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I've always enjoyed and appreciated arts and crafts, but have never really given myself credit for being able to create something beautiful with my own hands. My best friend and her mother-in-law have been into making their own gift tags and greetings cards for some time now, and recently introduced me to the art of scrapbooking.
Why I bought the book
I decided I would give crafting a scrapbook a go for my recent holiday to Florida, and purchased a copy of Scrapbook Page Maps by Becky Fleck.
Having never embarked on a creative project of this scale or nature for that matter, I knew I would struggle and perhaps leave it once I'd started it, which would have been really disappointing given the sentimental importance of the images I was looking to scrapbook.
Having a basic sketch to draw from, get an idea of measurements and what layouts would suit pages of the size I wanted to fill was of importance to me, as it gave me a sense of comfort. Not necessarily because I'd know I was "doing it right", but I felt I could envisage where I was going with my own ideas.
About the Author
According to the back of the book, Becky Fleck is a graphic designer and illustrator, and has owned her own design agency for more than 15 years. Her work has been published extensively in various media, and she also teaches at exhibitions, conventions and craft stores.
In the prologue of the book, she says that her friends were forever asking her when she would write a book about scrapbook sketches. She found herself being particularly creative in her drawings when watching her favourite American football team play, and made a habit of drawing sketches throughout the season when her inspiration levels were at their highest. She started off posting them online to help others fight creative blocks, and eventually ended up publishing this book back in 2008.
In this book, she combines her own ideas with those of another 14 incredibly talented artists to give you a more varied idea of what makes a good page layout.
Chapter One - Using Sketches and Making Them Your Own
At the beginning of this chapter, Becky tells us that she used to love cooking as a child, and that the reader should imagine a sketch like their favourite recipe. You bring all the ingredients together (pictures, writing, embellishments and paper), and follow the sketch like a recipe's instructions. Yet as you become more confident, you may add new ingredients, skip a stage, try new techniques or spice it up a little.
I think this is quite a nice way of looking at it, as she basically tells you not to be frightened to changing things about, or be frightened to try out new ideas. The lovely thing is until you stick it in you are not resigned to keeping any element of the page on your layout.
This chapter shows you 16 black and white sketches, and throughout the chapter we are provided with 36 colour images of the artist's interpretations of her original sketch. The quality of the photos is brilliant, as you can really see depth in the image, which is particularly important if the layout uses 3D embellishments.
The other great thing here is that the layouts are designed to fit different page sizes, those being: 8 ½ x 11 inches (both vertical and horizontal layouts, as well as double spreads) and also 12 x 12 inches (both single and double spread layouts).
Not only that but the book shows you how to make your own decorated embellishment picture frame, how to add another dimension to titling by paint flecking the chipboard letters, and how to bring a photo to life by layering colour chunks of the image onto a black and white version of the image.
Chapter Two - The Versatility of Sketches
At this beginning of this chapter, the focus is more on being able to adapt a layout drawn for a particular size to another page size, and not having to conform to measurements. She says, "I encourage you to abandon the notion that you have to follow the sketches of this book exactly as they are drawn."
This time there are 16 sketches, and the artists have provided 41 layouts that adapt the design to different sizes of paper backgrounds. Due to the large amount of layouts presented in this chapter, there is only one suggested decorative technique in this section, which is customised embossed labels made using a label maker, for use in journaling about your photographs.
One thing I didn't mention about the layout images in chapter one and chapter two is that the layouts are captioned on some pages, showing what supplies were used to create the look and where they came from. This is quite useful, however you have to remember this is an American book so the supplies aren't so readily available here - check and see whether you can get them delivered online before you set your heart on specific items!
Chapter Three - One Sketch, Three Ways
This chapter takes ten sketches, and then several of the artists interpret them with their own individual styles and ideas. This is to show you how one idea can create different visions for different people.
This results in 29 different layouts - but 3 times 10 is 30 I hear you say! This is because one of the artists choses to combine two of their ideas as a double page spread, which I would count as one layout.
The technique shown here is creating a beaded embellishment with acetate and craft glue.
I particularly like this section because the layouts give you a little bit of an insight into each artist's life by showing you who they have scrapbooked and why the event was worth scrapbooking. The layouts tend to be a bit more everyday than the ones I am creating for my holiday scrapbook, but I still think it is a lovely idea to capture moments that otherwise would go unnoticed.
Chapter Four - From Simple to Savvy
This chapter is basically to help you leap from the relatively simple to much more intricate and difficult designs. There are 16 sketches here and 35 corresponding layouts.
These layouts differ from others in the book because they use different materials like hessian, 3D layering, and more adventurous paper pairings that beginners might be a bit frightening of attempting. Techniques explained here are embossing homemade buttons and stiffening fabric to use in your scrapbook.
This chapter flows straight on to single 12 x 12 page layouts designed to show you who the artists have been and tell you more about them. They are accompanied by gushing thank yous from the author, and I think this is a lovely touch as it really shows their personalities!
After that there is a source list, which gives you the telephone numbers and websites of the suppliers of the items used to create the layouts, which is really good, though again I must stress that this is an American book so be ever so careful if you want to call the companies, as it will cost you a fortune, and this kind of hobby is expensive enough as it is!
There is an index to help you source layouts by size, amount of photos used, or each of the techniques demonstrated. This is a really useful tool if you haven't marked pages that you are working from because it saves you a lot of time trying to find your layout!
This is a fantastic feature of this book. The author has designed 60 cards and a box to keep them in, which are copies of all the sketches provided in the book. On one side of the card you have the sketch and the page reference, and on the other side you have a full colour layout and a few bulleted materials to try on the layout.
These are perfect for putting in your bag when you go to Hobbycraft or your local craft store, as they aren't too big, but enough to see what you want and need if you want to make an exact replica, or to help you in choosing your own different colour schemes.
I haven't actually taken mine out of the pages yet, as I'm a bit pernickety in keeping all my things pristine, particularly books! But should I need to go and buy any materials based on a particular layout I will take it out and pop it in my bag.
I have found this book to be a real help in creating my holiday scrapbook. It has shown me not only how to chose elements that suit each other and my photos, but also how to bring my own personality across in my work. I will upload some photos of my scrapbooking as well as of the book so you can see what I have done with some of the ideas the book has presented me with.
I think ways this book could be improved is more of the step by step instructions for interesting and unusual techniques to make your scrapbook a little bit different, and also maybe sections on how to scrapbook for specific events like weddings, births, holidays, Christmas and so on.
I know that the author has since released further books with the same title with a 2 or a 3 added to the end of the title, but I haven't seen those so I don't know whether or not she has implemented any of my ideas for improvement in them, so it is possible. I do know that Scrapbook Page Maps 2 was cheaper than the original title when I bought this off Amazon!
I would conclude by saying this is a good purchase for someone who like me really wanted to get into this craft, but didn't really know where to start and wanted a bit of a helping hand to guide them through. I'm a little more confident in coming up with my own sketches now, but still like to flick through this book to see if my layout would be compatible with ones I have sampled from this book. It is possible to find these ideas online, but I like the convenience of having lots of ideas together in one place, in a book that I can read rather than sitting in front of my laptop screen all the time.
The book is currently £8.50 direct from Amazon in brand new condition, but the Amazon Marketplace shows you can get a copy for less than £5 if you are happy to have a used one. If you do get a used one do check your bonus cards are still attached or come with it because they will be handy I'm sure.
Amazon seems to be the cheapest place to buy this book apart from trusty old eBay where you might just get lucky with a bargain!
(Also published on Ciao)