The Project Lifer | A Scrapper’s Style Interview with Heather Johnson

Hi Heather! Welcome to Simply Tiffany Studios. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in digital scrapbooking?

I am an almost 40-year-old mom who lives in Minnesota with my husband and two girls, ages 5 and 1. I began paper scrapping about thirteen years ago, but truthfully I bought more supplies than I ever used. And the big black rolly-cart? Had two!

In 2008 I made my first photo book online, which led me to discover there was something called digital scrapbooking. After that I gave everything paper-based away. Digital scrapbooking had me hooked from the start because there was no mess involved, I could travel with it easily and nothing was permanent. I am prone to changing my mind a lot while I create which didn’t work so well with adhesives (even if they said they were “semi-permanent”).

I made digi pages here and there from that point on and have participated in Ali Edward’s December Daily journey each year since 2009. Nothing really stuck until I discovered Becky Higgin’s Project Life format. I started doing weekly Project Life layouts in January of 2012 and have been on a roll ever since. When I am not taking pictures or scrapbooking, I…I…well, I don’t know what else I do! At this point in my life creating pages is all I want to do! Scrapbooking in the Project Life style is the only kind of scrapbooking I do, and I couldn’t be happier as to how the format works.

I’m sure plenty of scrapbookers can relate!  

If you had to choose three words to describe your scrapbooking style, what would they be?

#1 Bright. I love, love, love bold color and busy patterns with a modern feel. When it comes to paper I am definitely a “more is more” girl in terms of how the paper pops off the screen.

#2 Clean. While I do have a love affair with bright and bold color, I tend to keep my pages free from a whole lot of embellishments or distressing. The photos are really what I want to be the focus, so I tend to use mainly brushes and maybe an arrow or word strip element occasionally, but not much else.

#3 Story-centered. I probably spend more time thinking about my photographs than actually taking and editing them. I conceptualize a lot of what I want to say about a story or moment in my mind and then set about taking a photograph (or photographs) that will capture the essence of the story in a unique way.

Do you have a unique calling card that sets your pages apart from others?

That’s a great question, and I am not sure I have one! I have been told that someone can tell it’s one of my Project Life layouts without knowing it’s mine, but I am not sure how they know that! I am sure it probably has something to do with bright and crazy paper choices, but truthfully I hope it’s because of the photography. I work really hard on producing very sharp and clear images that clearly communicate their intent in my layouts.

I think you have accomplished that and more with your photos. Your photography is absolutely breath taking!

When you are working on a layout, how long does it take you on average to complete?

Such a great question, and one I recently blogged about when I did a post on my workflow for Project Life. On average a two-page layout probably takes three hours, and that includes everything from uploading photos to editing, to creating the layout. I am a very sporadic scrapbooker that doesn’t have long stretches of time to work on things, so the three hours is made up of many, many small snippets of time.

You offer such great advice on your blog for how to get started with Project Life. I appreciate all the details you put into each post.

Do you think your style has evolved since you started digital scrapbooking?

I had originally thought the answer was yes to this question, but when I went back and looked at my older completed pages (all 15 or so of them!) it looks like from the beginning I was a fan of bold color and a clean layout.

That being said, I did find one or two layouts where I was still in “experiment” mode so there were tons of grungy edges, distressing, and one even had a custom made overlay (at the time I remember thinking I had done the coolest. thing. ever.).

As time has progressed my photography has gotten a lot better both technically and as a storytelling tool, as has my attention to my life (being aware of what to record and how to record it). I have always, always been a fan of templates; I am not sure I have ever completed a page from scratch!

Do you ever attempt to step outside of your style comfort zone?

Not really. Is that bad? I like what I like, and when I try to do something “trendy” or different it just looks wrong to me. Kind of like how I look when I try to do really big dangly earrings. They look cool on everyone else and absolutely silly on me!

I do challenge myself to experiment with colors I wouldn’t normally choose, or work with kits that are in my stash from 2008 that I need to justify buying in the first place. Other than that you are pretty much always going to see a clean, simple, and bright page from me.

What types of digital kits or designers are you drawn to as a result of your style?

I am drawn to anything bright, bold, modern and fun. When Project Life became part of American Crafts and acdigitals.com was formed, it was like an answer to a prayer. I own virtually everything from that website; they totally have my number!

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I love the aesthetic of Amy Tangerine and Echo Park and I am pretty sure I own every Ali Edward’s brush ever made. Recently I have discovered the digi shop over at Studio Calico and have fallen in love with that too. I am so glad digital supplies cannot be “seen” in my house. I shutter to think how much storage I would need to hold it all!

I agree with that!

Who inspires you as a page designer?

I absolutely adore Susan Weinroth’s Project Life pages, and Mary Ann Perry has one of the most creative Project Life albums I have ever seen. Both of these women have styles that are after my own heart: excellent photography, simple embellishing, focus on the photos and story and use of bright color. Their styles scream happy, as I hope mine do as well.

My goal is to be able to journal like Ali Edwards. When I visit her website and read her words…well, many a day I have shed a tear.

What would you say to someone who wants to get started doing a Project Life album?

Don’t over complicate things. If you really take a look at my pages, almost everything is a template, from the whole page to the little 4×6 and 3×4 spots. I keep it cohesive by using the papers and elements from one kit, and if anything from the outside is brought in, it’s color coordinated to match. Couple those two things with an effort to take photos with intention (using good light, employing the rule of thirds, etc) and you’ll have “the recipe” I use most often.

 I have never done a project life album, but the way you do it really appeals to me.  Do you still scrapbook major events like birthdays, vacations, etc.? If so, do you put those in the same album or do something separate?

I do scrapbook extra things, not too much yet, but now that I really make time for scrapbooking in my life I do a whole lot more. What I did last year is put special things (like trips to Disney) right in my book. You can see what that looks like  on my blog.

I chose to make my Project Life album a 12×12 bound book from Shutterfly last year. This year I am actually printing 12x12s so that I can have inserts and other stuff. However my husband is insisting on me printing a Shutterfly book as well, Ah!
I do December Daily albums separate though. They get printed up in a 12×12 bound book of there own.

Thank you so much for joining us, Heather, and sharing your talent! You have given us a lot of good advice.

You can see more of Heather’s work and more insights into her Project Life albums on her blog. She is also on Facebook and Pinterest.