The group of digital scrapbookers on the Sitka retreat poses for a shot after dinner at Ludwig's.
Retreat organizer Gretchen Powers, right, assists participant Shelly Saviers, center, on a project while the group traveled via ferry from Sitka to Juneau.
Story last updated at 5/30/2012 - 12:57 pm
Pamela Finney was one of a group of 15 returning to Juneau on a recent ferry ride from a Creative Memories scrapbooking retreat held in Sitka. Finney had flown to Juneau from Oregon, where she moved five months ago, after retiring from the Forest Service in Juneau.
"I'm a kindergartner, coloring outside the lines," Finney said of what she does with her time now.
This is a playful description of her role as a Creative Memories consultant. Creative Memories is a company that spearheaded traditional scrapbooking, the activity to which craft stores devote aisles of supplies, devotees relinquish whole rooms in their houses, and was humorously incorporated into the movie "New in Town," staring Renée Zellweger who is befriended by a Midwest group of "scrappers."
But this was before the age of digital photography, which has afforded the luxury of capturing thousands of photos and has removed the necessity to employ frugality on the "shoot" button. For many, digital photography has been a mixed blessing. Our computers, phones and cameras are packed with photos, like a child's pockets after a romp in a sandbox. Though Creative Memories continues to cover the now-labeled "traditional" scrapbooking market, it has embraced the digital photo organizational pandemic. The company sells user-friendly software to assist people in organizing their photos and creating digital scrapbooks. Additionally, there are Creative Memory consultants, armed with skills to help both the novice and experienced photographer make use of their photos. A few consultants live right here in Juneau.
Gretchen Powers moved from Florida to Juneau in 2007. She was initially a traditional scrapbooker.
"I wanted a way to preserve my family's life," she said. "I thought if anything ever happens to me I want my kids to have these books."
She was already familiar with Creative Memories, and once she learned about the company's digital software, she signed up to be a consultant to get the material at a discount.
"I enjoyed it more and more, and came to the point where I wanted to do it full time," said Powers.
Powers admitted it was "slow going" when she first moved to Juneau.
"I had to start all over again," she said, though she still had clients in other locations.
She had a booth at the 2008 annual Juneau Public Market, which drew some attention. But following her 2009 Public Market booth she had more than 100. Creative Memories not only helps users sort and edit their photos and design digital scrapbooks, but its main goal is to help users produce something with all their material. Some examples include hardback books, photo panels, those paper globes you may have seen, wedding announcements and intricate downloadable slideshows.
As local interest grew, Powers began hosting free instructional classes, called Techy Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, from 7-9 p.m. in the Broiler Restaurant in the Nugget Mall, Powers can be found with a multi-outlet power cord, computer, product samples and a gentle and encouraging demeanor. The classes are "very casual and informal" she said, "It doesn't matter what level they're at," though she did say she was starting to shift the class format to have a beginners session the first half hour of each class. Powers said the classes generally have about six to 12 participants, with up to 20 over the holiday season.
The popularity of the classes initiated monthly day-long workshops, and in late May, the first retreat was organized. Finney flew to Juneau and traveled with 14 women on a weekend retreat to Sitka, where they were joined by one Sitka resident. The group engaged in workshops at their hotel, did some sightseeing, and assisted each other on their various projects. On the ferry ride back to Juneau, Powers gave out awards for productivity and creative achievements.
In addition to working as a consultant, Powers is also a certified Personal Photo Organizer.
"You use a cell phone, your friends' cell phone, we get home, our intention is we'll get to it next week," she said. "Then there's another event, we just get paralyzed with our photos."
She meets with prospective clients like fishing lodges, other businesses, sports teams or people who are just not interested in organizing their photos. She assesses how involved her clients want to be.
"They give me their photos in boxes or on their computers and I help them put them together," she said.
Powers also conducts private home classes, similar to a Tupperware or Pampered Chef party. For these private classes Powers typically brings a laptop loaded with a Powerpoint instructional demonstration of what the software can help with and produce, and hooks it up to the resident's television.
"I show them how easy it is," said Powers.
That's how Shelly Saviers, one of the Sitka retreat participants, became familiar with the Creative Memories software. Saviers was invited to a friend's private party, which was directed by Powers.
"I'd have to have all the materials, an entire work bench, cutting tools," Saviers said. "Just getting set up took 40 minutes. (Now,) I can bring my laptop to the couch with my family, watch a movie and work at the same time. It's 1,000 times better."
The efficiency of digital scrapbooking is the draw for many people. Finney sites an example of her father-in-law's 90th birthday. Her husband had spent 40 hours preparing a Powerpoint celebrating his father's life to show on his birthday cruise. Following the cruise, Finney spent 10 hours making a "heritage" book, including photos of her father-in-law's life and from the cruise. Finney's version was available to view online, or to order in a hardback version.
Though the major draw for Finney is the versatility of the software.
"You can make something once, and use it several ways," she said. "I did some research into the company. They did virtual training for all four learning styles: oral, visual, mechanical and kinetic. They were making it so everyone could learn."
Through Powers' encouragement, Finney became a Creative Memories consultant.
"The photo organizing part of it scares people," said Finney. "The programs out there are hard to use, they're expensive. No one teaches them how to use it."
Finney now spends her time doing just that: teaching people how to organize and make usable products. She gave examples of how you can combine two photos, each containing an individual, into one photo containing both people. You can clip out strangers in photos, and, most importantly, as one of her clients pointed out, "I can make my fish look bigger."
For more information on Techy Tuesday classes, monthly workshops, or for help organizing your digital photographs, contact Gretchen Powers at 723-1822, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.appo.org/my/gretchencm.