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Circle Journal

Written and Created by PaperCraftCentral Susan

When I was first asked to participate in a Circle Journal, I was intrigued but I had no idea what this sort of journal was.

"Just as pieces stitched together in a quilt warm our bodies,
scrapbooks bind together memories to warm our hearts".
~Author Unknown

circle journal, round robin, scrapbook, album, swap

What is a Circle Journal?

I think the best way to get a sense of meaning for this type of scrap booking is to think of it as a game of Round Robin - where everyone in the circle gets a turn to scrap a page or two in your album.

The idea of circle journals started a long time ago and they have probably existed in some form for centuries. Think of shared diaries, written journals and art journals. Today, people who make papercraft projects still enjoy being inspired by others, holding someone else's work in their hands, and making friends in this unique way.

I participated in a swap with twelve other papercrafters and I couldn't wait to see my own album again! I farewelled it sometime at the beginning of the year and it came back to me at the beginning of the following year, give or take a month or two.Each person had a month to make their entry so that wasn't a bad time frame. I was sure looking forward to receiving it, and I wasn't disappointed when it finally arrived either.

So how does this type of swap work?

  • First, find a group of friends who would like to participate in a circle journal swap. Or find just one friend who wants to trade albums back and forth with you. I found my group in an online forum.
  • Next, decide on a theme for your journal. In my swap, each person had their own theme. Mine was "What Matters Most" and each person was been asked to complete a double page layout telling me what mattered most to them in life. One person chose a travel theme, another chose "Heart Songs" (what makes your heart sing?) Your group could all have the same theme, or you can have two or three themes, or whatever combination of themes you and the other group members desire

circle journal, round robin, scrapbook, album, swap
  • Once you have settled the question of themes, decide how large your albums will be. Remember that the albums will probably be mailed back and forth between group members and will get heavier each time more embellishments are added, so choose a size that is easy to post and that will not grow to be too heavy as the albums are filled up. In my swap, the albums were 6" X 8", but you could choose a larger or smaller size. You may also need to decide on embellishment types as some ornamental work can become quite heavy and therefore more costly to post
  • Now everyone needs to make or buy their own album. Each album owner usually decorates the front and back covers of their album, then writes up some 'rules' or requests for how they want the album to be completed (eg: double or single layouts? Flouro colours OK? Flat or 3D embellishments OK? Do you want a picture included on the layouts? How much journaling do you want?) and creates a 'sign in' page for the group. Sometimes an album owner will create the first page of the album as well to 'set the mood' (or standard) for the album. Signing in can be a creativity challenge in itself. One album I received asked each participant to create their own tag, complete with their picture and names, for inclusion in a pocket inside the front cover. Others have had a ruled page with spaces provided for each member to provide their name and the title of their page
  • circle journal, round robin, scrapbook, album, swap
  • Decide also how long each journal will stay with each group member. A few weeks may be long enough, but I recommend not allowing longer than a month between swaps, as the whole project could lose momentum and people could lose interest. You need to keep just a tiny sense that there is a deadline involved so people will strive to have their pages completed in a certain time.
  • Appoint a coordinator of the fun to keep track of where each journal is, and to be notified when they are passed along to the next person. The feeling if a journal is lost in transit or if someone has to unexpectedly drop out of the circle can be very disappointing and bewildering, so a coordinator helps to ensure all journals are tracked and mailed at the same time each month
  • Agree on a starting date and check that everyone is ready. Decide on an order within the group so all of the journals pass through each person's hands. We just listed people in order of 'sign-up' and each person mailed their album to the person below them in the list. For example, I constantly received albums from my friend Ali, and constantly sent my completed ones on to my friend Shelly in my swap.
  • Check to see that everyone is ready to start, then have everyone mail their albums off to the next person on the list on the same day.
  • After people have reported receiving their albums all ready to work in, allow a week or two before your coordinator checks how people are progressing. Once everyone indicates they have completed their pages, get everyone ready to post the albums on again, on the same day if possible. As long as people in the group communicate with the coordinator if there are hold-ups or problems, all should go well At the End of the Swap
    People report that the end of a Circle Journal swap is the best part of all. Each person in the group winds up with a beautiful keepsake from their friends, illustrated in each person's own unique style. Other lovely outcomes are that you will all know each other just a little bit better, and you will have ideas and examples of papercrafting techniques you might not have seen before. That all spells inspiration to me.
  • circle journal, round robin, scrapbook, album, swap

    Ideas for Circle Journal Themes

    Theme ideas are endless and only limited by your own imagination, but here are some ideas to help you along:

    • Who are you?
    • What's in your purse?
    • What's your sport?
    • Who is your hero?
    • How green are you?
    • What's your favourite food?
    • Where do you live?
    • Who is our favourite singer/artist/family member/animal/plant/mineral!!
    • What's in your backyard?
    • Where's your favourite place?
    • If you could travel by train anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
    • What was the best time of your life?
    • What have you learned/What has life taught you?
    • Who was your best teacher in life?

    Whatever theme you choose, I hope you enjoy your experience with Circle Journals.

    You can read more about Circle Journal history if you would like to.

    circle journal, round robin, scrapbook, album, swap

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