Q & A with Becky Higgins

Our online community submitted the following questions to Becky Higgins. See what she has to say!

What do you do to get past scrappers' block?

As much as I enjoy the process of scrapbooking, and combining my efforts to be both organized and creative, this hobby is not my life. It's a way to preserve my life and the life of those I love the most. That said, I really don't get caught up in the design of my pages and don't prioritize that high on my list of how I spend my time. However, I love this hobby and love designing pages and "scrappers' block" definitely does strike now and then. When it does, I simply thumb through torn-out magazine pages. I keep these nuggets of inspiration in a binder – in no particular order – and just look for something to strike me as interesting. And then I move on with my layout.

What are some of your best organizational tips? How are your things organized at home?

I tend to simplify organization by grouping like things together in a way that makes the most sense. If I’m looking for a brad, I know I will find all of my brads in a dedicated spot in my studio. If I want a flower, I look where all the flowers are kept together. Letter stickers are all in one spot, chipboard has a dedicated spot, and my paper and cardstock? Also grouped together. This is how I function best, and this system goes beyond scrapbooking.

In fact, our clothes are organized by color. Specifically in the order of the rainbow colors (ROYGBV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet ... remember learning that in grade school?) I can find the shirt I’m looking for in a snap and it's pretty to look at too.

One of my favorite tips ever is another acronym from professional organizer Julie Morgenstern. For organizing anything (a garage, a closet, your pantry, scrapbook supplies – anything), follow these steps in order: First, Sort your stuff into groups that make sense; Purge what you don't need (give away or throw away); Assign a place for your stuff to go; Containerize (what box/bin/basket/container will hold the items?); and Equalize (keep it organized by spending a few minutes every day putting things away). You may have "heard" me talk about this in past articles. I'll repeat it again and again because it really, really works!

How do you come up with your sketches? Do you scrapbook your published pages with the intent that they will be published or do you scrapbook the same as you do for your personal albums?

The main source of inspiration for my sketches is design work that’s "out there" – especially from magazines (ads & articles). And many of the ideas just sort of come "out of nowhere". Layouts that I do that are attached to a deadline and layouts I do that are never intended for public viewing, are all very similar. My style is still my style, no matter what.

With all of the new and ever changing yummy embellishments available to scrappers, how do you manage to keep your layouts from looking like everything but the kitchen sink is there?

You're right! The embellishment options that are available to us are seriously endless now. There is so much fabulous product on the market and it’s so much fun to use the yummy embellishments! For me, I choose to use them in small doses. I like to "play" a little, while still keeping an overall clean look – because that is my style of preference and what feels natural for me. I want to enjoy my layouts for years and years to come and not be distracted with all the stuff surrounding the photographs and recorded stories.

This is kind of a silly question, but does your family ever "help" you scrap? For instance, sometimes I beg my husband for input and/or opinions, and sometimes I let my 2-year-old use the glue stick or pick pictures for a page. I was just curious if your family "played" with you, or is your scrapbooking intensely personal?

Not a silly question at all. Our kids are 4 and 1 ½. Porter, my preschooler, enjoys artistic projects from time to time, but he doesn't really express much of an interest in "helping" me. What’s awesome, though, is that he is often right there next to me doing a puzzle or playing or coloring so we're still working together. Claire? Well, she’s in a stage where I'm actually trying to keep her away from scrapbook-related stuff (most of you will understand that)! And my husband David – he's a good sport when I ask him to contribute to some journaling once in a while.

Our family albums wouldn't be complete without his "side of the story" here and there. I definitely want his input in our family scrapbooks, but don't bombard him with requests. He really appreciates what I do, but it's not really a "shared" hobby. We enjoy doing other things together. As for the "intensely personal" part of your question, I do really love that alone time to scrapbook at night once in a while. It's fun to lose myself in what I'm working on for a few hours and I find it to be quite therapeutic! I also enjoy scrapbooking with friends and enjoy having them over for "scrapbook nights".

How did you "define" your style as a scrapper? Did you just evolve over time or did you take design classes, etc?

I appreciate creativity and I appreciate simplicity and I try to achieve a balance of both in my scrapbook pages. I create pages that are uncomplicated and fairly clean, but I love to add little bits of interesting touches. My style has definitely evolved over the years. I do not have a design background and the only thing remotely close to a design class that I have taken is a couple of Calligraphy classes in college.

My question is...do you yourself still work from sketches more times than not, or do you typically just scrap?

More times than not, I am working from a sketch. I like to begin with the end in mind, and so seeing the "big picture" and how it's all supposed to come together, is really helpful to me. Sometimes I refer to my collection of "published" sketches (those found in my sketch column of each CK issue and also in my Sketches books). That's what's great about sketches; you can use them over and over and over.

I also sketch out new designs that are really specific to the pictures and memorabilia that I have for a given occasion or topic that I want to scrapbook. With my pictures in front of me (usually digital images on the computer), I sketch a layout and then "photoshop" (digitally edit) those images, upload them to be printed, and then create the layout with the physical prints.

What is your next project/book? When can we expect to see it?

If you are familiar with the sketches I do in CK magazine and books and online, and if they're helpful to you, you'll be excited to get this next book! It's a compilation of all of my sketches from those published resources and we've put five years’ worth of my sketches (200 of them!) in this one user-friendly, spiral-bound workbook. The best part? I’ve created a brand-new layout to accompany every single sketch. So fun. Watch for this around September 2007.

What do you want to do or try (SB related) that you haven't yet? And, why not? And, how are you going to motivate yourself to do so?

David (my husband) and I want to create digital scrapbooks for our childhoods! This way, they’re super timeless and super easy to duplicate so that our kids and other family members can have bound copies of our childhood memories. Plus, I have plenty of other places to be creative with scrapbooking product (theme albums, kids' albums, chronological albums, gift albums). So I'm excited to get everything scanned and uploaded and bound in books. Why haven't I done this yet? Time, of course. But I have all of our childhood stuff totally organized and ready to scan. That's a good start.

If you could give a few tips to someone who is new to scrapbooking, such as not being overwhelmed with the multitude of products that are available, journaling, finding their own style, etc ... what would you say to them to introduce them to the joys of scrapbooking?

We all know people that haven't scrapbooked. Some of the big reasons why they haven't started are that they don't have time, or it's too expensive, or they feel they're "not creative". I would say to them that scrapbooking isn't about how creative you can be (although that's certainly a fun aspect of the hobby if you want to take it in that direction). Yes, it does take time, but only as much time as you want it to take.

Don't be overwhelmed thinking you have to start with the beginning of your life, or your child's life, and scrapbook every picture until you are caught up to current. I would advise someone just beginning to start with a theme album. Pick a topic that is near and dear to their heart (top 10 favorite baby pictures of a child, tribute to a parent, a recent cruise with their spouse). Stick with that one subject for the whole album. Keep it super clean and use minimal product, or play with a lot of product and get super creative – however you want to go about doing it without getting overwhelmed. This is a good way to get someone's feet wet and then they'll get a good idea of how scrapbooking "feels" and then be able to decide how they want to proceed.

What do you pack when you go on a crop? Do you take everything, or just the basics? Do you organize before you go so you just have what you need?

If I’m scrapbooking away from home, I always prepare ahead of time for what I'm working on. If it's realistic that I'll be able to finish a few layouts, I only bring those pictures, supplies, and embellishments that I need for that layout. Taking a little time to "figure it out" ahead of time, and gather those supplies means that I can show up and be ready to roll. It means that I'm not going to take a half-hour to thumb through piles of paper to find the perfect one. I can be productive and social at the same time.

If I don't take the time to prepare and just bring a bunch of stuff, I am not able to focus on what the heck I'm doing because I'm too busy chatting. But that's me – hard to multitask if both tasks require a lot of thought!

When you submit a sketch for page calls do you usually already have the layout finished to support the sketch?

Sometimes. Most of the time I still need to create a layout based on the sketch, which means I'm scrapbooking in the same timeframe you are, if you are submitting a layout for that sketch.

What are your "must haves" when you scrap? Do you consistently scrap with the same products, lines, embellishments, or do you like to jump around and try new things?

In the June issue of CK, you will be able to read a feature story about favorite tools that I use, as well as Lisa Bearnson's and Ali Edwards' favorites. You'll soon be able to see video clips online that have us demonstrating those favorites.

What I don't talk about in those segments, but consider to be absolute essentials with just about every layout I create, are: Genesis trimmer, Fiskars scissors, double-sided adhesive roller tape, fine point black pens, my computer (particularly for Adobe Photoshop), photo corners, brads, and Bazzill cardstock. Of course I love and use so much more, but these are the absolute essentials. Yes, I certainly love to jump around and try new things, but you won't find an overabundance of that on my pages – just a little taste of this or that.

As a true scrapbooking professional, how do you stay excited to scrap? It's one thing to have it as a passion, another to do it as a job.

I am still in this industry, and still going strong with this hobby, because I truly love it for what it means. I think the product is fun, and it's really neat to meet others who share this passion, and I enjoy sharing ideas, and that's all good. But it goes beyond that. I know that preserving our memories and recording our stories and experiences is something that we are supposed to do. This is not a hobby that is more important to me than my loved ones and living a life that is full, well-rounded, and happy. By keeping it all in perspective, I haven't become "consumed" by scrapbooking and therefore, haven't burned out on it.

What are your recommendations for type of camera, how to print (your printer or have them printed somewhere), and what computer program to use to edit?

If you can pull it off, I recommend having a point-and-shoot camera, as well as an SLR. I carry my little point-and-shoot (they make them so small now!) in my bag or purse so that it's with me at all times. You never know when you need to capture a moment, or photograph a bit of inspiration in a store or something.

I use the Sony Cyber-shot, which also takes great video clips (so many cameras do this now) – a feature I am so grateful for! The SLR that I use is the Canon 10D. It seems to me that the Canon Rebel is fantastic as well, and there are many, many great SLRs on the market today. I'm not an expert in cameras or any technological equipment, so I won't go deeply into that, but I can tell you what I love about SLRs in general. They allow you to be able to really capture the moment rather than missing it by a split second, as it happens with the point-and-shoot delay. I also love the ability to get great depth of field (subject in focus, background blurry) and macro shots and being able to zoom so far, etc.

I use Photoshop for my editing. It is incredibly extensive and I have barely scratched the surface with the features and capabilities, but I absolutely consider this tool to be highly important with all of my photography and scrapbooking.

Lately I've been feeling like I'm observing all the fun through the lens of my camera instead of participating in it, but I'm the only photographer in the family and I want to catch all the great moments of our lives. How can I inspire my family to be more active in preserving our family history?

I agree that you need to get out from behind the camera and live your life more proactively. First of all, on how to inspire the family to be more active in taking pictures. What if you gave your kids a little (simple) lesson in photography – how to hold the camera, how to zoom, how to compose a shot. This could be a fun family activity! Talk with your husband and challenge him to spend a week focusing on picking up the camera to capture little moments (like you do on probably a daily basis). Then at the end of the week, look at those pictures together, and maybe he'll see how valuable it is for him to take an active role in taking more pictures.

As for being behind the camera in general, there are moments you don't want to miss capturing, and that's great. But are there times that you're behind the camera and you really don't need to be? For example, do you think your daughter will be so sad in 20 years, when she's looking back at her 5th birthday party, that you didn't take 50 pictures of her party? No. I think she’d love to see some of the presents and decorations and who was at the party, maybe a shot of her blowing out the candles or whatever. But really – she won't care so much about the pictures of her opening every single present. Set the camera down, go over by her, and enjoy the sweet, excited comments that come from her mouth when she opens the gifts. Enjoy watching her interact with friends and be there when she wants to wrap her arms around your neck and whisper in your ear, "Mom this is the best day of my life. Thank you!"

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