Hi! My name is Debbie Heller. Thank you for stopping by. I’m a native Buckeye living in southwest Ohio. I am retired. Well, sort of…I consider myself a professional Grandma for 4 lovely grandchildren. I love all things related to scrapbooking. And I’m very passionate about all forms of digital artwork. Whether it’s a scrapbook page, a greeting card, an invitation, an image to post or even just a piece of graphic art; I’m happiest when being creative.
I have always been involved in creative things. In school, I took every art class I could & dreamed of becoming a commercial artist someday. That was until I participated in my first art exhibit. Wow was that an eye-opener. I did ok but I got a good taste of what the competition would be like. I realized I was good but probably not good enough to make a respectable living in such a cut-throat profession.
When I started college, I was majoring in early childhood education with a concentration in art therapy for “challenged” students. I thought it would be so fulfilling to use art to help children and enrich their lives. Well, as time would tell…that wouldn’t be my eventual career path after all. You know what they say about making plans…“We plan, God laughs.” My first round in college ended with a surprise pregnancy & me returning home to my family and trying to make new plans for the future.
WHERE TO NOW?
My son was born and life started anew for me. Eventually, I ended up deciding to pursue a career in the computer technology field. At the time, this was still a relatively new field with nothing but an upward path. Short of doctors & lawyers, I figured this was one career field that would be around for a very long time.
I’ve never regretted the path I chose. I started out as an entry level programmer and worked my way up from there. And as it turns out, getting into the computer industry afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about graphic arts and image editing. So, both the programming & graphics work kept the creative side of my brain content. Now back to scrapbooking…
I’ve been a scrapbooker since I was very young. When I say “a scrapbooker” I mean the “traditional” kind of scrapping that required using paper, photos, memorabilia, embellishments and lots of adhesive. Like so many of my generation, my mother started one for me when I was born and I created some through my pre-teen years.
Most of my early scrapbooks were those old post-bound albums with grey pages in which we just taped/glued photos & memorabilia. As I got more involved in other art endeavors, the scrapbooking fell by the wayside. After my son was born I had even less time, I tried to start a book for him but I didn’t get too far with it. As I was a single, working mom there was a lot more important stuff consuming my time. But that didn’t stop me from saving tons of stuff that I planned to include in a scrapbook later.
And I did just that but it wasn’t until the year he was about to turn 30. I had this very naïve notion that I could do a page for each year. So, 30 years…30 pages (maybe a few more depending on what all I included). In my mind this was going to be a piece of cake. Again, more laughing “upstairs.” I ended up with a whopping 210 very embellished pages that filled (more like over-filled) four (4) 12″ x 12″ albums. The months I spent working on this massive project were like watching him grow up all over again. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And it definitely was a terrific example of “ignorance is bliss”. I had no clue just how involved it would get. If I had known…I likely would never have done it.
While working on that project I learned a lot and shared a lot with my friends who also scrapbooked. I lost count of all the times people were amazed at what I could do. Many asked me to teach them how to do some of what I did. Once, after a particularly frustrating attempt to find a store-bought embellishment for one page I just gave up and created what I had in my head. I’ll never forget what a co-worker of mine said at the time: “See, that’s what I love about you. You run into a situation where you can’t find the right embellishment and you just create one. If it was me…I’d just give up.”
And so it went…people found out I could make things for them that they couldn’t buy and I loved helping them. Ultimately, a very close friend suggested that I should start my own business teaching & helping people find solutions to their scrapbooking needs. I thought she was nuts & I laughed, telling her as much. I knew there was no way I could make the same kind of living I already had doing scrapbooking. She then “threw down the gauntlet” by saying “You’re just scared!” Challenge accepted!
After some intense thought, I decided I could at least try setting up a side business and see where it went. The concept was unique; I came up with a “menu” of services/classes that people could come in and take anytime we were open (in the beginning Saturdays & two nights during the week). Everything was kind of driven around a café theme. And I had a Keurig® & a variety of coffee/tea choices that I offered for free. I had no intention to sell product…I knew that was a losing proposition. Instead, I wanted a place where people could “experience” scrapbooking! I wanted it to be about providing fun, inspiration, experimentation, education and sharing.
Between the concept, the coffee & the “menu” the name just kind of came to me. And Your Scrapping Café was born in 2008. I started Your Scrapping Café with the vision to offer a unique alternative to the classes & crops offered by “traditional” retail scrapbook/craft stores. I used to tell people, “Come join us for a fresh cup of inspiration!”
Whether someone was a seasoned scrapbooker or just getting started, I believed people would enjoy the new and unique atmosphere to help make their paper crafting experience more rewarding. They’d have the flexibility to learn the technique they wanted, when they wanted and apply it to the project they wanted to create. They’d no longer be hog-tied by a fixed calendar of fixed classes that gave them a “canned”, finished product.
And it wasn’t going to only be about scrapbooking. I could cover a wide-range of paper crafting techniques/projects. In the beginning, a friend of mine helped me so I wasn’t doing it alone. Eventually, I had multiple friends helping me just so they could “play” at the Café. It was fun.
I had struggles in the beginning but things worked out and I ended up with a wonderful business and making a lot of terrific friends. Admittedly, I didn’t get to do hardly any scrapbooking of my own but I was so happy. I could do all the things I loved and I still kept my day job. I offered classes and we held weekend “crops”. I used to laugh because it reminded me of the old “quilting bees” from bygone days.
I did a lot of custom work for people; things like custom paper, digitizing photos & creating embellishments. These custom solutions were what gave me the most satisfaction. Seeing the pleasure on someone’s face when I could give them something they had in their head but didn’t know how to achieve on their own; that feeling is priceless. And I even made a scrapbook or 2 along the way for people who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) make one themselves. That’s a lot harder than it sounds but it was so very rewarding.
One of my all-time favorite stories is the time a newly married girl was at the Café working on her wedding album. She asked if I could take a photo she had and turn it into a piece of paper. It was a photo that was taken from the choir loft of the empty church before the wedding. She wanted to use that paper as the background for the photos of when they made their vows to one another. For me it was an easy task fulfilling her request. Little did I know the impact my efforts would have.
When I presented her with what I thought might be the first draft…she broke down in tears. I was blown away by her reaction. She hugged me and couldn’t stop thanking me. She just kept saying “This is so perfect!” It was such a small thing to me but it was a huge thing for her. I was so moved and I know I’ll never forget the way that piece of paper made both of us feel that day.
Admittedly, the Café was more of a hobby than a business. I never really turned a profit but I never truly lost money either. Most of the money I brought in ended up being put back into the “business”. I bought a Cricut® machine (ultimately more than one) – at the time it was a cartridge driven die-cutting machine that would cut all manner of letters, words & images. I was also always buying the latest gadgets so people could try things before they bought something for themselves.
Most often people were content to pay to use what I had at the Café rather than buying something they may use only a few times. And I tried to stay on top of all the latest & greatest, ever-changing techniques so I could teach people new things. I really felt like I had the best of both worlds…a successful, professional career that afforded me the luxury of having such a wonderful side-gig: a “second job” that fulfilled my creative side & let me help people come up with more creative solutions to their crafting projects.
And my personal life was great…I had a long-term relationship with a wonderful man who was more than supportive in so many ways. My son had married and I had a lovely “daughter” and an adorable little granddaughter. Life was good. Until it wasn’t. Again…more laughing “upstairs”.
As I had gotten older, I was having trouble with my joints. Long story short…doctors kept telling me to lose weight. But that didn’t help. One orthopedist told me I had osteoarthritis in my knees. But that wasn’t the only pain I had. After countless years of dealing with it I had all but resigned myself to just living with it. I marched on and most people had no idea how bad it was. I grew up in a family where we just “played hurt” as it were. For the most part, I didn’t let much stop me.
Then one fateful day early in 2016 I finally received what I wanted…a real diagnosis. But it didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I was told I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and was put on the first of many drugs to try treating my symptoms, all to no avail. There was some good news to follow that diagnosis. I also learned another grandchild was on the way…this time a boy!
Then, more tough news. Through a series of circumstances (through no fault of mine) I lost the extremely reasonable lease on the space I used for the Café. I knew I didn’t have enough income to take on a lease at another location…there just wasn’t enough money coming in from the Café to support that. And truth be told…I was getting tired.
Even with the RA drugs, I wasn’t finding much relief and it was just getting harder right along. I faced the heartbreaking decision to close and then a lot more people were heartbroken. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do…telling my customers that the Café was closing. Lots of tears. But as they say…when one door closes another one opens.
All kidding aside…I know God isn’t laughing at us. He’s just in the habit of trying to help us make better choices in our lives. I’ve long believed that everything happens for a reason. And this was no exception. As hard as it was to close the Café, closing that door opened up a whole new world for me…I discovered digital scrapbooking. You can read more about my journey if you continue following along at the new “Your Scrapping Café”…