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Scrapbooking is a cut above other hobbies

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
photo by Nick Stubbs

Pictures, notes and “a lot of love” go into making a scrapbook like this one Geri Leto made chronicling her daughters.

photo by Nick Stubbs

Cutting dies like this bunny shape help make pages more interesting.

photo by Nick Stubbs

The Arts and Crafts Center caters to military scrapbook builders with a full line of books, artwork and military insignia from all branches. While many women have taken to scrapbooking, many men, particularly retired military, have joined in.

What's old is new again. Nothing proves the axiom like the wildfire that is the hobby of scrapbooking, a pastime that has been around in one form or another for centuries.

Like most crazes, it is hard to pin down just what caused a new focus and interest in making scrapbooks ,but Germ Lets, who teaches a course on the techniques at the Arts and Crafts Center on base, said new, improved materials combined with the ages-old desire to preserve family histories has merged.

"It's the fastest growing hobby in the country right now," she said. "It's amazing how many people are getting into it."

Mrs. Lets said new acid-free, buffered papers and other modern formulations have made it possible for people to beat the old problem of yellowing and fading of clippings and photos that go into scrapbooks. Many who have been scrapbooking for years are going about porting their old scrapbook pieces onto the new materials to ensure longevity and others new to the hobby are discovering the wealth of supplies and gadgets that are making the hobby more rewarding than ever.

"The new style is a lot different," said Mrs. Lets. "It used to be more limited."

Today the sky seems to be the limit. Rubber stamping has become an important part of building interesting books, and a wealth of stamps and inks is making it possible to decorate paper beyond what grandma would have dreamed. Special dies and cutters allow more customizing options and some even are branching into producing 3-D single pages that are being framed and hung on the wall, said Mrs. Lets.

"It's become a huge industry and we are happy to be offering the opportunity here," said Tammy Zell, director of the Arts and Crafts Center. "We anticipate a lot of interest as we get into winter and more people from up north arrive."

The next scrapbooking class at the center is Saturday, Nov. 19 and will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $5 for all day and there is a $2.50 fee to sit in for a half-day. Rubber stamping techniques are incorporated into the class. Participants are asked to bring their own photos, album pages and other items they want to incorporate in their books. For more information, contact the center at 828-4413.

While scrapbooking is an interesting pastime, it also serves a higher purpose: preserving history.

A history major, Mrs. Lets said the craze has the side benefit of ensuring future generations and even historians will have a better record of studying the "ordinary lives" of people.

"Scrapbooks can be of interest to families but also globally as a record," said. Mrs. Lets, who added that scrapbookers today may be building books chronicling a future president or other famous person and one day they will be of great interest.

For those who imagine the hobby is reserved for moms and grandmothers, think again. It's hot in schools from elementary through college and men, particularly retired military men, are joining in.

"Some (old soldiers) have commented that it is very cathartic, revisiting the past and putting their life in perspective," said Mrs. Lets, who added that the Arts and Crafts Center sells a variety of supplies related putting together military scrapbooks.

One of the best reasons to practice the hobby at the center is costly dies and tools are available, sparing the hobbyists the cost of tooling up with cutting dies and such. But with so many companies competing in the market, prices are dropping and the Internet is a great place to shop, as well as at the crafts center and specialty shops in the Tampa area.

So what makes a good scrapbook? Mrs. Lets said everyone has their own style. Some build books that are designed to tell a specific and detailed story about a person or event and others put together varied collections of things only insiders in the family might appreciate. But about anything that can be squeezed between two pages is fair game.

"Photos, clippings, report cards, drawings, letters and a lot of love go into scrapbooks," said Mrs. Lets.

In an age when email is replacing love letters, keeping "hard copy" in the form of a book is a blessing for future generations, said Mrs. Lets. Doing something useful and important to future generations while having fun may be the core of the hobby's popularity, said Mrs. Lets.

"It has value," she said, "value in many ways."

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