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An Artist's Scrapbooking Party

Scrapbooking is now a $2 billion business, but photographer Rob Howard was making amazing travel journals long before the trend hit. He invites a group of design-minded friends to a scrapbook-athon powered by wonderful recipes from F&W's Marcia Kiesel.

For years photographer Rob Howard has filled journals with collages and photos to record his work and travels. "I never thought of it as scrapbooking," he says, but now he finds himself part of a huge nationwide movement. Today scrapbooking is an estimated $2-billion-a-year industry, with Web sites and TV shows devoted to the subject.

When Rob and his wife, Lisa, who is also his business partner, decided to throw a scrapbooking party at their house in New York's Catskill Mountains, they put an artist's spin on what Rob calls a "middle-American sensation." Rob and Lisa invited friends from the design world and asked them to bring photos and ephemera from a recent trip; the Howards supplied artists' pencils and markers, colorful patterned papers, straight and scalloped scissors, and glue.

"It's as if we're reliving Victorian times, with handicrafts like knitting coming back into style," said Wook Kim, an artist and wallpaper designer who came to the party with mementos from a summer in Scandinavia. "Making things by hand reminds people of what quality really is." Wook lined the pages of an accordion book with pieces of his playful rococo wallpaper, including a design inspired by giant lily pads in the botanical gardens at the Finnish Museum of Natural History. Using a drinking glass as a template, Wook cut photos he took on a boat in Sweden into circles. "The shape conveys the idea that I was looking out of the porthole," he said.

While Wook carefully cut out images, Rob scribbled words across his photos. For his scrapbook focusing on a recent trip to Africa, he scrawled roar across a photo of a lion. "I'm the Jackson Pollock, and Wook's the Leonardo," Rob joked. He combed through his photos, picking out favorite shots of Masai warriors and giraffes, while Lisa sorted through the bottle labels, ticket stubs and other odds and ends she had collected. They burned the edges of the pictures to give them an aged look and glued everything into a distressed-leather field journal.

For lunch, Rob and Lisa served salads and sandwiches that are both delicious and easy to make. (The two of them planned the menu; F&W's Marcia Kiesel worked on the recipes.) Prosciutto-and-mozzarella heros were layered with olive relish and pickled peppers and served with a refreshing cocktail made with wild mint from the bank of a nearby stream. Rob tossed the extra-garlicky Caesar salad with cubes of bacon from a smokehouse a few miles away; he also mixed a tart and crunchy chickpea and radish salad in a light lemon dressing.

For dessert, Lisa set out a plate of dense, chocolaty brownies studded with pecans. For a moment, Rob looked concerned about getting crumbs in his scrapbook, but then he shrugged: "If it gets messy, it will just add something to the page."

Published May 2005
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