continue scrapbooking and enjoying the benefits of the activity.
So what do you think, friends? Am I out of my mind or am I onto something here? Can scrapbooking be manly, or is it reserved for the fairer sex?