Over my maternity leave I've taken up a hobby that has often gotten me laughed at: Scrapbooking.
I'd always thought of it as the next logical step in my progression as a DIY-er. I started out making zines and collages throughout middle school and high school -- an activity I eventually parlayed into a writing career. I'd bought my first "real" camera before the birth of my older daughter and have since amassed a library of both digital and analog photos, which I often complain is too disorganized and not displayed enough. And, like most of the Asian American kids I grew up with, I'd long been obsessed with cute stationery and colorful office supplies. Scrapbooking seemed to bring all of these interests together in one convenient medium.
And yet, I can only talk about scrapbooking as an ironic hobby.
Modern scrapbooking has its roots in the Mormon church, and the industry is dominated by white, middle-aged, conservative Christian women. Most scrapbooking blogs also heavily cover church-going, miltary life, and homeschooling.
I'm very much a passive crafter and grab my inspiration from scrapbooking blogs and online forums -- the overwhelming majority of which belong to white women. This doesn't pose much of a problem when I'm simply on the hunt for techniques, but it's also a hobby that heavily relies on community building, whether through real-life "crop circles" or online technique classes (of which there are plenty). And because many of these blogs are so closely tied to faith and housewifery, I find myself hesitant to get any more involved, to save myself the trouble of too many awkward conversations.
The demographic makeup of the scrapbooking blogosphere triggers a longstanding anxiety I've had about being the only Asian person in the room. It mostly takes me back to growing up in the 'burbs and having to explain myself and the things I do in ways that most other people didn't have to. And in a community centered on telling very personal stories, it just seems like it would be exhausting.
For reasons I can't really articulate, I've always sought out personal blogs by women of color, and it's no different with scrapbooking blogs. I've at least been lucky in this regard, as there is no shortage in design work done by Asian American artists. Many of the big names in scrapping include Amy Tan (not to be confused with the author), Kelly Purkey, Geralyn Sy, Leena Loh, Liz Tamanaha, Shaui Lee, and Jin Yong. Somehow I feel a little more at ease when looking through their projects and seeing photos of their families, and it makes the crafting community seem a little less... threatening.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!