A cut above the rest

"Katie Hughes' life is an open book - a whole shelf-full of books, actually, that chronicle her family's day-to-day adventures.Hughes is what's known a scrapbooker. She's one of a growing number of Americans who aren't satisfied just to stick the family photos in an album. She puts her family's pictures into pages like the ones shown here, that combine her artistic talents with journal entries that tell about the people in the pictures and the moment when the photos were taken.She does it so well that she's just been named one of the top 25 scrapbook makers in the United States by Creating Keepsakes, a national magazine devoted to the art and craft of making scrapbooks.Scrapbook hobbyists were invited to send in eight of their best pages and the magazine received more than 17,000 pages for the contest. Hughes says she was stunned to learn that she was among the winners.All eight of her pages were published in the summer issue of the quarterly magazine and she received a $500 cash prize, along with a big box of scrapbooking supplies that will help her put together a few more books of family memories.Hughes is a mother of four, twins Tanner and Taylor, 7; Riley, 3 going on 4; and 5-month-old Zachary. Her husband, Chris, is an operating room technician at the Navy hospital. They family has lived in Oak Harbor for the past four years, but they'll soon be heading back to Utah, their home state, when Chris finishes up 10 years in the Navy.I started making this kind of scrapbook when we first moved here, Hughes said. She'd kept scrapbooks of her teen years, but they were pretty much your ordinary stick-it-in collections of bits and pieces. Once she got started, she learned so fast that she was soon giving lessons at Oak Harbor's one scrapbook store, Patchwork Memories in Pioneer Way. She also began to design sample pages for the store, to demonstrate the use of new products. And there are many of those. Scrapbook enthusiasts can choose from hundred of different specialty papers, stickers, trims, letters, rubber stamps, decorative trims and borders and idea books to make their pages. There are also dozens of intriguing tools, such as circular cutters and pattern wheels. Hughes also helps out at the shop's occasional 12-hour scrap-a-thons, a 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. scrapbooking binge, where the shop supplies the space to work and specialty equipment and scrapbook makers can settle in and get a lot accomplished, without interruptions. And twice a month there are five-hour ladies night sessions for working on scrapbooks.I always had loved creativity, Hughes said. I really hadn't done this kind of scrapbooking, but I just jumped in. As well as trying different things, she also did a lot of reading and was soon giving lessons on such things as how to use brass templates, card stock and specialty papers which come in different textures.But photographs are the heart of any good scrapbook, and in the process of making her books, Hughes says she found a love for photography. She takes lots of pictures and tries to keep a camera handy all the time.She's also working through those boxes and boxes of family photos going back for years that most people have.She puts her pages together using all those supplies that are available to scrapbookers, plus her computer. She prints out fancy headlines in a variety of type-faces, which she often embellishes with color pencils and art elements. The captions are often hand-lettered, but she also uses the computer sometimes. When it comes to the words, she often asks her boys what they'd like to say about a particular picture, which helps to make the books a family record.People are very interested in preserving their memories, she said. I hope that with these scrapbooks, our children and our children's children will know what we did and where we went. It can be a time-consuming hobby.Hughes says she would like to be able to put in 10 to 15 hours a week, to keep caught up. I've never actually been caught up, she said. But there have been times when I've been less behind.And as with any hobby, you can spend as much as you are willing to. A book can be elaborate and expensive, or real simple, Hughes said. It doesn't require a lot of money.Now that the family is packing up to leave Whidbey Island, Hughes says she is particularly glad that they have a scrapbook record of their time here. We're leaving a place we're really going to miss, she said. We have a lot to look at and remember ... friends and fun places.She hopes that 100 years from now, members of her family will treasure her books as family history.It's my journal, she said. So they can know how I felt.----------------Scrapbook tipsWant to get started making scrapbooks?* Begin by sorting out those boxes of photos we all have according to when they were taken, says Katie Hughes. Break them up into five-year time spans, then sort again into one year groups. * Start with your current pictures and work backwards. It's more fun that way because everything is fresh in your memory and it takes away the pressure of trying to catch up with pictures accumulated since 1970. * Decide how you want to make your albums. Hughes uses large ring binders designed to hold individual pages in clear plastic protective sleeves. That way you can add to the scrapbook at any time.* Don't try to use all your pictures. Pick out the best. But if you have only one picture of a person, or an event, don't dismiss it because it's not very good. Memories are more important than quality, Hughes says.* Hughes says her scrapbooks have improved as she's learned more about photography. She's learned to get in close, and to try to catch her kids in natural situations, doing whatever they are doing. I want to show the emotion of the moment, she says.* If you need some help getting started, sign up for a classes. In Oak Harbor, classes are offered regularly at Patchwork Memories. Call 679-6560. "

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