Thursday, December 4, 2008

All That Glitter and Glue

Today's issue of features Joy Press' interview with Jessica Helfand, author of Scrapbooks: An American History.

Helfand's research into "the medium's rich pedigree" generated strong opinions from both professional designers and scrapbooking enthusiasts:
The design people called the scrapbookers "crapbookers," and the scrapbook people thought I was being a Yale elitist professor. There was one woman who said, "I'm a thoracic ER nurse, my husband is on disability and I have three kids and no money--this is the only pleasure in my life. How dare you criticize me?" And I thought, yes, how dare I?
Writing this book was very hard, because I couldn't soft-pedal my willingness to accept this as graphic design under the standards I believe are important. But I do recognize the instinct to want to put pen or paste to paper and commemorate some aspect of your life. It's just when you see this $2.6 billion industry and people critiquing each other's work as "cute"--it makes me break out in hives.
But we're talking about raising money for a documentary about this because, in a kind of Morgan Spurlock, "Supersize Me" view of an American phenomenon, it is a world unto itself. Why are women targeted in this treat-them-like-13-year-olds way? I went to one of these scrapbooking retreats, and it's all these women in their pajamas with snacks--Hostess Twinkies everywhere!
There's something about junk food being part of this. It's like, no husbands, I'm going to let myself go and look at pictures of my family and eat Twinkies. It's not really about design, so it's out of my league in terms of a critique, but it fascinates me sociologolically.

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