Ten years ago, a co-worker introduced Jolene Oswald Barron to the world of scrapbooking.
Today, Jolene teaches the art to others, encouraging individuals to develop their own style as they build a visual record of life's events, both big and small.
Scrapbooking is a method of preserving personal and family history in the form of photographs, printed media, and memorabilia displayed in decorated albums, or scrapbooks.
The Tamaqua woman says everyone can join in the fun of scrapbooking and reap the rewards. It's a hobby that nurtures creative expression and thrives on individuality.
"With any craft, as you practice you'll get better and find what works for you. It's your own personal touch."
In 2000, Jolene was working as a grade school teacher in the Halifax Area School District, when a teacher's aide encouraged her to try her hand at creating a scrapbook of the students' activities and accomplishments.
Jolene took to the idea because it allowed her to experiment with creativity and incorporate her photography hobby into a new discipline. The end result was her first scrapbook a compendium of the life of her students, featuring images of the fun of learning and memories of a field trip to Indian Echo Cavern.
A few years later, Jolene began teaching at the Tamaqua Area School District and brought her scrapbook hobby back to her hometown. She's been doing it ever since. When she's not teaching elementary school students, Jolene hones her scrapbook skills and coordinates activities of her monthly paper craft class consisting of 10 women who've been meeting regularly for the past four years.
"We used to meet at our houses but very shortly we'll start meeting at Trinity Church," says Jolene.
Scrapbooking has many offshoot hobbies and the class is a good example.
"We do more paper crafts than scrapbooking," says Jolene, a graduate of West Chester State University. Still, many of scrapbooking's tricks of the trade are used at the session to help members create unique and personal gift-type items.
While scrapbooking can be done digitally, Jolene is a student of the more traditional form, the kind developed by Marielen Christensen of Spanish Fork, Utah. Christensen is often credited with reviving interest in scrapbooking in the United States. She began designing creative pages for her family's photo memories, inserting completed pages into sheet protectors collected in three-ring binders.
By 1980, Christensen had produced over 50 scrapbooks. She was invited to display them at the World Conference on Records in Salt Lake City. She and her husband later wrote and published "Keeping Memories Alive," and opened a scrapbook store.
The scrapbook hobby just seemed to spread like wildfire. It's a year-round activity, but is particularly popular during winter months, when people spend more time indoors.
Jolene says the common 12-inch by 12-inch, post-bound albums are preferred because "you can get more pictures and more embellishments onto a page. You don't need to do so much trimming."
In addition, most photos are 4 inches by 6 inches and fit nicely onto the square pages. Plus the colorful backing paper, or cardstock, comes in a standard 12-inch by 12-inch size, says Jolene.
Scrapbooking is fun for all ages but it can be a favorite hobby of younger folks because it is relatively inexpensive, yet produces dazzling results.
Albums can be found for as cheaply as $5 to $10 at stores such as A.C. Moore, Michael's, JoAnn Fabrics, Walmart, Ollies and other locations. It's also possible to spend as much as $40 to $50 for an album if a scrapbooker happens to have deeper pockets.
Those with computers find that they can print many images and patterns from online sources. Many also use digital cameras to take photos, then print the pictures using their PC and an inexpensive printer. Others simply use standard photo processing outlets to obtain images.
"The most expensive part is in the photo developing," says Jolene.
Other supplies are fairly inexpensive, as well. A papercutter might cost $12 and extra page protectors are available for little cost.
Perhaps the key resource is imagination, which is the best bargain. Imagination is free.
So what is the biggest obstacle for a novice scrapbooker?
Jolene says it's the sheer volume of available supplies and the unsure feeling of not knowing what to do.
"It can be overwhelming. Find someone who's done it and say 'what do I need?' It's the basics and start from there. You can start with a pair of scissors and a glue stick."
Jolene has a solid understanding of scrapbook raw materials because she serves as an independent consultant for 'Close To My Heart Scrapbooking and Stamping,' a supply source.
Jolene's favorite project was creating a scrapbook for Erika Barron, her husband's niece.
Erika was a basketball superstar who rewrote records during a stellar career at Tamaqua Area High School. She scored 2,317 career points and was named First Team All-State.
Jolene began work on the scrapbook when Erika was a freshman. She completed the project just before Erika's graduation, presenting the book to Erika and her parents as a graduation gift. The volume includes many TIMES NEWS sports stories and various accounts of Erika's history-making scoring run. Erika is now playing college ball and the album remains a prized possession of her family.
"I have stepchildren but I don't have my own children. So I tease her that she's my adopted daughter," says Jolene. "I love the idea that she can pass this down. She can share this with somebody and I know that I contributed to it."
That feeling of satisfaction is what the hobby of scrapbooking can do for those who embrace it. Scrapbookers express themselves in a way that's colorful, tangible and long-lasting.
"I love that idea ... of leaving a legacy, of leaving something behind," says Jolene.
Those interested in learning more about scrapbooking are welcome to contact Jolene at (570) 668-0281.