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art, craft, photo projects, scrapbook

Surprise! Birthday Memory Book

click to see full galleryAnother photo project, this one is a scrapbook for a milestone birthday — my brother’s 40th. If you just want to look at the photos, click the picture! For paper craft and scrapbook enthusiasts, though, let’s get to the project details!

Getting Started

I talked with my sister-in-law about the idea. Even though I planned to do all the craft work, the book wouldn’t be complete without his wife and kids’ contributions! After she agreed, I drafted a form letter that I sent out by email and regular post. Family members added people to the list, and we gave people several months to collect thoughts and photos.

Collecting Letters and Photos

Most letters arrived by email. Some people mailed in photos. I planned a visit a few months before his birthday (we live several thousand miles apart). During the trip, I collected old family photos. Once home, I scanned all the photos and returned the originals (eventually, Mom!).

Working with Old Photos

Several photos were quite old — one was an image of my great-great-grandparents! For these precious images, I went to a digital imaging specialist. They produced electronic copies, and archival copies. They also digitally restored damaged images, instead of using any chemicals to treat the originals. (I would happily refer them, however, they have since closed their business.) While handling the old photos, I used archival, acid-free gloves.

Organizing Content

Once all the letters and photos were ready, I took time to read and review everything. This gave me time to reflect on how to present everything, and to see what blanks I would need to fill in. It became clear that the best way to organize the book was around relationships and themes, instead of chronologically.

Making the Book

I’m not what you would call a “methodical” crafter. I like to pull out all my materials, and see what complements the photos’ stories. I get inspired as I go, and while this book had a few visual themes, I developed it as I went along. Photo-transfers, printing on textured paper, rubber stamps, hinged pages, and stickers are all at play on these pages. I left the “celebration” page blank for him to later include an image from a birthday cruise they would be taking.

Looking Back

It’s been a few years since I did this book. I am increasingly grateful that our grandfather included a letter (he passed on a few years later), and that our grandmother trusted me with original family photographs to scan and use for this project. We’re very, very lucky. If I were to do it now, the aesthetic would certainly be different. But the sentiments would be the same. It’s one of my favorite projects!