Toadstool Curio Blog
The home of an ecclectic range of paper, digital, fabric and yarn crafts, plus a few mixed media projects to spice things up a bit!

Monday, 29 August 2011

To Smash or Not To Smash

OK, so I am late to join the trend. I haven't yet rushed out to buy a smash book or any of the lovely accompaniments. I am a confirmed stashaholic, but I have to say that I am still undecided. I am definitely tempted by some of the add-ons and I love the idea of the glue/journalling pen in order to truly make it 'on the go' scrapping, but some of what makes me love scrapbooking is what would put me off actually getting on with a smash book in the intended scrapping-on-the-go sense.

Really, I think to fully enjoy the sensation in its most liberating sense, I would need to carry the book around with me, journalling anything that took my attention. Snippets of my children's conversations, sticking in bits and bobs I had collected along the way, then updating with photos etc once back at the craft table. BUT I CAN'T. Not because there is anything wrong with the concept. It is ME! Paper should be respected. Protected. Uncreased and clean. Pristine. I couldn't possibly tote it around with me unless it were protected in a sealed, possibly padded, carry case so that there were no possibility of damage. So then, if left at home, it would lose spontaneity. Lose some of the essence of what it could be. I must need more therapy!

So, will I be creating smash books? Well, I think it is a great excuse to involve my young children in creating some form of memory books. I think it would be different to scrap a family holiday from their perspective. To capture some of their excitement and enthusiasm. I would, however, have to sit on my hands when they stick things in without measuring the layout first. Zip my mouth shut when they scribble things out. Possibly have to walk out of the room if they decided to pull something out that has already been glued in, and, if they make a mistake when cutting out, I might just cry. In crafting, I am precise. It has to be right.

The 'new' trend somehow gives me permission to have a go at reviving the scrapbooking of my youth without thinking that it is a lesser art form than 'real' scrapbooking. At about 8 or 9 years old, whilst off sick from school and staying in my Grandmother's spare room, I was allowed to look in a cupboard I had previously been told was off-limits. The little cubic cubby-hole built into the wall was a revelation. Along with my aunt's collections of semi-precious minerals and gemstones, a set of 'The Man From UNCLE' annuals and a few back copies of 'Jackie' magazine were some rudimentary scrapbooks that had been made by my aunt when she was a child in the 1960's. During holidays all over Europe with my mum and grandparents, she had collected a variety of ephemera and, together with a few photographs and hand-written notes, the almost A3 sized sugar-paper books were brought to life.

I had to start my own scrapbook straight away. I raided my money box and rushed to the corner shop to buy a similarly large sugar-paper book for myself, then set about a life-long obsession of collecting anything and everything that might help me capture the memory of each special moment. I used the type of glue which required a spatula (you know, the stuff before glue sticks that smelled of marzipan and dried out if you didn't put the lid back on) and, if I had to, I made do with flour and water glue and even, at times, wall paper paste. I remember getting in to trouble for sneaking my Nan's pinking shears from her sewing drawer and using them to cut a picture out of a leaflet from a recently-visited tourist attraction. I learned early on that you need the right scissors for the job! I already knew how to use a sewing machine, so I found it easy to whip up a new book from a few sheets of old green and white striped printer paper and a line of machine stitches whenever I filled up one book (the slight singing dust smell from my Nan's Jones sewing machine is etched on my memory). I delighted in my ingenuity when using some of my post-office rubber stamp set to print titles on my pages and my little hobby typewriter to add text. For a child from a low income family, it was a great low-cost hobby. Ahem! Not so now perhaps. It was also perfect for me, a child who didn't really like to mix and certainly wasn't the social butterfly of the family. I could observe and take note of the family goings-on - it didn't matter anymore that I wasn't actively joining in. I had a purpose! From everyday occurrences to special occasions, most things were recorded in my precious albums. My joy was intensified when I was given a camera for Christmas and told I could have one roll of film and money for processing it at Christmas, Easter and on my birthday in October.

The things I loved collecting to enhance my memory pages were wrappers from sugar cubes, printed napkins, tickets, the labels that used to be stapled to the string of single-cup teabags, postcards and the leaflets that were on display in the ticket hall of the train station. Basically, things that were free to a child, but things that I still hoard even now, 30 years on. I could look at my little stash and summon up the memory of the day trip or rare holiday (I had two my whole childhood). I grew up in a single parent family, with the close support of my grandmother and aunt. We lived with them part of the time and between the three women, they made sure that my sister and I had plenty of special occasions to remember, even if holidays were scarce. There were always day trips by train to the seaside on the Kent coast each summer. We would set off early with packed lunches of cold toast and hard boiled eggs (yes, really). If enough had been saved, we might wait in the station buffet with a cup of Kia-ora squash and a pack of biscuits. If we had been especially good, there might even be a pre-packed slice of McVitie's fruit cake to eat on the train. The old slam-door carriages, with the small compartments were my favourite. I would hate the scratchy upholstery digging into my thighs beneath my hand-made summer dress, but loved the rocking motion of the train and the excitement that built with each passing station. There is something more suited to a smash book than a scrapbook about these memories. Perhaps that is because I don't have the photos any more, or that I don't have exact dates and places. Perhaps, in my mind, smash books are perfect for capturing feelings rather than anything tangible. See, even the thought of creating smash books has me reliving old memories and happy times!

Those early scrapbooks are long gone. Years ago consigned to the bin (in the days before recycling), but the memories of those special days are still with me. Many of the photos are long lost, but the ones that survive are very precious. I am yet to scrap any of them properly because I tend to use current pictures in my layouts. I would love to make a whole album of my childhood. More specifically, special times with my sister (who sadly died in 2005). Perhaps I should start with my own 'Smash books' of these memories? A way to ease myself in to tackling tricky, sensitive subjects.

Another use that I can think of for smash books in my own memory preservation is for those photos crying out to be scrapped, but I don't yet have the 'perfect' layout idea. I have a number of special pics that I keep putting off dealing with because I want to make sure that the layout is the best it can be. Maybe a smash book layout could be a sort of 'memory book-mark' until I actually get around to a full layout. Perhaps it will ease some of the 'scrappers guilt' that I feel when I create yet another album as a gift, without finishing those for my own children.

At least I will know that, as long as they are kept in that protective case (with or without padding) and if I don't resort to wallpaper paste or flour and water glue, that the 'smash books' I make now may be around to inspire my grandchildren in 30 years time....

Oh, if there is anyone who doesn't know what a smash book is and has made it to the end of this post without falling asleep, there is a great little video on You Tube from the companies behind the product range. What will you record in yours?


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