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Artist's Voice: Just Smash It

Journaling not your jam? Scrapbooking a bit too fussy for you? Try making a smashbook to record your experiences and family history. It’s as gloriously simple as it sounds. Just smash.

By Natalie Strong

A couple of pages from Natalie Strong's holiday 2021 smashbook includes bits of wrapping, a stamp from an envelope, a doodle, an old gift card, and more.
Creating a smashbook is as simple as gluing items to pages.

In past issues, I have talked a lot about our opportunity—and, to my mind, obligation—to create historical objects that record our times. So much of our history is going to be available digitally, but there will always be a need for and interest in “IRL” items to hold in our hands and look back at years into the future. I know that not everyone is cut out for journaling, and not everyone is going to take the time to scrapbook their family’s experience—this includes me; I did not get the scrapbooking gene. But I finally added up bits of knowledge and experience and rumination into the perfect holiday project that can also serve as a record for future generations: a holiday smashbook!

What’s a smashbook? It’s the lazy person’s scrapbook. The most basic instructions are as follows:

1. Purchase/find/repurpose/commandeer a book of any kind.

2. Glue stuff into it.

3. Bam! That’s it. End of article, see you next year.

Just kidding! Allow me to elaborate a bit. When I say any kind of book can work, I really do mean it. Anything from a dollar-store journal to an old book you’ve realized you really aren’t going to read. All we need are pages.

Now, the stuff. I reckon there is no time of year that creates more paper stuff and bits of things than the holidays, and while so much of it seems like trash and in fact is trash, it is also a potential record of your holiday season. Here is an incomplete list of items you might never have thought of as potentially special: shopping lists, to-do lists, receipts, to/froms (i.e., gift tags), stamps and return addresses from holiday mail, invitations, a collection of wrapping-paper samples (both given and received), small elements of décor, place cards from family meals, thank you notes, artwork by kids in your family… anything else you can think of. Glue them into the book. No special scissors required, no stickers, nothing—unless you want to. I won’t stop you. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, maybe put a little caption or comment, but don’t feel obligated.

When the holiday decorations come down, tuck your book into the box with them and forget about it until next year. And then next holiday season, what might have gotten thrown away will feel like this: “Look how much Jane’s handwriting has changed!” “That was the year we used only black and white wrapping paper.” “Remember that bunting you made that hung in the entryway?” “Oh man, that was the year the tinsel got everywhere!” “Look how inexpensive everything used to be!”

And then add to it in 2022. Or start a new book for each year. Very little work can provide a lot of pay-off. Just smash it in there and enjoy the results year after year!

Natalie Strong is an artist, writer, and mother of two in El Segundo. Detail from one of her own smashbook pages appears above.

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