September 13, 2004
Erica Christofolo and her friends are pumped to spend a Friday night away from their husbands and kids.
Armed with a vast array of scissors, paper, photographs and ideas, these women roll into Scrapper’s Garden in Gilbert ready to scrapbook.
"You come with a group of friends, and it’s like girls night out," says Christofolo, who lives in Gilbert.
Scrapbooking, the latest multimillion-dollar uber-hobby, is the modern version of the quilting bee. Women once bonded in each other’s homes around the frayed edges of an unfinished quilt. Now they gather at scrapbook stores Friday nights for weekly crops (for those new to scrapbooking, a crop is a get-together) that last, sometimes, until midnight. Women chat and crop around a table elbow deep in albums, 12-by-12-inch paper and photographs.
"It’s a way for women to bond and forge friendships," says Sherri Rowley, owner of Scrapper’s Garden. "It’s a great way to make friends and get ideas. Women will help each other out."
The current phenomenon of scrapbooking began with a confluence of events in the late 1990s, says Joanna Campbell Slan, a Missouri-based author of seven scrapbooking books, including the soon-tobe-released "Best of British Scrapbooking 2004."
Slan says a movement to preserve treasured family photographs in safe albums coincided with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah putting its genealogical records online.
"Suddenly women had the supplies and the knowledge (of their family’s genealogy)," Slan says. "If you draw a circle out from Utah, it would look as if somebody threw a pond in and it rippled out."
Publication of magazines such as Memory Makers and Creating Keepsakes, the latter of which is hosting the 2004 Arizona Scrapbook Convention on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Mesa, has helped take scrapbooking mainstream and turned it into a multimillion-dollar industry that has become one of the most popular hobbies in the United States.
On this particular Friday night at Scrapper’s Garden, one of the last storms of the monsoon season sprinkles droplets of rain. Streaks of lightning flash across the September sky as an all-time high of 42 women cram into the windowless classroom at Rowley’s store.
For $7.50, these women will crop until midnight, have a pizza dinner and get a 10 percent discount on anything they buy in the store.
The evening begins with an anxious search for one’s assigned seat. Each woman has in tow what looks like a suitcase on wheels. It’s a tote filled with tools that probably would give Olympic powerlifter Shane Hamman a challenge.
"In the beginning you buy all this stuff," say Nancy Milbrandt, a project manager from Mesa. "I bought all this stuff and I couldn’t figure out how to start."
"We like to joke that scrapbooking should have a 12-step program," says Amy O’Neil of Gilbert, who took a part-time job at Scrapper’s Garden in help fund her hobby.
Getting these women to divulge exactly how much they spend on their scrapbooking habit is like prying a state secret out of the government.
"We won’t tell," Andrea Da les of Chandler says adamantly.
Christofolo says she and her husband have an understanding. "Well, I come here. And he goes to the bar."
"Hey, are you talking about me?" Kelly Smith asks as she settles into her assigned seat next to Christofolo.
"We all like to catch up on what’s going on in school," Dales says of the Friday night crops.
"It gets hard with the kids," Christofolo says as she applies adhesive tape to photographs of her father-in-law, who died after her daughter’s first birthday. These memorial pages will go into her daughter’s scrapbook.
As the evening gets under way, the volume level steadily increases. These women will scrap and chat about their jobs and families until last call at 11:30 p.m., when Rowley asks them to check out.
"We’d like to stay past midnight," Christofolo says. "Your brain is still going and you have all these ideas (for pages) in your head."