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  • Joy Watts

The New Era of Scrapbooking: Art Journals, Smashbooks and Junk Journals

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

I was today years old when I discovered the new trend in scrapbooking called Smashbooks. I am obsessed with journaling and I have been at it for as long as I can remember. When I was about 11 years old my older sister passed away unexpectedly and I had the opportunity to try art therapy at the local hospice. I remember it vividly in my mind and I even remember the art intervention. "Take a stone and write a message to your loved one and then go place it in the community garden." My life was changed after that session and although I didn't have the opportunity to continue art therapy I realized an important component to art-making. I learned that art can act as a holding space for our expressions, emotions and inner workings. It was at this time that I began to always keep what I called an "art journal" however, now that I have done some research maybe it was more of a junk journal or a Smashbook or a hybrid between the three? So maybe you know or maybe you are just as curious as I was yesterday stumbling upon the notion of a Smashbook and a Junk Journal so I will try my best to describe what they are and how they are different. Below photo is my most recent addition to my current art journal. You can see that I painted an image on the right and added a piece of artwork gifted by a friend and a poem also gifted by a different friend on the left. Mementos are important to me and having a place where I can display them feels really satisfying.

Smashbooks are literally what it sounds like. You basically smash in whatever you want into an altered book or an art journal. From my research I got the impression that they came about from scrapbookers having too much random scraps laying around that they couldn't bare to toss so instead they create art by making the smash books. From the examples I saw they seem to be more generalized than what I create in my art journals. There wasn't as much personalization and each page would sometimes stick to a theme but there is no call for order in the smashbook process. Below is an example found of a smashbook with the theme "butterflies" sourced from

Or another example found on the Found on Brighton blog shows an example of a person using the smashbook as a planner or way to remember what happened at certain points in the year. They altered a book instead of using a traditional sketchbook and an envelope reading "private thoughts enclosed" is added to the right page which is common to see in smash books for an added little secret place to smash more thing into! For the most part the words Smashbooks and Junk journals can be used interchangeably.

Junk Journals are very similar to smash books but the one thing I noticed between the two internet searches was that junk journals seemed to have more of a vintage look to them.

Below is a photo of a junk journal up for sale on eBay found here As you can see there seems to be a vintage vibe going in my opinion at least... maybe its just the dollies. The Junk journals seem to test the limits on what can be smashed in to a journal other than just paper craft.

This content creator gives a good explanation about the different types of scrapbooking and she shows her personal examples as well.

If you don't have a book to alter or you don't want to buy a handcrafted junk journal here is a link to create your own small art album, and bonus its a halloween special! I think these tiny books are so cute and you don't need to fully commit to a whole journal when using this technique. This template doesn't need to be done in halloween theme and it can work with any cardstock paper to give you a couple pages and a couple pockets to store a special moment or create a gift for a friend.

Check out the following videos for tutorials on making your own journal from an old book, tiny journals, or a classic binding techniques. Also the difference in styles between these two content creators is very apparent, but I love to see all the ways in which people express themselves!

So whether you're into altered books, art journals, old fashion scrapbooks, junk journals, daydream journals or smash books the important thing to remember is that there is never a set way to make art and as long as it feels right to you then go with that and never let anyone tell you that you are doing art the wrong way! its just not possible!

If you are curious and interested in starting this process but don't know exactly where to start no worries! At the end of this blog I will give a journal entry that can be used to create an art journal page. The last person I found on my scrapbooking search that I will share with you is this really cool artist I found who is offering art journal classes online! Here is the link and below is a photo from there website of one of their altered journals. This person has the coolest art and offerings on their site. Definitely go check them out if you are wanting some inspiration or wanting to do an art ecourse. They offer other types of courses too and they all sounded amazing, but I have not taken a course from this person I was just inspired by their site.

To me it feels good to have a place to make art that is contained. I like to make art that is very personal to me and for that reason sometimes it feels like it needs to be protected. That is what my art journal provides to me; a safe place to create without feeling like I need to explain or justify what I am making. The art isn't on a canvas or going into a frame for the world to see, its enclosed in a book and so the framework from the beginning invites process over product. Meaning that the act of creating is in itself therapeutic and the end result is just the byproduct. Even though it provided me safety to be unseen, I am now ready to share it with others and that is the other great thing about art journals, you can share it when you want to and you can keep it private when you want to. You can even keep some of it private by paper clipping a couple pages together or even stapling or gluing (the last two options are more of a permanent way of hiding things but I have done this before when letting go of something or working on a difficult experience or emotion) Your art journal can hold both the good and the bad. Your art can be both ugly and beautiful. I give you permission to let your hands take residency on this earth and create whatever you feel called to bring forth. So remember that this is your precious life and you can adorn it however you like and it can be as private or public as feels good to you in that moment. Plus you can always change your mind, you can always paint over something you don't like. Nothing is permanent. I will end this blog with a journal prompt that you can use to make your own entry or page or even just write about. "What is the medicine that most soothes you? What does this medicine look like and how does it make you feel?" FYI this is not literally so it doesn't have to be a clip art image of Advil. It totally could be but I invite you to use your imagination and to think outside the box. The words are just used to help spark creativity but the punch line is what makes you calm and at peace? Ok so if you have stuck around this long its now time for the grand finale. The video below is a flip through of my most current art journal. It is not finished but its a beast of a book so it would take a couple videos just to show the whole thing. I will skip some pages that I know don't have content. Also some context, I've been using this art journal for the last two years. The pages were paper thin and would always rip so I had to glue pages together to make them more hardy. The process of glueing the pages in itself was a very soothing act. I found it to be extremely calming and it didn't require any thought so I could do it when I was pretty brain dead from my last two years in graduate school. From all the glueing and adding object the book got oversized and it doesn't close and the spine is getting a little worn down. Oops needless to say I'm the kind of person that learns from mistakes. If you liked this blog stay tuned for part 2 and 3 where I reveal all of my art journals from middle school to now! Thank you for reading and don't forget to stay curious!

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