Scrapbooking Interview with Jill Davis, founder of scrapbook.com

Scrapbooking interview with Jill Davis, the founder of scrapbook.com network of websites. whose products, tutorials and FAQs can provide to both the new and advanced scrapbooker great resources and creative inspirations.

Join me as we find out how she got her start in scrapbooking, where she goes for her inspiration and her adventures with owning her own company. Here is my scrapbooking interview with her.

But first thank you Jill, for taking some time and answering a few of our scrapbooking questions. I am sure that allscrapbookingideas.com visitors will benefit from your knowledge.

Q1. How did you first become interested in scrapbooking?

My grandmother, a genealogist, found photos of most of her ancestors and many relatives. One summer while staying with her and Grandad, she shared her manila envelopes filled with vintage photos. In the evenings after her work and my play, she told me stories about the people in those photos.

They were stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Granny told me I could leave any legacy I wanted on planet earth. She gave me copies of each of her photos and we started my first connections to family and friends via a scrapbook at age eleven.

I have friends who have become avid scrapbookers because of the birth of their first child. Others started scrapbooking because they needed friends and a break from being with children all day.

Q2. In your opinion, why do beginning scrap bookers find scrapbooking so intimidating?

I think we all let ourselves be intimidated at times whether a beginner or veteran. After nearly four decades of scrapbooking I can let myself get intimidated when I get caught up in perfectionism or self-doubt.

The key for avoiding intimidation, for me, is to look at the work of others and be grateful they would share. Because I understand how to use scrapbooking tools and equipment, I can only imagine what someone new to this craft might feel looking at everything that’s available.

Just the wonder of how to use items and make layouts would be daunting. There is a learning curve and a person needs to be willing to read, ask and be instructed to learn new skills.

I still attend classes and read up on new techniques to stay engaged and knowledgeable in the industry. It helps for us all to remember the adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We all need to be brave enough to take first steps.

The products and tools available today make it possible to create things that were previously only manufactured in factories. For example, we can make our own spiral bound albums, die cuts and layouts in computers, to name a few. My father used to tell me if you have the right tools and passion you can do any task. It’s true.

My first scrapbooking tools and supplies were scissors, non-acid free pens, rubber cement and construction paper; and my early layouts reflect my skills, and the knowledge utilizing those tools.

Interestingly, the only place I could purchase archival quality paper and cardstock back then was thorough a mail order catalogue for libraries. I think cost, fear of “getting it wrong,” and not wanting to add more to our busy lives might amplify our trepidation.

When I focus on creating a layout for future generations and those I love, I rarely feel intimidation. Instead I feel excited, grateful and connected (a sense of belonging).

Q3. What are some of your favourite scrapbooking products? Is there one particular item that you feel is a "must-have" for any scrap booker?

I have many “favorites” because they help me get my creative thoughts and my style out of my head and heart and onto paper. My all-time favourites are cardstock and ink—in any color. Because I’ve figured out my basic preferred style (I like things grungy and unpredictable) I tend to purchase things that work with that style, first. I turn mental cartwheels when I find an unusual or interesting way to use paper.

I have played with paper and ink my entire life and encourage beginners to take note of what they love to work with and then get more. They’ll start creating right away when they are working with things they are familiar with or they like.

I enjoy going to the Scrapbook.com Gallery to see the creative work of others and usually end up with more motivation and insight than I’m able to use. I make myself try something new on a regular basis.

If I were a beginner and wanted to scrapbook right away, I’d sign up for the Beginner Scrapbooking class at Scrapbook.com – it’s free and in addition to a list of basic tools you get quality instruction and extremely valuable information. It took several years for me and my staff to get the class materials together for the Web but we didn’t rest until the task was accomplished.

I’d start with the three weeks of daily emails and then get on and active Beginner message board and ask questions. Most scrapbookers are kind, thoughtful, helpful and encouraging. If you find they aren’t go to a different website.


Q4. How important is scrapbooking to you, outside of it being your livelihood?

When I started Scrapbook.com something very interesting happened, my hobby became a job. If I’m not careful, the “job” takes over and any pleasure I derive from scrapbooking flies out the window. I’ve had to learn the delicate balance needed to keep memory preservation and livelihood working together.

For example, I used to take assignments from our Marketing Director to make layouts from specific products. These layouts were to show visitors to the sight different ways of using the products. One day, as I stood in my home studio wondering which photos I could “make work” for the product sitting in front of me, I felt like crying. I realized that I was spending precious hours of my life making layouts for strangers instead of making layouts for my family’s history.

Our viewers were creating for their families, so why wasn’t I? Some of the products I used for assignments were things I would have chosen to use for my scrapbooks, but I needed to make a change. I had a meeting with the director and we decided I would start creating for fun again. I’m much happier and creative and interestingly, we’re still able to accomplish our creative goals at work.


Q5. How did you come up with the idea to start Scrapbook.com?

When I look at the big picture of life I believe I was destined to start Scrapbook.com. I’m not more special than anyone -- opportunity knocked, I was in the right place at the right time, and I saw it for some reason. I never dreamed that what I wanted to do then, would ever become what it is now, however.

I was a calligraphy teacher in the community, and I loved to scrapbook. One day while driving home from grocery shopping I saw a temporary sign on a new shop that said “Scrapbooking.” I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car and looked in the windows. There was a woman inside so I asked her through the glass if she needed a teacher. A day later I had a job.

Over the next few years I taught at other stores too, and after every class students would ask if I could leave my samples at the store so they could learn more from them. Because I travelled to teach and needed my samples, I couldn’t accommodate the requests. I finally decided I needed to find a way to put my samples on a website where they could be viewed 24/7.

As the plans developed and the reality was in sight I realized not only did I want to share, but I wanted anyone who had something to contribute to be able to share too. It took two years to get the domain name and the website built. My husband reduced his professional workload, and we worked together.

The days and weeks were long and we had many weeks where we each logged 80 hours. After the initial launch we adjusted the leadership roles with other family members who wanted to be involved, and they came on board. My husband went back to his profession, full time.

The leadership at Scrapbook.com now includes each of our grown sons who are talented, innovative and brilliant. Our staff is like family to me. They too are talented, creative and dedicated beyond anything I could write here. I have learned how to step back and let everyone at Scrapbook.com do what needs to be done with an ever-changing website, economy and user base.

Our goals at Scrapbook.com are still the same as in those early years and we continue to build and restructure the site to make it better than ever, so scrapbookers worldwide can have a home, share their talents and ideas, and find the scrapbooking products they need.


Q6. What was the main reason that made you start www.scrapbook.com?

I have the entrepreneurial spirit, so that’s what “made” me start the company in the beginning. I come from a family of people who own their own businesses, so starting one wasn’t a scary or a crazy idea at all; in fact it was exciting, exhilarating, and rewarding.


Q7. Scrapbook.com has been on line since 1999, almost 12 years! How has the journey been so far?

Like any journey we take, it’s been exciting, stimulating, and exhausting all at the same time. In all honesty, there have been days when I’ve been ready to “go home and have the journey end.” All of us at Scrapbook.com have normal, everyday lives like you do. I have lived the realities of everyday life while working at a fledgling company I love and appreciate. I’ve experienced our children leaving home to go out on their own, their marriages, new members welcomed into our family in the form of daughters-in-law, a son-in-law and grandbabies all while developing Scrapbook.com. I’ve also experienced a life-altering disease from a Lyme infected tick during this past decade which keeps me from doing some of the things I want to do. But, I’ve found ways to cope and even be victorious.

Scrapbook.com has saved many lives, including mine. It has helped me to keep going and engaged in something good when I thought I was too tired and ill to keep going. I receive emails, cards and gifts from people all over the world who have been nurtured by what happens at Scrapbook.com. From a young, abused woman in Africa (who found the courage from our message boards to leave an abusive companion) to a home-bound woman in Montana, all are so grateful for the connections they have to other woman who care and search for a better life. That’s what we are really about at Scrapbook.com--a better life.


Q8. What can we expect to see from you in the future?

We will continue to be the #1 scrapbooking destination on the Web and offer everything we can to make scrapbooking the “nirvana” people are looking for. Look forward to our holiday videos, like our 2010 “Its Always Sunny in Here” on YouTube. These videos are one way our creative team get to use and nurture other talents they possess. Many of our innovations come from the Scrapbook.com community. So, in the future, as in the past, we will continue to implement ideas and requests from that community.


Q9. What advice will you give our follow scrapbook readers, who might be interested in earning a living doing what they like most? What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming part of the scrapbooking industry?

I would first caution someone interested to really consider that what they love and enjoy will become their “job” and take on a different meaning. That’s not necessarily bad, but if you aren’t ready, it will be disconcerting.

It will be a challenge to learn how to make a new business profitable and successful. They will need to surround themselves with GOOD and HONEST people who know how to do things they don’t know how to do.

They will need to be willing to give up unreal expectations for sound business practices. There will be long hours for which they won’t get paid and home life and business will both be stressed.

If you are healthy and can give effort when no one else will, you’ll succeed. Safeguard your health with good sleep, exercise and nutrition. Take breaks and don’t have all your conversations be work related. My family has a rule that we don’t talk business when we’re together outside of the business. This way we nurture relationships, gain perspective (by getting away) and get much needed breaks filled with fun. Keep your immune system strong and you’ll be able to accomplish your heart’s desires.

I encourage family first and business second, that’s my humble opinion. Nothing is more heart breaking to me than to see children or a spouse struggle on-their-own, while a business owner gives their all to strangers. We all must work to make a living or be supportive to someone who does. That’s life. But if one doesn’t have to work while young kids are at home, why do it? If not working isn’t an option, one can find ways to keep family intact if family is nurtured and placed first.

If someone is truly interested in the industry, they should to go to the semi-annual, CHA trade shows. They are held in January and July. CHA is where retailers and service providers meet the manufactures in the industry, become acquainted with their products (old and new), collect catalogues set up accounts and solidified relationships. There are fees to become a member and attend. It’s worth the money and time.

People continue to ask how we run Scrapbook.com from our garage. Scrapbook.com was never in our garage and never will be. That would have taxed our family more than needful, so I encourage those interested in doing something online to find warehousing, a fulfilment center, or storage facility for their product. Be cautions of opening a retail store in a down economy.

If someone wants to take on the job of making albums for others, make sure you have contacts, policies and procedures and fair pricing for the client and them. If you think you will attract more customers by lowering your prices you are probably right, but you’ll not make as much money in the long run. Charge more than you think you’re worth – some tend to see their efforts as meagre or invaluable. It’s always easier to lower a price or have a sale than to have price increases to save a struggling business.

Digital scrapbooking kits are a good example of price mismanagement. Artists made kits, which they sold on the Web. They made a profit which kept them interested in making more kits. Then some helpful, but not so smart, people began giving kits away – working for nothing. This made the digi kit market unstable and diluted and consumers began expecting FREE all of the time.

Undercutting was the rampage and those who sold for profit had to give up more in order to compete. Don’t get me wrong, I think giving gifts of labor are admirable, but not at the expense of the efforts of others who must make a living with what they do. Sound business skills would have kept the digi industry viable, interesting and more lucrative for those producing.


Q10. In your own Opinion what are the five drawbacks to scrapbooking, whether finding the supplies, ideas, etc.?

I can only tell five? LOL I’m sure a drawback for me wouldn’t necessarily be a drawback from someone else, but I’ll list some of the common drawbacks I’m aware of.

1 - Disorganization of products: Products and tools need to have a home so you can scrapbook when you have a few minutes or hours. An organized tote, closet, area or room offers peace of mind and more productivity. Organized files on a computer for digital scrapbooking, is a must too.

2 - Not having a purpose. People scrapbook for multiple reasons; to preserve memories, for stress relief, for creative expression, etc. When you know why you scrapbook and where you want to ultimately end up with in a project you’ll be scrapbooking on purpose. For example, I have perpetual albums I add to on a regular basis.

I also make single, theme albums for special events/occasions, and I make gift albums/projects too. When working on each, I know what is needed for each and how I will accomplish the task, thus conserving time and money. This approach helps me stay focused when I have time to work, and I don’t get distracted by unrelated things.

3 - Not learning how tools and supplies work and how they can be used on layouts and cards before using them. When I was teaching several years ago I watched a woman excitedly purchase her first pair of decorative-edged scissors.

While I was assisting other students she opened the package and proceeded to trim the edges of all of her photos – about 25. By the time I’d made it around the room and focused on her, it was too late. Had she taken a minute to ask about decorative scissors and how they could/should be used in scrapbooking, she would have only trimmed photo mat edges, thus preserving the integrity of her original photos.

Digital photography, scanning original photos and being able to print what we need when we need it has changed how scrapbooking is done. If I was to use acidic items on my layouts for the sake of “art” then I really don’t have to be concerned for the safety of the photos anymore because they can be reprinted.

If you make a comment on the back of a layout that contains acidic embellishing detailing where the photo is stored on your computer or elsewhere the problem is solved – unless of course, you don’t store your photos in an online storage system like Mozy or Carbonite to keep them safe from a computer crash. These are a few examples of understanding how products and tools work.

I also want to encourage digital scrapbookers to print their layouts from time to time so their family can enjoy them in an album. I’ve yet to see a child who would rather look at layouts in a computer than in a book. Also, print out the photos you want scrapbooked.

4 – Using too much patterned paper and embellishments on a layout. I rarely use an entire sheet of patterned paper for a layout. The practice of doing so can make a layout way too busy and overshadow the photos. I like to cut up patterned paper for layers to go on top of a coordinating piece of cardstock. Embellishments (die cuts, stickers, buttons, gems, ribbon, metal findings, etc.) should be like the jewelry on an outfit. When in doubt, go for simple sweetness. 5 - Spending money for things you don’t need and won’t use. When you take time to learn your basic style you can avoid costly purchases of things you won’t use.

Because I love to hand lettering I enjoy looking for new tools to help me in that area of scrapbooking. One day I saw a demonstration of a tool that helped one transfer lettering from, say a magazine, to a layout. I let myself get caught up in the hype and purchased the equipment thinking I’d save time. Not so.

I soon realized that by the time I pulled the system out, set it up and made the transfer I would have been finished doing the lettering by hand. Resist buying tools that help you be proficient at something you’re already good at. For example: If you can cut straight lines by hand with a pair of scissors, don’t invest in a super fancy paper trimmer. Get a simple one and keep your personal cutting skills sharp with practice.

Q11. What are your top 5 favourite scrapbooking ideas to share with others?

1 - Design elements: First, layer papers to create more color, texture and depth on layouts. Next, keep paper colors and patterns in the same families (tones, tints, shades, pure color, etc. and don’t mix modern patterns with, say, vintage patterns). And finally, use contrast.

If you look out in nature on a sunny day there are shadows and highlights to complete the beauty and give it dimension. Layouts need some black and white in them too (in the pen journaling, matting, etc.) to create contrast and depth. All of these elements add up to layouts that are interesting to look at AND create.

In my experience as a teacher and friend to scrapbookers, design rules are something a lot of people don’t understand, but though they are not always intuitive, are easy to learn. Several years ago I wrote a series of eBooks we sell at Scrapbook.com that assist scrapbookers in understanding basic design elements.

2 - Use what you have. I like to purchase paper kits and then see how many layouts, cards and projects I can get from each. I usually end up with over 10 layouts, five to ten cards and some scraps for stash, PLUS I give multiple sheets of paper to friends and family so they can enjoy the kit contents too. One of the challenges I give myself is to use only my scrap stash to make layouts for a few days. The results are very rewarding.

3 – Record the stories. What’s a layout without a story or the journaling? I start any journaling session with the following statement in my head and then answer it in my writing. “I need you to know this because….” I always find a heartfelt response and wonderful stories unfold during the process.

4 - Hang layouts-in-progress where you can see them from a distance. When we step back from a project we’re able to see what needs to be added to the layout next. I like to hang finished layouts up in my home for the rest of the family to enjoy for a while before they go into albums.

Once in my gallery at Scrapbook.com I email them to family and friends so they are sure to have a chance to see them. A woman I know has an ever-changing gallery on her kitchen wall for newly finished and fresh layouts.

5 - Make an idea notebook or album where you save pictures of layouts that have elements of design or techniques you want to try and where you can make notes. I also categorize layouts in my My Place at Scrapbook.com which serves the same purpose. If you like hard copies use an album. If you’re comfortable on the computer, get a My Place and start a gallery. When you do either, you’ll begin to see what your personal style and tastes are and be able to grow with them and make adaptations.

Q12. As you probably already know, scrapbooking can easily become an expensive hobby. What is your best tip for the crafter on a tight budget?

Don’t be lured in by a sale or a new item unless it’s something YOU KNOW you will use. I scrapbook to preserve family history and nurture the self-worth and value of each family member. I also scrapbook to increase my artistic abilities.

When I keep those purposes in the forefront, I don’t overspend or end up with things I’m disappointed in. I try to avoid impulse purchases. I live by the motto: “Make it over, wear it out, fix it up or do without.” I’ve had people tell me that I’m lucky to be able to get free product from our company. This always makes me laugh because the reality is I pay a high price for those items in wages, insurance, rent, inventory, shipping boxes, marketing, servers, utilities, etc. It would be less expensive to purchase product from someone else and not have the business. Enjoy what you can afford and make beautiful and memorable creations with it.

Q13. Do you have any other advice for our readers?

Fear and thought parasites are our biggest enemies as human beings. Thought parasites are thoughts that aren’t true but we believe are true. If I listened to and believed the ridiculous thoughts that pop into my head sometimes about my talents, I’d never do anything. Limiting beliefs don’t serve us and will never produce the “art” and the “meaning” we want to express in scrapbooking. Who wins when you document something about your family? Who looses when you don’t? It’s that simple to me.

Whether you’re a minimalist, purest, or collage-art scrapbooker, you’ll enjoy what you do when you allow yourself the right to do it without personal judgement (or worrying about others’ judgements). Scrapbooking can take you to a place of complete well-being and be therapeutic. This type of “therapy” is inexpensive compared to the cost of using businesses, therapists, institutions and corporations dedicated to providing wellbeing for individuals at a high price. Remember, if the memories you’re preserving are worth your time, money and talents they are invaluable and priceless, and so are you. Scrapbooking is a great investment in you and your family.

I appreciate being asked for this interview and wish you, the reader, a happy and fulfilling scrapbooking adventure and journey.

My best,

Jill Davis, founder, Scrapbook.com


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