Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Everybody loves a winner? Just ask Kristina Contes.

Living, as I do, in the home of the World Champeens of baseball (the Boston Red Sox); the Super Bowl bound - and still perfect - New England Patriots (18-0, but who's counting?); and the back from the dead Celtics who are current holders of the best record in pro basketball - and reading, as I do, a number of sports blogs - if there's one thing I understand, it's that not everybody loves a winner. (The anti-Patriot blogs are particularly nasty and brutish.)

So I wasn't all that surprised to read about the recent downfall of scrapbooking phenom Kristina Contes, which was written up recently in the Boston Globe.

For those who don't follow the scrapbooking with the same avidity that I do sports, scrapbooking is no longer about your grandmother's pressing her wedding day gardenia between two sheets of waxed paper and gluing it into a big old scrap book alongside the wedding announcement, so that they can decay, yellow, and molder - until 75 years on someone opens the falling apart tome, has a sneezing attack, and tosses the whole thing in the junk.

Nor is it exclusively the ladylike province of nicey-nice moms specializing in reribboned pink and white memory books that are big on hearts, flowers, and kitty-cats. (Although there is plenty of that going on.)

No, like everything else, scrapbooking has taken on some edge, and one of its edgiest (think tattoo and lip stud, not Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirt) - and most talented - practitioners is one Kristina Contes.

Contes basked in a reputation built on making pages dedicated to her designer handbags, her Converse sneakers, and the word "dude." She showcased her avant-garde designs on websites like Scrapinstyletv.com, traveled the country teaching classes, and turned down offers to go to Paris, London, and Norway.

"It's kind of like being a rock star," Contes said. "It's not what you think scrapbooking is."

That was before she was named to the Scrapbooking Hall of Fame and incurred the wrath (and scrutiny) of some of the older, more traditional scrapbookers.

Scrapbooking had apparently been maintaining an uneasy peace between its radical elements ( Contes was by no means alone - there's an entire cohort of hip young  scrapbookers) and the more conservative forces in what has become a $2.6B industry. (Yes - that's a B there, not an M.)

They all entered the same contests, went to the same conventions, etc.

In that world, Contes stood out. She created textures with vinyl and made patterns by dabbing bubble wrap in paint. She turned playing cards into mini-scrap pages, cut out curse words from cardboard, and laid out distressed fonts and fish-eye photos. She started a blog, co-wrote a book, and championed scrapbookers - until they turned on her.

The most popular rag in the scrapbooking industry is Creating Keepsakes, which had an attack of the hips and chose Contes as the winner of one of their contests, which got her work published in a book - and her name in CK's Hall of Fame.

Contes, alas, had unknowingly violated a contest rule. Her portfolio contained pictures taken by a friend. Contes was so obviously oblivious to this being a no-no that she contacted Creating Keepsakes to make sure her friend got credit in the book. When the book was published - showing both names - a scrapstorm was unleashed:

Disgruntled scrapbookers besieged the Creating Keepsakes chat room threatening to cancel subscriptions, boycott, and sue. Scrapbooking bloggers compared it to the performance-enhancing drug controversies of major league baseball player Barry Bonds and Olympic track star Marion Jones. Someone wrote that Contes was as polarizing a figure as Martha Stewart.

Contes, herself, felt that she was being stalked on her own blog, which she made private.

All this sounds more than a bit like the blog-o-sphere trashtalking about the Patriots. According to the Patriots' haters, the organization is nothing but a bunch of classless, dirt-ball cheaters, whose season deserves to be asterisked,  and which is owned and operated by the "worm-like" Kraft family. (Who knows, maybe the trash talking anti-Pats are married to the ladies who scrapbook.)

Yes, the Pats did give their haters a bone to gnaw on when their coach was caught breaking a league rule about videotaping, which the anti-Patriots brigade has elevated into "evidence" that the Pats 18-0 season is not because they're a great team, but because they cheat. (Anyone who knows anything about football would realize that the Patriots did not have to resort to cheating to beat the hapless Jets, the team they were caught videotaping.)

And so, those who were uncomfortable with Contes' edge, originality, and talent had the smoking glue-gun they were looking for: she cheated!

The folks at Creating Keepsakes caved in and disqualified Contes from their Hall of Fame.

"We are painfully aware that our error has deeply upset many of you, our cherished readers and scrapbooking partners," wrote editor in chief Brian Tippetts.

Hmmmmm. "Cherished readers". Am I the only one mentally substituting "dear, sweet ladies"?

For a while, Contes swore off of scrapbooking, but she's back.

"Scrapbooking," ," Contes said she realized, "can be whatever the hell you want it to be. It can be messy, it can be angry, it can be angsty, it can be just you."

Spoken like a true winner.


Karen said...

Great Blog, I enjoyed reading it. If you are looking for new fonts for your scrapbooking, check out fontmarketplace. They have hundreds of cool fonts. Keep blogging, you are good at it.


~ Karen

Anonymous said...

I understand that creating the drama of young vs. old or new vs. traditional makes your article a more salacious read, but it has nothing to do with reality. Kristina Contes has been villified for the following reasons:

1. she cheated
2. she made a lame excuse and tried to deny it
3. she appears to be incapable of making an apology
4. she blames others for her mistakes
5. she plays the victim when in fact, she was taking advantage of others
6. she fails to conduct herself with any class in the aftermath



DUH. I think that bears repeating. DUH.

Michael Jacksson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

In regards to K Contes and The New England Patriots, a cliché phrase comes to mind: once a cheater, always a cheater.

Maureen Rogers said...

Wow! Someone finds a five-year old blog on a scandal in the scrapbooking world and uses it to make a tired old jab at the Patriots. Just wow!