After a break to reconnect with her passions, Christine Middlecamp has returned to scrapbooking with a new business and a mission. In this episode you’ll hear how this craft and this community helped her cope with a tragic personal loss and why she’s ready to disrupt the industry with her products. Our conversation celebrates the joy of connecting with fellow humans to document our authentic lives with color and creativity.
[00:00:00] Jennifer Wilson: Welcome to Scrapbook Your Way, the show that explores the breadth of ways to be a memory keeper today. I’m your host, Jennifer Wilson, owner of Simple Scrapper and author of The New Rules of Scrapbooking. This is episode 196. In this episode I'm joined by Christine Middlecamp to discuss the importance of documenting real life with honesty and vulnerability. Before we jump into the episode I wanted to announce that our 2023 Member Handbook is now available for download and that I'm including a direct link in the show notes for this episode. This document details howwe help members make their way through a year in our community. I hope you check it out. And now, my conversation with Christine.
[00:01:02] Jennifer Wilson: Hey Christine. Welcome to Scrapbook Your Way.
[00:01:04] Christine Middlecamp: Hi. Thank you for having me today.
[00:01:07] Jennifer Wilson: I am looking forward to our conversation. I have a feeling it's gonna be a really good one, but you, can you kick things off and share some things about yourself?
[00:01:15] Christine Middlecamp: Absolutely. Most people in the industry know me as Christine Middlecamp. I reside here in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. I'm originally, actually not from here. I'm from South St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up in Minnesota. but I met someone who happened to live out in country land. and we've been together for about 10 years.
[00:01:35] Christine Middlecamp: We have two stepsons and then we have my son, um, and we also have three cats and a beautiful home on 15 acres. That's half woods, half field. It feels like the ultimate escape. I love it.
[00:01:50] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, that sounds so delightful. I think that's the only way we'd ever move because we love our community, but we're very, um, as suburby as you can get in central Illinois And, but I would trade it for like, nature.
[00:02:03] Christine Middlecamp: Oh, you know what? I, I never thought that it would be like this, honestly. I mean, I'd always assume that I, I mean, I'm a city person at heart. I always have been. I mean, I, I kind of had this dream of living, you know, like in some, big downtown area and a huge studio apartment. And, um, but there were just a change of plans.
[00:02:23] Christine Middlecamp: Uh, and I went with it and I landed here. And honestly, it's perfect. Especially at the stage in life. I'm 45 and I you know, I love my space. I love my quiet. I, I love, I even love having, you know, um, I even love having the, the land to kind of roam and, and, um, relax and enjoy life.
[00:02:43] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, that sounds delightful. So Christine, what's exciting you right now in the memory keeping space? It really could be anything at all. A product, an app, a class, a person, even an idea.
[00:02:53] Christine Middlecamp: You know, honestly, it's funny, I, I rejoined the scrapbook community after taking Three years away. And what I've noticed the most upon my return, um, is all the young scrapbookers,
[00:03:04] Jennifer Wilson: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:05] Christine Middlecamp: That are reigniting some new ideas in the industry. It's super cool. They're pushing the envelope, um, and they're bringing new discoveries to light for us to enjoy. And it's just really refreshing. It's a, I mean, they're doing things today that we would've never thought of doing, you know, in 2005.
[00:03:22] Jennifer Wilson: That is for sure.
[00:03:24] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah. Isn't that the truth? I'm always amazed. I'm always amazed at what they come up with. Um, it makes me think, Yeah, it makes me think, Wow. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to.
[00:03:37] Jennifer Wilson: I dunno. It also makes me feel like I always thought of myself as a younger scrapbooker and now I'm like, Oh wait. I think time has gone by.
[00:03:45] Christine Middlecamp: Isn't that the truth too? I'd be like, Oh my God, do you think I'm getting old? Am I too old to be doing this anymore? Like, am I relevant? Is what I'm doing relevant? You know, But then I'm like, you know what, this is, this is anybody's art. We could all do what we wanna do and enjoy it at the same time. You know, there are no, no hard and fast rules and it's great to have these, It's great to have young people, um, come in and I think bring the spotlight back on this hobby, which is a good thing.
[00:04:15] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah. And I think it's, that's one of the things that I love about this community is just the way it spans so many generations and how we can all learn from one another.
[00:04:25] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:04:25] Jennifer Wilson: That's something that's been very special about it.
[00:04:27] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, I feel like sometimes I could be a little territorial about it. But at the same time, um, I'm actually, it, it, I'm grateful. I'm grateful these, these young kids are coming on and, and keeping this thing going. You know? I mean, it just, what it seemed like five or 10 years ago that scrapbooking, we were all worried it was gonna kind of fall off the map. But I think young people have showed us that there's, there's still a lot to be done here and that's really cool.
[00:04:56] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, Yes, yes. we always love to ask our guests about their memory keeping bucket list. So is there a story that you've not yet captured that feels really important to document?
[00:05:07] Christine Middlecamp: So I wanna document more about me. I had endured a lot as a young widowed single mom. And for a long time I didn't give myself any credit, um, for having gotten through all that. And so now I feel like I'm in this place where I wanna go back and capture some of that.
[00:05:26] Christine Middlecamp: I wanna capture more of the story of me, some self heroism and also my affiliations with feminism, um, and self empowerment and being able to just pick myself up. I don't really feel like I've talked about that a lot and I don't really feel like I've given myself a lot of credit in that department. And I think all of us need to do a little bit more scrapbooking about ourselves.
[00:05:47] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, Yes. And you know, as we're gonna get into the many layers of who we are as as people, so much is often focused on the way we, uh, connect with others in the outside world.
[00:05:58] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:05:59] Jennifer Wilson: In our homes, and not so much on what's going on inside of us.
[00:06:02] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah. And I think that, you know, that idea of, of documenting what's going on inside of us is very common within the mixed media community. But I, I still don't think it's, I, I don't think it dominates within the, you know, the scrapbook community. And I would love to see more and more of, of scrapbookers putting themselves out there in that way, including myself.
[00:06:26] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, Yes, yes. I think, think it has kind of grown and as we focused more on just storytelling in general, some of stories have started to come out.
[00:06:35] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:06:35] Jennifer Wilson: And we have so many different kind of tools and prompts and supplies and ways to, to enter into that. But I agree that it has been the tradition to primarily focus outside of ourselves.
[00:06:47] Christine Middlecamp: Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:06:50] Jennifer Wilson: So when we were connecting on Instagram to set up this episode, you mentioned that your journey has seen many twists and turns, and you've, you've hinted at some of that already. Can you share a little bit more about your story?
[00:07:02] Christine Middlecamp: You know, I will go back to the beginning. Um, I always think that when I tell this story that people have already heard it a hundred times. Um, and that it, it's nothing special. But I have to remind myself that even if it's not special per se, because we all experience loss, it's still relevant. Right?
[00:07:20] Jennifer Wilson: A hundred percent.
[00:07:21] Christine Middlecamp: You know, and at some point all of us are touched by it. So back in 2000, was it two, 2004? 2003? I'd been seven months pregnant. and it had just been a typical quiet Monday morning and my phone had rang my husband had been out on a business trip in Canada. And, you know, before he had left, we were kind of concerned. I mean, the vibes were off. We thought maybe something was, you know, I didn't want him to go on the trip. He didn't wanna go on the trip. But anyway, so I got a call and, the person on the other end had asked me, Hey, you know, we're your husband's having grand mal seizures? Um, and we can't get them to stop.
[00:08:04] Christine Middlecamp: Does he have any medical issues or is he a drug user? Or is there anything that might explain what's happening? And in that moment, I just felt like a tremendous weight. I, I fell to the ground and I just sort of dropped the phone. I knew this was not a good thing cuz he was a super healthy guy. He was a software engineer for Kodak Polychrome Graphics. Um, very successful. He's was a genius. He was, he was just wonderful. I directed them to reach out to his family. Because in that moment in my state, I, I couldn't help them. And so, fast forward. Um, we brought him home from Canada and we brought him to the U of M here in Minnesota and they diagnosed him with a glioblastoma.
[00:08:48] Christine Middlecamp: He had two large glioblastoma of his right temporal lobe. He was given a, one year to live. Um, and that was if he underwent surgery to have those tumors removed. Again, I was gonna be delivering a baby in a couple months. If he didn't have that surgery, he might not have saw the delivery of his son.
[00:09:06] Christine Middlecamp: And so he ultimately decided courageously to do the surgery. Um, I'm so sorry. It's still hard to talk about even 12 years later.
[00:09:16] Jennifer Wilson: And please feel free to share, you know, only what's comfortable.
[00:09:19] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, for sure. Um, and he did the surgery and he came out like a champ. But his journey from then on, no, was very hard. He underwent multiple rounds of radiation treatment, chemo, and it's, it's a disease I wouldn't wish on anyone. But in that process of him enduring cancer, I decided that it was really important, and this is, these are kind of the moments, right? When it's really important to put things to paper. Even if it's to tell your story in a blog or if it's to scrapbook or if it's to practice mixed media, whatever it is. I ended up at a bookstore and I found a scrapbook magazine. What was it? Creative Keepsakes back then, Is that what.
[00:10:01] Jennifer Wilson: Creating Keepsakes. Yeah.
[00:10:02] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, and I opened it up and I thought, well, this is interesting. Maybe I could use this as a medium to kind of put together or experience this story, this thing that's happening to share with my son later on. After his father's no longer alive. Um, and that's really how I got into it. And I started a blog at the same time sharing my experience.
[00:10:23] Christine Middlecamp: And as word got out about my story amongst the scrapbook community, God bless them all, they are the most wonderful people in the world. They came forward and they offered me a tremendous amount of support. And they were along for the journey, along for the ride, and they held me above water as I went through it.
[00:10:41] Christine Middlecamp: And a year later my husband had passed away. Um, it was quick and I, you know, um, as difficult as that was, I, I'm glad he didn't have to endure longer than he had to. Um, but after he was gone, I leaned even further, on scrapbooking, and on the scrapbook community to find my new place in the world. And I've been working at it ever since. And now, strangely, it's become my life.
[00:11:16] Jennifer Wilson: Wow. I mean, I appreciate you sharing so openly and because I entered the industry a little bit after that time, you know, it's not a story that I had heard before.
[00:11:26] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:11:26] Jennifer Wilson: And so I know there'll be other listeners out there will, um, resonate with you and also maybe feel a connection to some of these really important reasons of why we feel this deep need to start telling our stories.
[00:11:41] Christine Middlecamp: Well, I think so too. It provides a sense of connection, right?
[00:11:44] Jennifer Wilson: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:45] Christine Middlecamp: When we put something to paper and then we share that with the world, people are responding. And that responding can make us feel less alone. And I, I think that, that it's really important to feel like you're part of a group and that you're, you're not experiencing something like this alone.
[00:12:05] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. So how has your personal scrapbook, you said you kind of, you dove deep, how has it evolved up until the point in which you took a three year break?
[00:12:17] Christine Middlecamp: You know what's really interesting, if you look at my work, if you look at it at the very beginning, obviously I think at the very beginning I was practicing just, simple techniques. But then as I dove deeper, it just became more and more and more layered. And it was funny because it became more and more layered as my life was becoming more and more chaotic and disorganized through the loss. And then having to like pick up the pieces afterwards. Um, and, after, I'd probably say 10 years. You know, one day I looked at, I looked at one of my layouts and I'm like, Gosh, it looks so different from my very first layout. Um, and I realized, It's a, it's a refined mess. So it's, it's similarly layered. It's equally as layered as what I was doing in the beginning, but it's more finished, it's more clean. And um, it looks like there's just more space to breathe when I'm looking at my work.
[00:13:16] Christine Middlecamp: So I kind of identified as just being symbolic of where I am in my life right now. I mean, I'm in a much better place, right? Um, things are a lot more under control. I have a greater definition of who I am and where I'm at, and I think my work reflects that now.
[00:13:33] Jennifer Wilson: Do you also think, and, and this is, I don't know, something that pop into my mind that this, the intensely layeredness of your, your pages, the chunky embellishments that you like to use,
[00:13:44] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:13:44] Jennifer Wilson: Is that reflective of the heaviness you will always carry with you.
[00:13:48] Christine Middlecamp: I think so. You know what's really interesting, and I didn't really grasp onto this concept until Ali Edwards said something. She had shared one of my layouts at some point and had mentioned, um, that my work was just as layered as my life and that it was a reflection of those layers. And I thought, that's so interesting. I never really thought about it, you know? Um, and I kind of carried that with me and I still carry it with me. Hence the name Layered Life for the company.
[00:14:17] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes, Yes. So as we get to that, I'm curious, kind of what led to you taking a three year break, stepping back from the scrapbooking community?
[00:14:27] Christine Middlecamp: Um, it's really interesting. It's a long story. You know, when I started scrapbooking, I began on a platform that entailed something that was really challenging, right? And then as I got into it, it became more of something that became therapeutic. Something that I could lean on. So when I jumped, I started working for Crate Paper as their design team coordinator, social media manager.
[00:14:52] Christine Middlecamp: I had worked with them for about seven years. Lisa's wonderful. Who had originally owned the company. She was such a cheerleader for me, and I will always be grateful for that. Eventually on that journey and my working for them and my still scrapbooking and sharing my story, American Crafts bought them up. And you know, it had to happen. It was a point at the industry where small companies were finding it really difficult to stay afloat because scrapbooking was losing momentum. It wasn't as popular as it once was. And so American Crafts, they kind of consolidated, brought 'em on. And my position with Crate Paper, um, went on for probably another year after, it was after it was purchased, and, um, eventually they just decided to bring things in house. And there had been some big opportunity I'd lost out on and I, after I left there, um, I just felt like, you know, I feel like I need a break.
[00:15:49] Christine Middlecamp: I was, I felt like I needed a chance to step back and decide why am I doing this? Why am I continuing to scrapbook? Because I had scrapbooked right, originally at the beginning to convey and to self sooth.
[00:16:05] Christine Middlecamp: And now I had this great job and that seemed like another reason to stay in, I was a scrapbook designer for Studio Calico, Prima, Crate Paper, obviously. October Afternoon, I mean, all kinds of companies. I was doing the hustle. I was doing the thing where I was putting out design assignment, design assignment, and I just, I decided just to take a break.
[00:16:24] Christine Middlecamp: I needed to back up and figure out where I was gonna go with it.
[00:16:27] Jennifer Wilson: Well, and what, Why are you still in it? What, why, and where do you wanna go? What does this mean to you now that you've done some of the work of healing? And, yeah I could definitely see that it was time to maybe drop some of the balls.
[00:16:42] Christine Middlecamp: And I think we all do that, right? I think we all reach a point where like, if I'm kind of burnt out. You know, why am I doing this? You know? And it just helps to take, uh, a little bit of a breather. And I think that's typical no matter what medium you're working in, you know, it's recharge, it's recharge time.
[00:16:59] Jennifer Wilson: Well and I'm seeing a lot of about that right now as we kind of slowly, painfully exit the pandemic that this, the sense of burnout is very real and exacerbated by what we've gone through.
[00:17:12] Jennifer Wilson: And so I'm seeing a lot of dialogue around, you know, trying to understand that and move through it.
[00:17:17] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah. I think a lot of us were stuck in house and looking for something to do. And scrapbooking is a wonderful hobby, just like many other hobbies. But at some point when we're doing it for an extended period of time and it feels like we're on repeat, it helps to just press the pause button. Step away for a little and then come back into it when you feel like you've had a chance to reevaluate.
[00:17:41] Jennifer Wilson: So what led to the decision to start Layered Life and to start a new company and go out on your own?
[00:17:47] Christine Middlecamp: You know, I eventually decided when I came back, so I came back in and funny enough, I had Kelly Bangs with the Reset Girl. I had Shanna Noel with Illustrated Faith, and I had Fancy Pants. Okay. So I had just, we kind of skipped over this part, and maybe I should have mentioned this earlier on. When I, took that three year hiatus, I went to graphic design school.
[00:18:12] Christine Middlecamp: I studied graphic design for probably four years actually. Because when I'd been working for Crate Paper, I had always been asking Lisa, Oh my God, how hard is it to have your own company and design your own product? She's like, Oh, it's so easy. And I'm like, No, it's not. So when I got done with school, I was like, It is so not easy.
[00:18:31] Christine Middlecamp: It's actually a lot of work. But when I got out of school, I thought, you know what? I wanna give back to the community that gave to me, that supported me. You know, when things were tough. And, and I also wanted to create a company, that could differentiate itself, that offered something different. So what I noticed when I reentered the industry is that everything still very much felt the same.
[00:18:57] Christine Middlecamp: I mean, there's, there's a lot of fresh product out there, a lot of fresh ideas, don't get me wrong. But you have to understand, that as a single, young widowed mom, there's certain kinds of product that I crave that's just not out there. So, when I came back into the industry, I decided that there was a gap and I wanted to fill it.
[00:19:20] Christine Middlecamp: So not only was I wanting to get back to the, the scrapbook community, but I also wanted to establish product, that was going to be able to differentiate itself from what was already out there. So what typically is out there is product that, incentivizes, documenting holidays, special occasions, um, and safe every day happenings. But there isn't a lot of product out there that goes to the edge and asks of us to document the harder things. So things maybe that we aren't cheering because maybe, it's not seen as, common or, um, as acceptable or, typical, you know.
[00:20:09] Jennifer Wilson: Well, I think one of the things that's come out of conversations in the past few years, particularly about mental health is that in some families it's okay to talk about your feelings and in others, perhaps many others, maybe even the majority, you know, you're not, you're expected to not talk about your feelings or express them or, you know, kind of even feel them. And I think maybe there's some of that that has played into the, the choices of what's safe in our industry.
[00:20:33] Christine Middlecamp: Absolutely. There also is this thing too, that I learned back in the day that, companies have to develop product that's gonna reach a broad range of people, right? That's gonna sell to the masses. It's really hard to create a product that is very specific and tailored towards this very, limited market, because then you don't, you don't have as many, you know, you don't have as broad of an audience you can reach and sell to. And so I'm taking a little bit of a risk coming in and doing this, but I think I'm hoping to enact something, but I really wanna bring subject matter to the table, including what you talked about, like mental health and encourage creatives to be okay about putting that stuff to paper. You know, and sharing that and preserving that, and digging deep into that. That's okay. It's okay to not be perfect.
[00:21:25] Jennifer Wilson: Well and to do it in a, uh, in a colorful, interesting way.
[00:21:30] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, yeah.
[00:21:32] Jennifer Wilson: That's one of the things that stands out is that you have a very kind of vibrant aesthetic. Your tagline is modern, retro, scrapbook kits for the candid storyteller and color lover. So this isn't like you know muted Victorian patterns.
[00:21:47] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, Yeah. You know, I guess it's me being completely and totally transparent, honestly. And not being apologetic about it and having fun doing it.
[00:21:57] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, I love that. I love that.
[00:21:58] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, yeah.
[00:22:00] Jennifer Wilson: So can you talk more about you found your creative vision for the brand? It sounds like it was very much, this is what I love right now, and so that's where I'm gonna start.
[00:22:10] Christine Middlecamp: Okay. You know, and finding my creative vision for the brands. A lot of it came back from frustration and not being able to find relatable products as a nontraditional mother and woman. I found that most of what was sold to scrapbookers, um, was safe. And I, this is a terrible word, but it sometimes wholesome.
[00:22:31] Christine Middlecamp: Um, I got tired of the pretty flowers, the birds, bikes, and hearts. Um, I just felt like it had been rehashed over and over again. Um, and so in my mind I was like, Well, what's the point of building a brand that's already been done. Creating all of those things. I didn't wanna do that. Um, plus I felt like the industry was due for an injection of a small brand new business that was going to be different.
[00:22:54] Christine Middlecamp: New products, new ideas, you know, fresh ways of thinking and creating. I wanted to be one of those small businesses that would perpetuate and invite other people to also join the community with their small business ideas.
[00:23:07] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, I love that like sense of inclusiveness, inclusivity that you want to bring to it.
[00:23:12] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
[00:23:13] Jennifer Wilson: So I know that when I first, you know, there was a lot of sneek peaks. What's this going on? And the retro element, I think is part of what kind of caught people's attention. It was very clear. This is different. So why do you think retro will always be modern and cool and interesting?
[00:23:30] Christine Middlecamp: Well, I think first and foremost that, you know, it pulls at those nostalgia strings. You know? Especially, you know, in times of uncertainty, it's fun when we can be nostalgic because it kind of gives us a break of what's going on and in front of us and around us. You know, we can go back and think about a simpler time, um, when there weren't necessarily so many stressors and roles and expectations. So I think retro always be modern because people love to look to the past for ideas and to be inspired, for sure.
[00:24:05] Jennifer Wilson: We love that idea of like reminiscing. Um, when you mentioned you know, your, your age bracket, we grew up in the eighties and so actually seeing the kids today like embrace some of the eighties style, it's a little, it's very strange sometimes.
[00:24:21] Christine Middlecamp: It is and it's so, not only is it strange cuz it makes me feel old, but it's so cyclic, isn't it? I mean, if I think about when we were younger, you know, back in the day, um, we were doing things that our parents were doing.
[00:24:36] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, very much.
[00:24:37] Christine Middlecamp: Funny enough, I even see my, my kids doing things that my parents had done, you know?
[00:24:43] Christine Middlecamp: So it's like people are always looking back, always looking for that escape. Um, always looking for that sort of feel good vibe, you know? And I think our product portrays some of that, you know, And it does kind of offer some of that getaway, you know, It's trendy for a reason, right?
[00:25:00] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. yes. Though I have no desire to wear like white high tops again. I can't.
[00:25:04] Christine Middlecamp: Oh, absolutely not. Oh my God. No. But I do appreciate the wide like pants. I mean, those always help, you know, I love those. But you know, I, my challenge, I can never find a pair that fits me. Cause I'm like four nine. So everything I, I, you know, But that's besides the point.
[00:25:20] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. So are there other past trends that you are seeing come back around or ones that you're gonna make come back around?
[00:25:29] Christine Middlecamp: Oh my God. Absolutely. And I don't think it's going anywhere. I mean, I secretly, I'll tell you, I'm not a minimalist person. I really am not. I mean, I just get so bored and, and clean and linear. But you know, I do think that geometrics and simple, clean, interactive design with loads of color is, is gonna continue. You know, and I think we're starting to see some of that.
[00:25:53] Christine Middlecamp: If you don't notice, Heidi Swapp's doing a lot of interactive stuff right now. And it's for a reason because people are taking what they're doing on their phones, on their computers digitally, and they're bringing it out onto actual physical paper and it's so cool. I really, I really love it. I don't see that going anywhere.
[00:26:10] Christine Middlecamp: You know, But then again, I always think that there's gonna be a wavering between ornamental and embellished and also maximalism and minimalism. I think that's just par for the course. I think we're always swinging back and forth.
[00:26:22] Jennifer Wilson: Well, and even individually, I think there's more of an acceptance of you might do one project and one style and another project in a different style, that's, that's because it's fun and interesting and there's, there's really no expectation that all your scrapbooking should look the same.
[00:26:38] Christine Middlecamp: And isn't it funny how when there is a trend we're like, Yes, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna try this, I'm gonna get really good at this, and then we go into it and we're like, That's not me.
[00:26:47] Christine Middlecamp: You you could try, but no matter what your style is always gonna direct you back. You know, um, to what you usually do.
[00:26:55] Christine Middlecamp: It's so strange. I mean, I really admire, I have a couple girls on my maker team that are simple scrapbookers, and I look at what they do, and it's just, I'm in awe. You know, it, it still is a tremendous amount of work to put together a simple layout. I mean, every detail, every minute, you know, um, millimeter has to be accounted for.
[00:27:15] Christine Middlecamp: But I've tried doing that myself, and you could forget about, I end up just bringing on all the product anyway. I'm like, No, didn't work for me.
[00:27:28] Jennifer Wilson: No, that makes sense. And I think we, that's one of the things that we really encourage scrapbookers, especially within Simple Scrapper, is to think about what is really working for you.
[00:27:40] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:27:41] Jennifer Wilson: So we, I mean, we believe simple is not how your page looks, but how your hobby works.
[00:27:45] Christine Middlecamp: Yep.
[00:27:47] Jennifer Wilson: That's really what we try to talk about.
[00:27:48] Jennifer Wilson: So I think those, those types of conversations are becoming more prevalent and I think that's just only gonna to serve us all better as we, you know, continue to buy product, have fun and tell our stories.
[00:27:59] Christine Middlecamp: Well, what I think is neat is that with this wavering back and forth, right. It means that no matter how you scrapbook, at some point it's always gonna be, you know, at some point it's gonna be cool, right? It might not be cool today, but it, it could be cool a year from now, you know. Yeah.
[00:28:19] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. So it seems like you've been very intentional on the business side of things, to make, you know, slower steps. To be, you know cautious and obviously I'm sure there's the financial reason behind that, but I notice for example you're not offering subscriptions yet. I'm curious.
[00:28:37] Christine Middlecamp: Oh, so much to this. When you, when you had asked this question, I thought, oh man. Um, what am I leaning on to grow this business? Time.
[00:28:47] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah.
[00:28:47] Christine Middlecamp: I am leaning on time. This is when you start a business, unless you're coming in with a huge amount of capital, right, investors. You have to grow slow. And, I, this came suggested to me actually from Shanna Noel.
[00:29:01] Christine Middlecamp: She's like, Chris, you gotta start small and you gotta grow slow. And I promise you that it may seem like it will take forever, but at some point it, it will get to a place where it feels like a legit business, you know? It just takes time and energy investment to get there. You have to be patient and I think that's one of the things that I'm learning, but I'm also learning that you have to be flexible.
[00:29:30] Christine Middlecamp: Um, it's really, really challenging to figure out what your audience wants. I, myself with Layered Life need to do a better job of figuring out what my audience wants from me. I wanna personally get to know my audience, and I wanna deliver to them what they want. Now, on the topic of subscriptions, I decided to not do subscriptions because number one, it's oversaturated.
[00:29:54] Christine Middlecamp: Everybody's offering subscriptions. I've listened to podcasts on this topic.
[00:29:58] Jennifer Wilson: Oh yeah.
[00:29:59] Christine Middlecamp: How many subscriptions does the average person have? I really wanted to get away from that market because I don't think that it's going to be able to sustain itself long term. I think eventually there's gonna be a replacement of some sort.
[00:30:10] Christine Middlecamp: I also didn't want the tight deadlines presented with subscription services. I didn't wanna think, Oh my God, I have to get this thing done by next week and this, it needs to come back from the manufacturer by this time. I didn't want any of that. Thirdly, I didn't wanna put that pressure on my customers to think that they need to keep up with something, know, um, every single month, and that they need to be adding to their stash every single month.
[00:30:37] Christine Middlecamp: And it's gonna be this huge pile and we already have so much stuff. As scrapbookers, you know. Don't get me wrong, I love getting a surprise, something in the mail every month. But does it need to be 15 things? Do I really need 15 new things? I'm sure there's a lot of people are like, Yes, I do actually I do need 15 new things.
[00:30:55] Christine Middlecamp: But I'd rather create kits that feel, um, that number one, are well designed, um, that are of quality products, um, that are relatable and that speak to people, um, and that is limited. I don't want, I am not enticed to create huge kits. I'm just not. Um, Intention is really big to me. And that, that within its, is just more important to me.
[00:31:24] Christine Middlecamp: And I wanna make sure that what I'm delivering is exactly what, um, I want it to be. I want it to meet my expectations and I want it to make my customers feel like they're getting something genuine for their money.
[00:31:39] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, I love that. I really appreciate the, Oh, just the, the depth and the value that you put into how you are serving your customers.
[00:31:48] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, yeah. They really are actually at the forefront. I mean, they don't, they influence a lot of what I do here. I mean, you can go in, I'll be honest with you, as a graphic designer, whatever, and you could, you could say, God, I love that. I'm gonna put that to paper. But at the end of the day, that's not running a business.
[00:32:04] Christine Middlecamp: You know, you gotta meet people with where they're at. Um, I think that's important, but I'm also kind of being a rebel while I do it. Cause I'm not doing the things that people I think are typically used to.
[00:32:14] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah, that's kind of an interesting like kind of balance point that you have to find you know.
[00:32:21] Christine Middlecamp: A little nervewracking cuz I'm like, is there a market for this? Is there a market for this?
[00:32:26] Jennifer Wilson: Well, there's a market for everything. That's for sure.
[00:32:28] Christine Middlecamp: Is it big enough to sustain me?
[00:32:31] Jennifer Wilson: Amazon tried to sell me a Nicholas Cage blanket the other day, so.
[00:32:35] Christine Middlecamp: Well, that's not a bad deal. They charge at 10 bucks for that?
[00:32:38] Jennifer Wilson: It's $25.
[00:32:40] Christine Middlecamp: What? That's a little high for Amazon.
[00:32:44] Jennifer Wilson: I know and I was like, I was thinking about getting it as a like a white elephant gift, cuz we do an exchange every year and I'm like, Oh, our budget is $15. I'm not spending 25 on a blanket that has Nicholas Cage's face on it.
[00:32:56] Christine Middlecamp: That's awesome. Well, I didn't even know he was still that popular anymore.
[00:33:00] Jennifer Wilson: I don't that he is.
[00:33:02] Christine Middlecamp: Isn't he an oldie?
[00:33:05] Jennifer Wilson: He is.
[00:33:06] Christine Middlecamp: That's great.
[00:33:07] Jennifer Wilson: So I'm curious, as you're thinking about what your customers want and you're designing products, I'm sure you're, you're working well into the future. You know, what are some of your predictions about where things are headed? And I'm, I'm particularly thinking about we are creating in so many different formats these days. You know, layouts of all sizes, big and small. You know, travelers notebooks, memory planners, still pocket pages, like everything.
[00:33:34] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:33:35] Jennifer Wilson: Where, where are we going with all of that?
[00:33:38] Christine Middlecamp: You know, God, it's so hard to tell. I wish I could tell you, you know. But it, I mean, isn't that, I mean, isn't that the question every scrapbook company's trying to answer? Right? What's next? What's, you know? Um, we were all worried when the digital world showed up and thinking, Oh my God, is there people even gonna wanna use paper anymore? You know, I really truly think that scrapbooking's gonna become more simplified.
[00:34:03] Jennifer Wilson: Okay.
[00:34:03] Christine Middlecamp: I right now, I mean, but I also see it kind of leaning on the art end of things where people are doing more exploring with paints and sewing and all that, you know, on their layouts as well. So I do see some incorporating of the mixed media elements. But at the end of the day, our lives are speeding up. They really are. Uh, we're busy people, um, and there isn't a whole lot of time to sit down. Like there used to be. And, and work on, you know, our passions. I do believe people are still heavily into their passions, don't get me wrong, but I think it's gonna get simplified. I do, I think it's gonna be further simplified.
[00:34:42] Jennifer Wilson: Now on that note, one thing that we haven't discussed is are you offering digital products as well as your physical products?
[00:34:48] Christine Middlecamp: You know, we do, we are offering our kits in digital forms. We've had people request, okay, so we offer digitals and they're, when you purchase, uh, one of our digital kits, you get a PDF of the kit. We used to offer the PNGs. Um, and believe it or not, and a lot of people don't know this, but PNGs are, they're challenging to create cuz you have to do it for every single individual design. So we currently are not offering PNGs with our digital offerings. But we are trying to serve, um, the printable folks, the people who still want the kit, but maybe they live in another country. And they can't afford the shipping, you know, to have the kit sent to them. So they could just get the digital model.
[00:35:34] Jennifer Wilson: So more for hybrid scrapbookers.
[00:35:35] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah, yeah.
[00:35:38] Jennifer Wilson: Well and I think the, the sensitivity to shipping costs also is something that's really important because, uh, obviously I live in the US and so I'm grateful to have at least moderate shipping prices, but everything I'm hearing about shipping internationally is it just keeps getting worse and worse.
[00:35:54] Christine Middlecamp: It's really tough. I, you know, I've gotten word from some message boards that people have concerns about shipping costs.
[00:36:02] Jennifer Wilson: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:02] Christine Middlecamp: But at the end of the day, we all have this concept of Amazon that's like, you just pay this one yearly fee and you get free shipping all your. It's just, it's so unrealistic for small businesses cuz it doesn't function like that for us.
[00:36:14] Christine Middlecamp: We don't get the same discounts as Amazon and some of the bigger companies. I'll tell you for example, Canada shipping, um, Canadian shipping for me, uh, A year ago, Canadian shipping was about $12. It's now arching anywhere from 15 to 18. But I'm taking the hit, I still charge just 12. So, and it's getting more complicated to ship anything over the border.
[00:36:41] Christine Middlecamp: So, you know, we try to be accommodating with our international customers. I wish we could do more for 'em. Um, and it's an arena we're, we're continuing to research.
[00:36:52] Jennifer Wilson: Well, and I hope we're able to kind of find some innovative solutions and even as you mentioned you know, the printables as a, you know, a stop gap solution as well.
[00:37:01] Christine Middlecamp: Absolutely. Um, you know, all of us are on, are online and accessing things online to actually transport physical product, to bring something physical to somebody. It's just getting more expensive and I don't see that changing.
[00:37:17] Jennifer Wilson: Well, yeah, we're all coping with everything getting more expensive.
[00:37:20] Christine Middlecamp: Things have not righted themselves since Covid. You know, I'll even tell you getting stuff from China right now, please be patient with your Scrapbook companies. It's tough. It's really tough.
[00:37:31] Jennifer Wilson: So this has been so, such an incredible conversation, Christine.
[00:37:35] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah.
[00:37:35] Jennifer Wilson: I appreciate your openness and your candor as we talk about your story and how it's led you to this exciting place today
[00:37:41] Christine Middlecamp: Can I just add something real quick too? You know, and I don't think I've conveyed this enough in our conversation. Layered Life is not your average scrapbook company. And, and at the end of the day, Okay, listen, my life has been unbelievably challenging. I genuinely didn't think that I would survive widowhood. and being a single mom. I thought, there's no way that I'm gonna get through this. And I did. And so when I created Layered Life, I did it because I wanted to create a company that conveyed real life. I needed it to be honest. I needed it to be transparent. Um, and I also needed it to be fun and candid and, um, wasn't, wasn't into sugarcoating.
[00:38:28] Christine Middlecamp: It's just not my style. I, I wanna, I kind of wanna bring an attitude to the industry and, I think that people deserve credit for what they go through, in their lives. And, and they should, they should put it to paper, and have product to help 'em do it. Not just the good times, but the tough times too.
[00:38:49] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, a hundred percent. I totally agree. And so I, yeah, I, I really appreciate you contributing to that. Um, there are not, certainly, not enough of you out there in the industry and, uh, I'm so glad to have another small business that I can support.
[00:39:04] Christine Middlecamp: Oh, I certainly appreciate you inviting me on here. This has been absolutely wonderful. And, um, if folks wanna find us, our website is www.layeredlifekits.com. You can also find us at Instagram at layered life story. We'd love you to take your projects if you're working with our product at Instagram using Layered Life or Layered Life Story as well.
[00:39:27] Jennifer Wilson: Awesome. And so those are the hashtags.
[00:39:29] Christine Middlecamp: Yep. Yep.
[00:39:31] Jennifer Wilson: And then is there anything you have new or coming up, any sneak peeks that you can share?
[00:39:35] Christine Middlecamp: You know, I recently just did a really big giveaway of all of our kits.
[00:39:39] Jennifer Wilson: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:40] Christine Middlecamp: Um, and in the process of doing the giveaway, I asked people, you know, what kind of collection they'd like to see from us. And someone mentioned candy. You know, and that goes against a grain, a little bit about what, you know, what we represent.
[00:39:52] Christine Middlecamp: But I couldn't help myself. It seemed like a perfect extension for the holiday. And who doesn't? Who doesn't have a sweet tooth? I mean, I love candy. I'm 45, but I still eat candy.
[00:40:03] Jennifer Wilson: I actually don't like candy.
[00:40:04] Christine Middlecamp: You don't, Are you a salt person? You must be a salt person.
[00:40:07] Jennifer Wilson: I'm a salt person, for sure.
[00:40:09] Christine Middlecamp: Yep, yep. Yeah. So I, you know, I mean, God, there's all this healthy eating. Healthy living, and I'm like, Listen, I'm 45 people, I'm gonna, I'm gonna get that Kit Kat if I wanna get that Kit Kat.
[00:40:21] Jennifer Wilson: So mine is like the block of cheese. So.
[00:40:23] Christine Middlecamp: That's, that's great. Hey, we have a cheese curd store in town you'd probably love. It's, we are, Ellsworth is the capital, um, of, uh, what we're the cheese curd capital. That's what they say. Um, of Wisconsin. So we, we have everything you need here.
[00:40:40] Jennifer Wilson: I look forward to visiting some time.
[00:40:42] Christine Middlecamp: Yeah. Oh, well thank you so much.
[00:40:46] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, Christine, thank you. And to all of our listeners, please remember that you have permission to Scrapbook Your Way.
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