cov­er­story ‘I’M A SCRAP­BOOK JUNKIE’

Doc­tors, lawyers, en­trepreneur­s all get into hobby

Chicago Sun-Times - - Easy - BY ANUPY SINGLA

Ad­dict: to ha­bit­u­ate or aban­don (one­self) to some­thing com­pul­sively or ob­ses­sively.

Ac­cord­ing to this Web­ster’s def­i­ni­tion, I’m an ad­dict in the worst sense of the word. My ob­ses­sion and com­pul­sion for my of­ten se­cret ad­dic­tion has caused me to lose sleep, ar­rive at work bleary eyed, force my kids to go to bed ex­tra early many a Fri­day night, fight with my hus­band and go away alone at least once a year for three days straight to feed my ad­dic­tion.

I’m a junkie but my habit isn’t some­thing bor­der­line sexy and stereo­typ­i­cal for a re­porter like chain smok­ing or suck­ing down beers at the lo­cal news­room wa­ter­ing hole. It’s some­thing that makes most peo­ple’s eyes glaze over when they hear about it: col­ored pa­per, funky trim­mers and the lat­est mini palm tree punch out. I’m ad­dicted to scrap­book­ing. This Jan­uary was the third in a row that I packed my largest rolling bag with photo-safe pa­per in about 30 shades, gath­ered about 1,000 pic­tures from last year, and stuffed a huge pouch with more than 40 of my pun­chouts and hauled it all to the Hick­ory Ridge Mar­riott in Lisle.

There, more than 60 women from all over the Chicago area meet the same week­end ev­ery year for one thing and one thing alone: to scrap un­in­ter­rupted from Fri­day af­ter­noon to Sun­day evening. Yes, there are the so­called stereo­typ­i­cal scrap­book­ers — stay-at-home moms who choose not to work out­side the home. But when you stop mak­ing as­sump­tions and start ask­ing ques­tions you find out there are also lawyers, doc­tors, en­trepreneur­s, and yes, even the oc­ca­sional re­porter.

“Scrap­book­ing al­lows me to do some­thing com­pletely out of the realm of run­ning a busi­ness,” says Dr. Avanti Ku­mar-Singh, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ar­vasi Life Spa in Pleas­ant Prairie, Wis. “It al­lows my brain to rest and even­tu­ally be much more creative at work.”

Ku­mar-Singh was in­tro­duced to the scrap­book­ing world (um, by me) in 2005 and im­me­di­ately took the plunge by in­vest­ing in her own tools and rolling bag. The Oak Brook res­i­dent al­ways liked work­ing with her hands, is creative and loves tak­ing pic­tures of her two kids. Putting it all to­gether in an al­bum, she was able to tell a more com­plete fam­ily story. But she ad­mits, first she had to shed her pre­con­ceived no­tions of the hobby.

“I thought it was just putting awards in a book along with a pic­ture or ticket stubs here and there on a self-stick page,” says Ku­mar-Singh. “I was floored by all the in­ter­est­ing and dif­fer­ent things you can do — scrap­book­ing just has a dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tion for me now.”

What be­gan as a sim­ple hobby based on col­lect­ing scraps has grown into a multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try. In 2007 it was pegged at $2.87 bil­lion, up 12 per­cent from 2004, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Sur­vey of Scrap­book­ing in Amer­ica 2007, spon­sored by CK Me­dia, which pub­lishes crafts mag­a­zines, in­clud­ing Cre­at­ing Keep­sakes and Sim­ple Scrap­books.

The re­cent down econ­omy has cer­tainly weighed on th­ese num­bers, but it’s also served as in­spi­ra­tion for non-tra­di­tional scrap­book­ers.

“Peo­ple are get­ting back to their roots and re­al­iz­ing fam­ily is so im­por­tant,” says Christina Van Horne, owner of Windy City Scrap­book­ing, 2265 N. Cly­bourn. She’s no­ticed more 20-some­things at her weekly Fri­day night crops.

“The younger gen­er­a­tion wants to en­joy their qual­ity of life and doc­u­ment it as well, and many are looking to make scrap­books for their boyfriends,” she says. Van Horne counts bankers, po­lice of­fi­cers, 911 op­er­a­tors and doc­tors among her best cus­tomers.

Lisa Tut­man and I made our scrap­book con­nec­tion years ago on a cold, dreary morn­ing in Gary, Ind. There had been a dou­ble homi­cide and all of us cov­er­ing it were wait­ing in the park­ing lot of the Gary po­lice sta­tion for an in­ter­view. At the time I was the morn­ing re­porter for CLTV news and Tut­man re­ported for NBC-owned WMAQ-Chan­nel 5.

She had just sub­mit­ted one of her page de­signs for con­sid­er­a­tion in a pres­ti­gious scrap­book con­test and couldn’t stop talk­ing about it. Our re­spec­tive pho­tog­ra­phers rolled their eyes and laughed as we com­pared notes.

“There are loads of pro­fes­sional women who scrap­book, but they don’t go around talk­ing about it,” says Tut­man, who af­ter more than 10 years with WMAQ left in 2006 and now lives in Vir­ginia with her hus­band and two chil­dren. “It’s very easy to get sucked in if you have a creative slant any­way. Who needs an ex­tra pair of scis­sors, but when they’re pink, how can you re­sist?”

Tut­man, an Emmy-award-winning jour­nal­ist, loves to re­port, but is just as proud of all the pages she’s cre­ated and had pub­lished in var­i­ous scrap­book­ing and home dec­o­rat­ing mag­a­zines over the years. She now blogs at www.cel­e­brate-cre­ativ­ity.com about her love of all things craft, in­clud­ing em­broi­dery, doll­mak­ing, rub­ber stamp­ing and, of course, scrap­book­ing.

Jakkie Tisa is a con­sul­tant with Creative Mem­o­ries. One of the orig­i­nal com­pa­nies to fo­cus on scrap­book­ing as a busi­ness, CM is built on a di­rect sales model and uses con­sul­tants to pro­mote and sell its prod­ucts.

“Peo­ple dis­miss scrap­book­ing as some­thing some­one with too much time on their hands does, but some of my cus­tomers who get the most en­joy­ment out of it are the busiest peo­ple I know,” says Tisa.

Anupy Singla is a lo­cal free-lance writer.

Sue Ontiveros son­tiveros@sun­times.com

Top: Anupy Singla ar­ranges the pho­tos. Mid­dle: A full sup­ply of mark­ers is ready and wait­ing. Be­low: Us­ing the pa­per slicer.

JOHN J. KIM~SUN-TIMES PHO­TOS

Anupy Singla poses with one of her scrap­book­ing al­bums in her Chicago home. Scrap­book­ing is a multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try.

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