Thursday, February 16, 2012
Salinas’ Melissa Coventry, owner of Legacy Paper Arts, is a working entreprenuer, which isn’t terribly surprising. It’s the work, scrapbooking, that is.
Forget the construction paper and stickers of old. Coventry’s layouts take the craft to a whole new place. Her site scrolls all sorts of themes. “Backyard Adventures” sees a turtle curl beneath a tire swing as fireflies buzz across the page. Ruffled paper petals stretch away from the pastel butterflies in the background of “Spring Flowers.” Swirls of aqua and cobalt break in waves across three water slides as part of “Splash.”
Each of Coventry’s specifically crafted layouts share this attention to detail. All they require is a bit of basic assembly. A fully crafted page costs $18.
Her career came into being as part of a surge of the niche hobby that got its start with geneology-obsessed Mormon housewives taking family histories to a whole new level of sophistication.
“Aficionados juggle a dizzying array of paper punches and themed stickers and specialty papers as well as a host of conferences, trade shows and websites to advise them on their assorted scrapbooking needs,” writes graphic designer and blogger Jessica Helfand, who also wrote Scrapbooks: An American History. “It’s at once horrifying and fascinating to witness the degree to which design is being discussed online by people whose concept of innovation is measured by novel ways to tie bows; whose appreciation of photography is ordained by goofy framing techniques; and whose understanding of typography is rather heavily weighted toward pastel drop shadows and generously kerned lowercase script.”
Coventry acknowledges the most typical factor in her atypical career is picky customers. One client freaked over the subtle presence of lavender in a design meant for boys. Another desperately needed a precise shade of green she called “pea pod” for a wedding spread.
“I get some really specific requests,” Coventry says.
Dawna Wimsatt of Moreno Valley is one of Coventry’s loyal clients. Like many, she makes her children the subjects of her scrapbooking escapades.
“I wanted to make memories with my kids while also having time for myself,” she explains. “It’s been fulfilling for all of us. It seems like everything Melissa sends is so unique.”
Coventry gets inspiration from just about everywhere. She takes color schemes from the aisles of Target and Pier 1. When she stumbled upon a magazine ad that showed cheerleaders jumping toward the corners, her logical next step was to turn the concept into a Halloween layout with monsters creeping toward cobwebbed corners. After her kids wrecked the kitchen in an egg-dyeing frenzy, she designed an “Egg Construction Zone” page.
Coventry travels around the country following scrapbook conventions, expecting to attend 12 this year after hitting 17 in 2011. Her convention duties involve showing off her designs in a booth, selling them to eager scrapbookers, and teaching layout arrangement classes.
The scrapbookers Coventry runs into at conventions aren’t surprised that she does this for a living – they’re sniffing the scrapbook glue too, after all – and they can see that her designs take work. Outside of convention walls, however, people are less exuberant: Coventry says she’s become used to reactions of disbelief and condescension from people who aren’t familiar with her world. Many often assume she works for Creative Memories, a company that throws home scrapbook parties (Coventry calls it the “Tupperware of scrapbooking”).
A number of her clients turn to the craft as a way of coping with tough times, something she calls “scrap therapy.” One woman used a collection of Coventry’s layouts to make a prayer book to help rediscover her religion. A grieving mother utilized Legacy designs to help process her son’s premature death. Another woman took emails that proved her husband’s infidelity to make a scrapbook that won first place in a convention contest.
Terri Hendee of Tuolumne turned to scrapbooking in hopes of memorializing her uncle. She didn’t realize was that it would also end up helping her grieve.
“Scrapbooking protects our heritage,” she says. “It protects who we are.”
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the scrapbook subpopulation’s traction: interest from the other sex. Until recently, Coventry rarely saw men at scrapbook conventions unless they were there to accompany spouses. Over the last two years she’s seen an influx.
“I think men are starting to realize that telling your story isn’t just for women,” she says. “It’s for everyone.”
Learn more at www.legacypaperarts.com or 455-7905.