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Crafting My Sanity

by Julianne McKenna 7 days ago in crafts · updated 6 days ago

How scrapbooking saved me from myself.

Crafting My Sanity
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My earliest memories involving arts and crafts are of me sitting on the floor, drawing pictures, and coloring in. Forty-five years later, nothing has changed, except now I do more creative activities, and I sit at the table.

I can still remember when the Crayola twist crayons hit the market. You know the ones, they could be twisted up for more crayon lead as you ran out! I begged for them. I cried. I tried making deals with my mother. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, I received my Crayola's, and who'd have thought that something so simple, could make one child so happy. I was thrilled to have a new medium to color with. Did I mention that it also kept me quiet, and out of her way, for hours on end? I think she would have purchased them sooner if she had known this would be the result!

By Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

I have been drawn to all things artistic and colorful since I was able to hold a pencil. My 'happy place" has always been when I am being creative, and my brain slows enough to stop thinking about the everyday world. This in itself is a huge achievement, as my brain is constantly working, constantly thinking, and solving. At times, it does drive me crazy.

It has taken a lot of soul searching, and trial and error, to find that one artistic pursuit that fulfills my need for a continuous challenge. There is nothing that I love more than a challenge. It is an innate part of my personality. And once I have mastered a challenge, I tend to get bored very quickly. And then it's "next please!" as I move on.

At first, I thought there was something wrong with me. I realized quickly, that no, this is just how I am - once my brain has mastered something, the constant thinking starts again, and the only way to make it cease, is with a new challenge to solve. This has resulted in me trying and learning an insane number of creative pursuits - sewing, crocheting, cross-stitch, sketching and drawing, watercolor painting, oil painting, paper making, macrame, pottery classes, card-making, beading, stenciling, decoupage, mandala drawing, refurbishing furniture, gardening, and floristry.

By Rebecca Grant on Unsplash

The only skill that escaped me was knitting. For some unknown reason, my brain just couldn't comprehend the movements required with the knitting needles. Both my mother and grandmother attempted to teach me, both gave up in frustration. As did I. Fortunately, I was young enough to just accept this quirk, and move on, without beating myself up over my inability to master this craft.

For twenty-five years, I searched and searched for a craft that could bring me peace and tranquility, and stillness to my brain. My house has constantly been littered with new crafts, activities, and projects that I was undertaking. They all made me happy to some extent, but none could maintain that happiness. The boredom always returned. Eventually, I gave up and stopped searching, stopped creating. I became a shell of my creative self. I slowly fell into a depression that would stay with me for nearly eight years.

Without warning, all that changed in a single day. My partner and I had recently moved to a new neighborhood, and every day, to and from pre-school drop-off, I passed a store that said Scrapbooking With V.

"What the hell is scrapbooking?" I thought to myself.

By Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

I had absolutely no idea what it meant. One day, my curiosity got the better of me (I am a Scorpio, and curiosity is definitely my middle name), and I pulled up in the parking lot to find out more. Walking into the store, I suddenly felt like I had found heaven. It was filled to overflowing with papers, flowers, stamps, paints, inks, glitter, and a whole lot of color. I was mesmerized and spellbound and felt like a child in a candy store. Without hesitating, I booked in for my first scrapbook lesson.

That first lesson, was a lightbulb moment and a major turning point, not just in my life, but for my career path. Learning how to use the papers, flowers, and embellishments to create a layout felt like second nature as if I had been doing this all my life. I was fascinated, I was hooked, and I knew instantly, that this was what I had been searching for in all my creative pursuits.

Why scrapbooking? What was so different about this craft, you ask? The answer to these questions took me a while to figure out. I didn't understand at first, why this craft made my heart happier, and more at peace with myself than any other craft I had learned. After all, it was just another craft, and not that different from many of the others I had dabbled in before I found scrapbooking. With this knowledge and understanding, I stumbled across my answer - scrapbooking was in fact, a combination of so many of the crafts I had already learned. It took everything I already knew and enjoyed doing and rolled it into one big ball of creative happiness, peace, and joy.

By Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

At that very moment, scrapbooking became my therapy. It helped me to heal my forgotten, creative soul that had been suffering for so long. I took my sewing and cross-stitch skills and used them to create decorative borders and backgrounds on my layouts. I took my quilling skills and made paper flowers and swirls to embellish my layout. If I wanted to create a unique background for my pictures, I used water paints and inks. I took my pastel chalks and stencils and made more unique backgrounds. If I wanted to record details, I used my love of the English language and journaled on my layout. And if I wanted to get messy and grungy, I used mixed-media mediums to create that aesthetic.

I didn't think scrapbooking could get any better than what it was, but it most certainly did. Two things happened. Firstly, I found what insiders call "fussy-cutting". This involved cutting fine, detailed images, most often flowers, butterflies, and birds, from a sheet of scrapbooking paper, with small, extremely sharp scissors. Of all things that could still my mind, I would never have guessed that this would be it. I had finally found the inner peace that I had been searching for for so long. I could happily sit for hours, just cutting image, after image. This is what saved me from myself, and my constantly over-thinking brain.

Secondly, I had an epiphany. Why did I never become bored with scrapbooking? Because it was forever changing, and that satisfied my insatiable need for a challenge. It was not a "static" craft where once you learned the basic skills that was it, all done. This was a craft where new products, new tools, new techniques, and new mediums for creating, were constantly being released onto the market. No sooner than you learned how to use one technique, tool, or medium, another would be developed, and you would need to learn that too. Nothing stayed the same. This meant I would never grow bored. There was always something new to learn.

By Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Scrapbooking has become an integral part of my life and saved my sanity along the way. I have found and made the most amazing friendships, with women from all around the world, and all walks of life. We regularly gather for retreats, exhibitions, and teaching classes. We laugh, we share stories and pieces of our lives, we learn from each other, we support each other and offer advice, hugs, or the voice of reason when needed. We all take a gazillion photographs, and we all struggle deciding which one to scrap first! This is what makes scrapbooking the best cure for finding your inner peace.

My creative abilities have allowed me to be fortunate enough to design for companies such as Helmar USA, Kaisercraft, Couture Creations, and Zva Creative. My layouts have been published in both national and international magazines such as Scrapbooking Memories, Scrapbook Creations, and Scrapbook Trends. Finally, scrapbooking allowed me to become the proud owner of Scrapbook Kits With A Difference, formerly known as Scrap With V. One amazing craft took me full circle.

Fifteen years on, many other things in my life have changed. My daughters have grown up, I have moved to another state, my marriage has dissolved, a new relationship has grown, my career path has changed again, and we are now in the midst of a Pandemic. But one thing remains constant - I scrapbook every day to find and keep my inner peace. It's incredible to think that the one craft that took me thirty-five years to find, is the only craft that has grown and changed with me. Every day, it saves me from myself, and I am truly grateful that I once again, love life.

By Amy Treasure on Unsplash

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Julianne McKenna
Julianne McKenna
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Julianne McKenna

I write because my heart tells me to, I read because I love stories that make my eclectic soul happy. I'm an artist, scrapbooker, book nerd, animal lover, traveller and free spirit. Twitter: @JulesMcKenna13 Instagram: @theblingprincess

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