Photo albums are a way to preserve memories. For some, creating photo albums is a way to express creativity. For others, creating photo albums is a way to build community.
Sheila Earp fits under both categories. She uses scrapbooking as a way to remember milestones in her children’s lives, but it’s also a hobby to her, she said.
And, it’s a hobby-turned-career for Earp, as she recently became the new owner of Picture This — the largest paper crafting store in the area — where she works to cultivate a community of scrapbookers and stampers who inspire one another in their craft.
“When someone asks you, ‘If you could do anything that you wanted to do,’ I would always be like, ‘oh a scrapbook store,’” Earp said. “So here I am.”
Though her family — her husband, Cameron, and her children: Kayla, 14, Andrew, 12, Ben, 9 and Madeline, 5 — is in the process of transitioning from the Twin Cities to Eau Claire, Earp travels from St. Paul to Eau Claire to be at the store.
“She has dreamed about this for years and the opportunity presented itself,” Cameron Earp said. “It is nice to see her passionate about her business.”
After kissing each of her kids goodbye as they head to school on the bus at about 7:30 a.m., Earp drives an hour and 20 minutes to the store, she said.
She usually begins her day in the office — a spacious place with plenty of room for creative designing. With markers strewn on the floor from her kids visiting and stacks of stamping catalogues here and there, Earp said she’s still working on making the place feel more like hers.
“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster,” Earp said.
Earp began her scrapbooking journey when she attended St. Cloud State for an accounting degree. She hosted “stamp camps,” or card-making classes, in her basement with friends as a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, she said.
After she had kids, she began scrapbooking. It’s been her passion ever since, she said.
Just like stampers have stamp camps, scrapbookers can participate in retreats — opportunities to get out and craft with other creative people.
Picture This offers its own space for retreats, called the Crafty Cottage, where Earp hosts getaways that involve one thing: getting crafty.
Besides retreats, Earp said she enjoys helping people find coordinating papers for their crafts, because she loves finding good papers for her own scrapbooks.
“(Earp) is always making us think and helping us come up with new ideas and ways to make the store better,” Hannah Evenson, a store employee, said. “She will reach out to customers who are looking around and ask them if they need any help or if they are looking for anything specific.”
Evenson, like Earp, enjoys crafting. It’s something she enjoys doing with her mom, she said.
“(My mom) has really great ideas, and we bounce ideas off of each other and learn techniques from each other,” she said.
Evenson frequents the Cottage—she attended a retreat with her mom and has worked many of the weekend retreats, she said.
“The community of crafters are a group of amazing artists who are so creative and so ecstatic about crafting,” she said. “They really inspire me because they have such a passion and love for crafting.”
It’s a sentiment that LeAnn Colins, a former customer-turned-employee at Picture This, shares.
“It is a real fun time to get together with other paper crafters,” Colins said, “As each person has their own unique way of crafting, and there is no ‘right’ way.”
But, Picture This creates a community that reaches beyond simply crafting, said Hannah Barneson, a store employee at Picture This.
“I think that’s really important for people to be coming into the store to feel like they’re welcome and like they want to come back, and not necessarily to buy stuff,” Barneson said. “We have some ladies that just come in and sit at the counter for three hours because they just had a bad day and they just need to be somewhere. They call it their happy place.”
The effect of this crafting community isn’t just local either, Colins said.
“Customers from far away will call in about something they have seen on the website or Facebook,” she said. “There are several crafters that would be lost without our wonderful Picture This store, as there are not many scrapbooking stores left.”
But, being the biggest craft store in the area doesn’t leave much time for taking a breath for Earp, who has plans to teach more of her own classes, redecorate, do more with technology and social media and finish an email newsletter she’s been working on.
“The time goes so quickly here,” Earp said. “There’s just so much to do.”