From Sucks to Kickbutt

Last week, I shared why I felt my first scrapbook pages sucked. Today, I’ll share how I moved from scrapbook pages that sucked to pages that kicked butt.

My Secret Truth

2005 was a very weird year for me as a scrapbooker. I submitted my first digital scrapbooking pages as an entry for the Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame, and won. Mind freaking blown! Why? Well being recognized as one of the top 25 entries was incredible and quite humbling. The highlight of the event came from Lisa Bernson who complimented me on my storytelling and journaling — the focus of most of my pages.

But here’s the stinking truth: not one of the pages I created for my entry made it into my scrapbook albums! Honestly, I designed them for the contest, not for me. And because of this honest truth, I felt undeserving of the honor at the time. It feels good to get it off my chest by sharing here.

So, my contest pages simply didn’t satisfy me. And I had yet to identify my true scrapbook style.

Mud Baby by Tiffany Tillman

The Pivotal Moment For Me

One of the selected winners from the 2005 group, who in my mind was ever-so-deserving of the title, was Angelia Wigginton. She mentored me through a very tough phase as we developed regular pages and articles for the magazine. And I wanted to be just like Angelia when I grew up!

My pivotal moment was when I asked Angelia to look through my pages and tell me what she saw. And this, in a nutshell, was her answer:

Tiffany, you use color well. You always write an engaging story. And your designs are nicely structured. She added more fluff, but I’ve shared the core of her thoughts.

I was elated! Finally someone confirmed what I knew deep down inside:

  • I could work with a range of colors like nobody’s business.
  • The story was (and still is) central to my page.
  • And I know, and use, good design.

It’s what she did not mention that helped me focus. She purposely sidestepped embellishing! Because she knew that I sucked at using embellishments — she just didn’t have the heart to tell me. Nevertheless, my pages with embellishments were always my weakest because what the hell did I know about using embellishments? Nothing! What do you mean cluster with them, layer them, let them move the eye? You might have well asked me to drive on a European road using my American car. No bueno!

But when I looked back at all of the pages I had constructed that I wasn’t satisfied with, there were loads of embellishments used improperly because I had no clue how to use them … with purpose. See, embellishing was my area for improvement.

So I made a choice, either don’t use them, which was a perfectly fine choice. Or find ways to incorporate them on my page in such a way that was satisfying to me. When I adopted this philosophy, either drop it or learn to use them with satisfaction, my pages begin to rock, to me. I finally started building pages that spoke to my creative heart! And when I began to truly love what I designed, most people did too including the magazine editors, which propelled me to craft kick-butt pages.

And that folks, is my story.

When I teach a class or mentor one of the questions I often receive is: “Tiffany how can I create pages like you?” And I answer with, “Hey, you don’t want to create pages just like me! You want to create pages you love that are just like you! All I’m here to do is help you discover who you are and get YOU on YOUR page.”

Go From Sucks to Kick Butt

If there’s one thing you can do to craft satisfying pages, just one simple thing, it’s this:

Define what it is exactly about a page (any page) that makes you consistently say — ahh! Is it the photos? The eye-catching title? The colors, which make your heart melt? The words, which connect you to the story? The page design, which leaves you yearning for more? What makes you stop, drop, and roll?

What makes you drool, baby?

Also, look at your own pages. Which parts do you love? Which parts don’t you love?

Next, explore your results. For example, if titlework in general has you saying ahh but you’re not in love with your own titles, then you’ve identified an area for improvement. Seek out those with eye-catching titles. Adopt some of their techniques. Cultivate and grow!

Classes will get you where you want to go quicker if you take the right classes with the right teacher. And I’m going to be blunt — that’s why my classes stand out and why so many of my alumni are now kick-butt scrappers too.

How else can you craft satisfying pages?

Become one with your page design style. Here are some tips I recommend for those unsure of their style:

  • Have someone, preferably an expert or a buddy with professional scrapbook experience, look at your pages and determine your dominate style.
  • If your new to the craft with limited pages, look at the work of others and determine what types of pages stand out to you. Chances are the ones that catch your eye visually appeal to your creative heart. Some serious attraction!
  • Experiment! The digital community is packed full of different page template styles. The three main template-style categories are linear, layered and artistic. Try one out, try another, and then a third to see which style fits you best.
  • Learn more about the styles of other top-notch scrapbookers. Check out my Scrapper’s Style interviews with:

And guess what? Next week begins a new round of Scrapper’s Style Interviews! I truly believe they are beneficial, heart to heart talks with scrapbookers in our industry who can tell us how they create beautiful and inspiring pages time and time again.

You’ll learn how they found their style, what is their current style and how they keep it fresh. Subscribe to our blog feed for the latest updates.

What’s Your Style, Scrapper?

So here’s what I want you to do right now! It’s important because you can help us determine who’s coming up first on our interview list. Answer this question in the comments: “What is your scrapbook style?” That’s it! Feel free to elaborate especially if you’re unsure. And if you want to link us to your gallery, that’s fine too! We want to check out your design style and highlight scrapbooker’s representative to the Simply Tiffany readers! Why?

Because our Scrapper’s Style mission is to help you enjoy the journey that is called scrapbooking with pure satisfaction!



  • Jen said:

    February 11th, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Perfect! I’ve been struggling with finding my “voice” as a scrapper. This post is so timely for me. I will be referencing it often! Thank you!

  • Chanell Rigterink said:

    February 11th, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I love this. Here’s why…we tend to spend a lot of time trying to emulate other people’s style or aethestic, without listening to our own creative voice. We often interpret “tips & techniques” to mean “rules to be good.” Inspiration sometimes comes off as a standard to acheive.

    I scrapped the way I thought a digi was “supposed to” for years. I never had an answer for “What’s your scrapbook style?” and I thought it meant that I wasn’t very good…I mean, I couldn’t be good if I couldn’t even define my style! Even though I liked most of my pages, I felt like I was doing something wrong.

    Many creative teams and publication honors later, I still don’t have the style answer, actually. But I’ve learned that *that* is where my strength is! My style varies with my photos, my story, my products and even my mood. I may have some tendencies, but each page is a unique expression of a memory.

    Finally understanding that being a “good” scrapbooker is much less about rules than *instinct* is what gave me the freedom to kick butt!

    • Tiffany Tillman said:

      February 11th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Bingo! You really hit the “nail on the head”, Chanell. “Good” scrapbooking isn’t about what everyone else does. It’s about your own instinct and finding your own creative voice.

      It takes time to develop and I think scrapbookers, like any creative hobby, hold ourselves to impossible standards. We forget that creativity and finding our voice takes time — there is no jumping ahead. Creativity needs time for nurturing and development.

      Thank you for adding to the discussion!

  • Stefanie said:

    February 11th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I love the layered traditionalist style the most.
    I love multiphotos in a neat grid or formation, not an artsy juxtaposition, the elements need to look like they would in real life in terms of size, placement and shadows.
    Thanks for the listing and examples in an easy to follow format.

  • emily pitts said:

    February 12th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Tiffany this was an awesome read, well thought and presented, something that I hope we all eventually learn, but it does take time and reflection to get to. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • It’s Elemental | 2013 Updates & Open for Registration + Enrollment Giveaway | Simply Tiffany Studios said:

    February 12th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    […] am NOT a born embellisher. Perhaps you remember my recent confession were I admitted that I once sucked as an embellisher. I truly didn’t know what an element was and/or why I should use one on my scrapbook […]

  • sandsock said:

    February 14th, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Wow! This was perfect! I till have no idea what my style is..but I realize that I LOVE a strong horizontal line, even if it is totally artsy. I am still struggling with making pages that I love, but this has helped.

  • MayhemMama said:

    April 26th, 2013 at 9:16 am

    After several years of scrapbooking and trying to copy other people’s style I finally realized that the only person I have to satisfy is me. There are a lot of pages out there that are stunning, but they are just not who I am, nor would they tell the story that I want to tell. I put scrapbooking aside for a long time because I was not getting any satisfaction from it – in fact I was taking something that should be fun and enjoyable and making it stressful. I picked it up again at the end of last year and have been having SO much fun. Because I am more relaxed and scrapping for me and not the gallery I find that my pages are much more “me”. I like simple pages with only a couple of embellishments. I LOVE to journal on my pages. I have found that in many cases the pictures are the embellishments to my journaling instead of the other way around.

  • LuAnn said:

    October 5th, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    I struggle to put any kind of layout together. I love doing hybrid and card making but really lack when it comes to “design”. I struggle with templates – things just don’t seem to “go” where I put them. it’s so frustrating because I have sooo many stories I want to document but I’m afraid they’ll get lost if I don’t document them. I need more of a class on designing a page, knowing what embellishments to use (like you talked about above) not how to make a gradient background or how to make torn/ripped edges. I can buy those LOL I have no idea where to begin – starting with a photo doesn’t help. templates absolutely mystify me to the point where I get frustrated. help!! LOL

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