writing

Project Life: the best project I started this year.

At the beginning of this year I started what has become one of my favorite projects EVER (ever ever): a Project Life photo journal. Some friends were talking about it on Twitter and a group of us decided to jump in and try it for 2014, and I'm glad I took the plunge - it has been such an easy and fun way to document the year, and this journal is already so precious to me. I thought it would be fun to start sharing some layouts here each month, and wanted to write up an intro first about what the heck I'll be going on about, my process, some pages I've done so far, and some resources and inspiration in case you're a fellow Project Lifer or are interested in learning more and getting started. 

OK, so, what is Project Life? 

Project Life is a pocket scrapbooking system started by Becky Higgins. The deal is simple: you get a binder album, a bunch of pocket pages, and a "core kit" which is a set of coordinating, cute cards with filler patterns, journaling space or prompts (so you can write a bit about the story behind your photos), or printed phrases. You slip your photos into the pockets, fill in empty pockets with the core kit cards, and just like that you have a nice scrapbook layout.! At heart it is a really simple way to make a cute memory album. I especially love that it's easy and casual enough that I don't feel weird about including pictures of the "little stuff" from our days, or pics I took on my phone. Since I'm making this yearly journal as the year progresses, I have this great memento with a record of our daily lives this year. I just love it.

Structure!

When I was looking into this project I noticed that most PLers do a weekly layout: a full spread every week of the photos and happenings from the week. That seems awesome! But I knew it would not work for me. Some weeks I have lots of photos, and some weeks I have very few, but on zero weeks do I need an extra task to do or a way to feel like I'm falling behind on something I'm doing for fun. Since I'm the boss of my Project Life (and there really aren't any official reasons to do a weekly spread - the cards and pocket pages are date-neutral and the system is super flexible), I decided to structure my album by month and I'm so glad I did! 

Each month I do a cover page with three consistent things: 

  • a card with the name of the month
  • a "currently" card where I list some details about our lives at the moment - what we're watching, reading, listening to, loving, etc.
  • the Scripture verse I'm memorizing that month

After that, I fill in the rest of the cover page pockets with photos and filler cards, and I'm ready for the month to begin. I figure as long as I have at least one full layout for a month, I'm happy.

Process! 

I tend to get my pictures printed about every other week (I use my Costco photo lab) but I don't always work on the actual pages right away - sometimes I don't have enough photos for a full page or spread, and sometimes I am just too busy. Before printing, I go through the photos I took that week, flag the ones I want to print, and then upload my order. I don't always use every photo I print - I tend to stick the ones I didn't put in the Project Life book up on my fridge and then rotate them out when I have new ones.

I have the Just Add Color core kit + pages, which have lots of small square 2X2 photos, so there have been a couple weeks where I've made square collages in Acorn so that I can print 6 small square pictures on one 4X6 photo and then cut that up to go in the small squares, but usually I either use the cute little 2X2 cards that came in the kit, or break up a larger picture and spread it out in multiple small pockets (I love that effect and find it is an especially good way to use the 20 million sunset pictures I seem to take, as they make a nice background).

Over the course of the year, I've settled into a groove when doing my layouts that works well for me whether I'm doing a single page or catching up on several full spreads: 

  1. Photos come first. These are the most important thing in the journal, so I play around with the photo placement before doing anything else and stick the pictures in the pockets when I've got it. For my kit, with all the square pockets, this involves cropping some pictures, usually to fit in the 4X6 squares. 
  2. Choose cards - this is fun! I go through my cards and find ones that will work with my photos - coordinating colors, cute phrases that match the mood or events, journaling cards. I figure out the placement for the cards, adjusting the photos if needed and then they go in the pockets.
  3. Corner rounding for the photos. This is optional but the filler cards are all rounded and I like everything to match.
  4. Journaling. I'm not a big journaler but I'm trying to write more as the year goes on. I do like to at least write down the date for events or really basic captions about where we are and what we're doing. To me, after a spread has all the pockets filled in, it's done, but putting and at least the date or occasion info on there is something I know I'll appreciate in the future.
  5. Embellishing. I consider this an extra, but sometimes little touches are SO fun. I tend to use metallic pens to write directly on photos, stickers and thickers on filler cards, and washi tape wherever I want. I am not a fan of really thick 3D scrapbooking embellishments in my Project Life book because I think they distort the pockets, but those Thickers letters and cardboard die-cuts can pop juuuuust enough. 

Organization!

I have two closets full of yarn and fiber and tubs full of fabric and other craft supplies in the garage... so I limit my Project Life stuff to one box on my lower coffee table shelf. Core kit, a few cute supplemental mini-kits, corner rounder, paper cutter, pens, some extra stickers. The in-progress book stays out on a side table in the living room. A big part of why I love PL is that it doesn't need so much "stuff." This isn't a really great organizing tip, sorry. "Don't buy too much." (Actually, maybe that's the best organizing tip.)

Inspiration!

  • As with so many things, Pinterest is a great place for Project Life inspiration! Here's my little board, but a search for "Project Life" will give you so many results.
  • I love the creative layouts from Elsie of A Beautiful Mess
  • Crumple and Toss has great spreads, plus she's hilarious and has a hedgehog.
  • Tickled Yellow's pages have this airy, clean feel that I adore.
  • Elise Blaha Cripe is especially great at breaking down her Project Life in a way that makes me think, oh hey, that idea rocks, now I want to try it too! 

Phew! That is a lot more than I intended to write but as you can probably tell, I'm really having a lot of fun with this. It has been awesome to have a long-term creative project that is seriously no-pressure. If you've been thinking about jumping in... just do it! Seriously. So fun. And if you're already doing Project Life and are posting your pages somewhere, please leave a link in the comments - I would love to check them out!

p.s. I am in no way affiliated with Becky Higgins or Project Life... I'm just a very enthusiastic person.

Recapping: Squam Art Workshops 2014

squam lake motion

To tell you the truth, before I went to Squam, I knew I would love it: crafting, classes, woods, friends, lake, hosting a fun event with my work teamies... these are all things I cherish. But the recaps I've read throughout the years were so effusive, with phrases like "magical experience" and "nurtured my spirit" and such, that it did cross my mind a few times: exactly how freakin' "magical" could this thing really be? 

Well, I gotta say, it was pretty darn magical. And yes, it really did nurture my spirit and left me deeply inspired. I loved it so much, and I am so grateful to Jess and Casey for bringing us here as a special Ravelry retreat!

SAW is held at the Rockwold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, NH, which I think for most of the summer is sort of like the Catskills family camp where Dirty Dancing took place? During the Squam Art Workshops, the campgrounds are taken over by happy makers there for the classes (the teachers are fantastic), the nature, and the camaraderie with other creative types. The schedule was great - apparently it has varied a bit over the years, but this year attendees chose two classes, each six hours long, to take over the course of three days. The second class was divided up over Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, which meant that we had the rest of those days open. There were optional activities we could do during that free time (yoga classes and special talks), or we could choose to go hiking, hang out in our cabins or at the docks or common areas, or go swimming in the lake (they also had kayaks and hydro-bikes to rent!). There were great evening events as well: a talk by Jared Flood, a poetry reading from Sarah Sousa, and the Saturday night Art Fair and Ravelry Revelry (which I wrote about on the work blog). 

Obviously this was all so relaxing! The most pressing decisions of my week seemed to be: get in the lake or take a yoga class? S'mores, an ice cream cone with sprinkles, or both? What a treat.

The first class I took was Narrative Truth, taught by Amy Gretchen. It was a photography class with a focus on telling stories and conveying emotions through our pictures, with some lessons on composition and technique to help us impart feeling into our photographs. I loved it, and it was a perfect class for the types of photos I like to take: capturing special little moments and the beauty around me in everyday life. I know I'll be thinking of Amy Gretchen's photo prompts and her emphasis on expressing the feeling behind the pictures whenever I take my camera out.

On the second and third days I took the Story in a Day class from David Anthony Durham, which was a creative writing class in which we worked on story prompt exercises and then wrote our own story. The thought of taking this class terrified me... which is exactly why I signed up for it. I can't think of a time in which I've ever written fiction (outside of school assignments) and I knew that this would be a safe, supportive environment for me to try this crazy thing. I am so, so glad I did. David's advice was practical and encouraging, the other students in class were supportive, and sure enough we all came up with stories! Feeling vulnerable but writing anyway, sharing our work in a cozy little lakeside cabin with the sounds of the water lapping against the dock in the background, was such a memorable experience. The act of pouring words out for something not-work-related was so much more fun than I expected. It definitely inspired me to start writing for fun - at least in this blog space again, and doing more journaling in my Project Life photo journal - and for that I am so thankful.

It was truly special, getting to have this experience with (and because of!) my Rav teamies. I know I'm so fortunate that a retreat with coworkers is something to get excited about, knowing that it will mean motivating, creative time with friends. Such joy! Squam: yep, it's super magical. I get it now. So grateful I had the chance to dive in.