Get creative with your life story and memories with scrapbooking

Welcome to Co-Space (104A Xuan Thuy (5th floor), Thao Dien, D2), a co-working space for women. This bright open office opened last November as the first co-working space exclusively for women in Ho Chi Minh. All kinds of women utilize the Co-Space office area. Members include designers, start-ups, professors, and a CFO. They also include stay-at-home moms that need a quiet space to answer emails and get personal work done without the distractions of home life.

As well as being a natural networking space, Co-Space offers members and the public participation in a wide variety of workshops ranging from business related topics like Facebook Ad workshops and Search Engine Optimization workshops to creative ventures like photography. One workshop in particular attracts weekly regular attendees—the scrapbooking workshop. The class provides, paper, stickers, tools and other supplies. Attendees need only bring their treasured photos, which they will transform into beautifully preserved memories for albums or frames.

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On Tuesday mornings, Co-Space’s large meeting room transforms into a craft area with long tables covered in paper, scissors and tape. Each participant finds a work area and is soon surrounded by scraps and layouts. The group’s facilitator, Rachel, walks around the room answering questions and giving advice: “What do you think of this color?” “Should I switch the gold border for the floral?”

“I like to walk around and look at things because I know exactly what stickers and things we have so usually I’ll have an idea of something that will match with the page. I can just grab it quickly and bring it over,” says Rachel.

One of the attendees entered the workshop with a large storage container full of scrapbooking supplies. She put her container down in the corner and pulled out a huge scrapbook. She is leaving Ho Chi Minh City after six years and has asked each of her friends and the families that she met in the city to make a page for her to remember her time in Saigon. She flipped through the mismatched pages full of smiling kids, handwritten notes, holidays and dear friends. “I just tell them to bring pictures and show up on Tuesday morning. I tell them, ‘Rachel will help you.’”

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Rachel’s mother-in-law had arrived the night before from Australia with a fresh stock of stationery. The participants eagerly flipped through the new selection, pulling out card for their pages.

“There are two scrapbooking shops in the city, but they’re both extremely expensive. It’s easier to bring supplies from Australia or the US when we have the opportunity,” Rachel explains. Memory albums, not unlike today’s scrapbooks, started to appear in the 18th and 19th centuries when it became trendy for college-age women to create a visual representation of their daily lives through an album. They included class schedules, ticket stubs and guest lists. Friendship albums were also popular—collections of notes, drawings and the eventually accessible photographs.

Scrapbooking as we understand it today with custom papers, stickers, albums, scissors and tools began in the US in the early 80s. It grew in popularity as not only a personal way to preserve memories but as a social network for people to come together and “scrap book.” Throughout the world, people gather in homes, scrapbooking shops, and at conferences to share their memories and their daily lives. The Co-Space scrapbooking group reflects that tradition of community.

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Rachel’s mother-in-law attended the class on her visit, creating a page of family photos. In a jet-lagged fog she taped a piece of accent paper on crooked. There was a chorus of disapproval from herself and Rachel.

“Oh no!”

“Oh no!”

“It will be fine!” One of the regular attendees sat down next to Rachel’s mother-in-law and tried to convince her to take a more avant-garde approach to her page and embrace the crooked lines.

With a skeptical look Rachel said, “Her style is a little more out there. I prefer things to be,” she drew two straight lines with her hands, “symmetrical.”

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Most of the attendees are expats who have built communities of families living and growing together in the city. One regular taped and assembled while she rattled off all the things she had to do at home. At the end of her list she concluded, “Then I thought, I’m going to scrap book. That’s a good use of my time.”

“These are my in-laws,” one attendee said, pointing to her photographs. She had stopped Rachel to ask if her color choices were “too much.”

“I think the pattern is busy so how about we put a solid color for half. Maybe a cream or a green.” Rachel made her way to the paper and began shuffling through the pile. She passed a couple options over and soon the page was a perfect balance of pattern and solid, a backdrop for smiling families.

Rachel, who had not scrapbooked for ten years before moving to Vietnam, rediscovered her love of the hobby through the loss of a friend. Co-Space member and photography teacher Michelle passed away in February this year. Before she passed away she was planning the scrapbooking workshop with Co-Space founder Anne. After she passed away Anne asked Rachel, who was also Michelle’s student, if she could facilitate the scrapbooking workshop. Co-Space is honoring her memory by donating 10 percent of the scrapbooking workshops to Michelle’s chosen charity: St. Joseph’s Charity School.

Scrapbooking is a weekly workshop and will continue in August after the summer break. It runs every Tuesday morning from 10:30am–12:30pm. The fee is VND500,000 for members and VND600,000 for non-members. Visit www.co-spacevn.com for more info.

Images by Vy Lam