"I was scrapbooking when
Zee remembers visiting her grandmother as a child, and hearing the
family stories she spun as she leafed through her scrapbooks. As
Melynda grew older and began to accumulate memories of her own, it felt
natural to gather them into scrapbooks and journals. Her passion for
scrapbooking grew, and by the time her third child was born, she
noticed she wasn't alone: "Suddenly, I discovered what I had been doing
all those years had become a trend!"
Melynda's passions for art and teaching run just as deep. For 14 years,
after earning her BA
from Dordt College in Iowa, she taught art to children from
through high school, in private schools, summer art camps, and
community education programs. She has also conducted adult classes in
stores and community centers in painting, scrapbooking, rubber
stamping, calligraphy and decorative painting. Extending her creative
reach, she began writing and designing for magazines like Scrapbooking
and Beyond, Legacy,
Keepsakes, and Rubber
Stamper. Her paintings and collage artwork have been
galleries and shows in Iowa and nationally.
During one particularly creative week a few years ago, two of her
loves, scrapbooking and decorative painting, came together in a crash
of inspiration. She began toying with painting techniques on some
scrapbook pages. As she became more inspired, her experiments led to a
new style of scrapbook storytelling that was among "the most satisfying
pieces of art I have ever created." She continued to explore her
new-found medium, and in 2006, she launched her unique line of
scrapbook papers through Sugar
Tree Scrapbooks. But, like the art
teacher she is, she took her creation to a broader audience and fully
shared her techniques in her first book for Lark Books, Painted
Scrapbook Pages. In it, Melynda offers almost 40
for creating distinctive, individualized page backgrounds,
from faux surfaces (sponging, marbling, crackling) to brushing,
stamping, and lettering.
Melynda's creative intensity comes through in her art, her writing and
in her motivational speaking. You can feel it in Melynda's blog. And it fills every
page of her website, Scrapbook
with Passion. Even her company, formed in 2005, is aptly
named Melynda's Passion.
Melynda took time from her teaching and writing to talk with us in May
2009. We started out intending to ask mostly about her book - but
Melynda's passion embraces so much more and we went with it:
Throughout your writing and teaching - your career even - you've drawn
on your inner passion for communicating through art. How do you find
that passion and tap into it every day?
isn't the easiest place to start. I think I find it hard to create when
I’m not excited about a project; when I feel it is something I 'have
to' do; when I feel there is a really high standard to reach. All that
will shut me down and stand in the way. So I try to focus on allowing
myself to paint and create things that are really true to me; things
that are important to me and I want to share with others; allowing my
inner thoughts and emotions to come to light. This is the hardest and
simultaneously the easiest way for me to create. It is hard because I
have to put aside my worries about what someone else might think about
my creation. I have to put away my fear of actually using up my paint
and beautiful papers. I have to allow myself permission to use my
precious time to create. More importantly, I must allow who I really am
to show up on the page or canvas in front of me. I think the other huge
key is that I deeply believe in the power of art to communicate... that
is what makes art art."
You asked your son, Drew, at the age of four, if he wanted to be an
artist when he grew up. His answer was perfect: "Mom, I'm already an
artist - I don't have to wait until I'm grown up!" As a teacher (and
mother), what creative lessons were you trying to instill in your
students - and what did you learn?
benefit of teaching is that it forces you to learn your own lessons
well. Adult artists often have the most difficult time creating, but 4
and 5 year olds have very little inhibition. You hand them supplies and
they 'make stuff.' As adults we have had years of training and
experiences that stand in the way creating with abandon. We might be
worried how things will look or what people will say about us spending
our time doing such things. I must admit that for years I maneuvered
through life carrying a heavy load of expectation. I am a first-born
overachiever with a need for approval. Mix that
with living in the rural Midwest and it has been a hard road for me to
actually have the courage to live a vibrant, creative life.
"A child knows she is an artist. Nothing stands in the way of her
creating. She doesn't have to be told... it's part of her DNA. My
students and my own children have taught me that again and again. Many
of the projects in my book were done with my kids by my
side. My kids remind
me to play and they keep my work fresh and alive. I've also enjoyed
hearing my oldest begin to intellectually reflect and comment on my
work. He is often a better interpreter of my work than even I am. When
I shared this question with him, he said, 'Mom, tell them to just
paint.' Eleven year-olds are so wise."
talk about the "keys to unlocking creativity" in adults as well as
children. Tell us about the process and how we might liberate our urge
"Well, don’t get me started…this is one of my favorite things to talk
about! There are many paths toward unlocking our inborn creativity, but
one of my personal hurdles was my own fear. I've had to
lay aside my need to do what others like and concentrate on what
fulfills me creatively. Through reading, practice, giving myself
permission to just plain 'make stuff,' and more practice, I've been
able to chip through some of my blocks of perfectionism, comparison and
critical voices. I've learned to slow down, which is something that
is counter-cultural, but artists have to take time to really
is around them and to experience life. We also have to take the time to
create a life that is interesting and worth reflecting on. I've had to
learn to really feel as well... actively concentrating on
what is going on internally creates new bursts of creativity for me."
VIC: On your
website, you have a fascinating list of the 'Top 10 Secrets on How to
Become a Scrapbooking Artist.' Which do you think are the most
important to get right?
think one of the biggest hang-ups for scrapbookers is this driving need
to "get it all done." Scrapbooking is NOT a race to the finish line.
Today, with the ease of digital photos, there is no way I could have
the time or energy to scrapbook all the pictures I take. Pick the
photos that speak to you; the photos that make you go
deeper; that reflect a phase, a growth, a significant experience.
Then... play. Have a place you can play and get messy, with
within easy reach, and give yourself time to be in this space. I make a
lot of really simple pages... just paper, a dash of paint, photos and
words. And, when I’m in the mood, I might take the time to make a
really complex, over-the-top type of page. Doing that type of work
calms me and allows me to focus on what is beautiful in my life. And
find some friends who think like you and hang out together…it makes
everything more fun."
VIC: You are
one of the "in demand" teachers of personal creativity as well
as scrapbooking today. What do you really
enjoy about teaching and what does your curriculum look like?
love to teach people how to transform their lives. For years I've
taught a seminar
called 'Who ME? Creative!?!' Allowing your creativity to
blossom is one of
the best pathways to creating more joy and light in your life. Creating
helps us to process our life, and there is simply pure joy in creating
something new, something beautiful, something uniquely you. And, for
those of us with extra doses of creative gifts, if we don’t use them
our lives begin to lack fullness... and guilt and depression often take
over. I love to see the 'aha' moment, when people look at me and say
'You must be in my head! How did you know that?'"
When you were blogging about your book, Painted Scrapbook
Pages, you commented, "I
think motherhood has definitely been a great preparation for this
process." So, tell us about the process and how you collaborated with
so many great designers.
book was about a two-year endeavor. The editors at Lark were marvelous
because they broke the process down into doable phases. They asked for
one chapter and then we worked together so that I understood what they
needed each step of the way. Writing a book is like a birthing
process... you have the contract stage, the negotiations, the 'firsts'
(first chapter, first 30 projects, first table of contents, first 'how
to' steps), heavy periods of creating under deadline, photography and
eventually final edits. It is a lesson in cooperation, perseverance,
endurance and love... definitely a mirror of mothering! I worked with
many great designers, especially one of my best friends who not only
designed the beautiful layouts for the book but also helped
me along the way. Even my book club got in on the process! One
night I brought a stack of painted pages to our meeting laid them all
out on the floor and had them give me feedback. This book truly was a
VIC: We see
ourselves as do-it-yourself crafters and scrapbookers, so Painted
Scrapbook Pages really resonated. What would you say to encourage the
scrapbook artist to break away from the pre-printed
love to walk down a huge paper aisle in a scrapbook store? It is a
feast for the eyes. I still buy the most beautiful papers, but I've
found it so much more affordable and fulfilling to create my own. Make
it easy on yourself... take some simple painting supplies and cardstock
and whip up a pile of painted pages all in one setting. Once they are
dry, you have your own stock ready to go whenever the urge to scrapbook
hits. They are beautiful, unique one-of-a kind creations."
You thanked the new magazine, Where Women Create, for inspiring you to
take your studio to a new space. Since you had the luxury of starting
over, how did you design your studio and how is it working for you?
"I hadn't really looked at it as a 'luxury' of starting over, but you
are right, it is a luxury to have a real studio space. But it can be
obtained much easier than many of us think. My old studio was
small guest bedroom, which was great five years ago when I needed a
room with a door to protect my computer and art supplies from my
toddler. One day I realized my toddler was now a first grader, my
oldest was in Junior High, and I needed to move my computer out of my
studio and into our open living space. It was all 'down hill' from
there. I envisioned one wall for my books, albums and a paper rack, and
another wall where I could hang multiple canvases in process. I wanted
a large space for my easel. And I yearned for more natural light.
So,with my family's blessing, I
cleaned out my living room. I repurposed, recycled and rearranged. I
tore out the old carpet and painted the plywood underneath with a
mixture of several old paint colors I had left over from earlier
projects. I love it! The heart of the studio is my large center table.
I can stand and work on all four sides, and it is large enough for four
or five friends to gather around when we get together and create. I now
have room to move, natural light, and the only new thing I really
bought was a roller to paint the floor."
You share so many photos of your personal artwork on your blog, and it
seems clear you have a real passion for painting. How has painting
remained a part of your creative life - and how are you finding the
time for it all?
"Painting has always been one of my first loves. It was my secret
desire to become a fine artist... I just hadn't 'allowed' myself to do
it. I took painting classes in college and loved them, but after
graduation came my new workload of full time teaching and then
motherhood, and I simply stopped painting for myself. I still had all
these sketches of paintings I would do 'someday when.' I kept reading
painting books and doing a lot of decorative painting and scrapbook
paper, but I was still not painting my own canvases.
"And then came the process of writing my book. To be honest, after it
was finished I needed to do something very different. I began dreaming
of painting tulips! I live in a Dutch town with a tulip festival, and
one day I told an artist friend 'I think I want to paint tulips.' Two
weeks later she called me and said a new gallery was opening in town
and she had told the owner about my painted tulips... and he
wanted to see them! Well, I hadn't even painted one tulip yet, but I
got to work. Step by step my painting developed... I started taking
classes again, and found a friend to build my canvases. Soon, I was
painting larger works... less decorative and much more a reflection of
what is going on internally in my life. I've started to paint not only
the beautiful, but to paint the real... the good, the bad, the ugly...
and my journey through it all. I’m painting my life in addition to
scrapbooking it. I have finally realized that I've lived many
identities, but that being an artist is at the heart of what I am to do
with my life. It has been a head and heart journey, and as
I've grown it seems that there have always been emotions that
I could simply express best in paint."
On your website, you prominently display your credo: 'Proud to be a
scrapbook artist.' What has been your proudest accomplishment as an
artist so far - and what do you hope might be your next?
"I was thrilled to have my first
solo art show this past summer at The Galerie of Pella in my hometown..
that really meant something in my life as a painter. For the future, I
hope that I am able to have the freedom to continue to create and the
flexibility to continue to do the things that bring me joy and purpose.
I love to spend time with my friends and family and I love to help
people transform their lives. For me, it is more about how I live and
who I am than what I might someday accomplish."