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Crafty creativity: Utah-based Stampin' Up! adds digital products

Inspire. Create. Share.

When it comes to the art and craft of stamping, the theme of this year's national Stampin' Up! convention says it all, says Shelli Gardner, co-founder and CEO of the 20-year-old company.

Card-making, scrapbooking, home decor, gift items, apparel — whatever you do, however you find your creative outlet, she says, your life can be enriched.

Through these crafts, "you create tangible products, but you create something of value on many levels," Gardner says.

"And then you can turn around and share it with others. True inspiration causes you to stop and think, but it also so powerful that it moves you to action," she says. "A lot of fulfillment comes from that."

One of her favorite quotes comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said: "In life, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire."

Through these crafts, she says, "you are able to create the most valuable thing of all — relationships. That's the thing that most of our stampers talk about. Fun and enthusiasm are contagious and meant to be shared."

Stampin' Up! was started in 1988 by Gardner and her sister, LaVonne Crosby, when they got hooked on stamping and looked for a home-based business opportunity that would let them buy and sell rubber stamps. Finding none, they decided to create their own.

Today, there are some 40,000 Stampin' Up! demonstrators worldwide. The products are sold through in-home workshops and demonstrations and (at a slightly higher price) online. Today, the catalog has expanded to include not only stamps but paper, punches, art supplies, die cuts, stencils, home decor products and more.

Some 3,000 of their demonstrators gathered at the Salt Palace recently for the national convention. What is so fun, says Elizabeth Gray, public relations spokesman for Stampin' Up!, is "that they come from all walks of life, all ages, all stages of life. Some do it mostly so they can get their own products at a discount, some own their own businesses, and some even support their families."

At the convention, two new product lines were introduced and will be available this fall. The first is digital crafting software called My Digital Studio, which enables crafters to digitally design scrapbooks, cards and calenders as well as create multimedia outputs such as video, says Brent Steele, vice president for creative services at Stampin' Up!

Digital is becoming an increasing part of the scrapbook and crafting world, says Steele. "It's bringing in a whole new group of crafters: computer geeks, husbands and other men, younger crafters."

A second new line is a partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop that will allow the Utah-based stamping company to create a collection of stamp sets, designer papers and die cuts built around Build-A-Bear Workshop mascot Bearamy and his furry friends. "I know I will be spending hours playing with my grandchildren, making all kinds of Build-A-Bear creations," Gardner says.

Jill Kocherhans demonstrated a few possibilities, including a gift sack, a little canvas bag for crayons, magnetic paper dolls and a framed picture scene. Some of her projects were made from what was left of the others. "Never throw anything away," is her advice.

"Experiment, and you can often find a new use for it."

Stamps can be used on paper, cloth, wood and other materials. Die cuts can be created out of fabric ironed on to fusible web that in turn can be ironed on to other fabrics, or out of magnetic sheets, or cardstock and other things available at any craft store, she says. All it takes is imagination, inspiration and creativity.

That's one thing that Sheila Paul, a demonstrator from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, loves about it all. "You can incorporate so many different crafts into what you do; they all cross the lines these days."

Her daughter, Heather, "is in it for the photography. I love to do portfolios and wedding albums."

There's something that everyone can do, says Trina Boyd, also from Edmonton. "I love it when people say, 'Oh, I can't do it; I'm not creative at all.' I sit down with them and pretty soon, they are saying, 'Oh, this is easy. I could do this at home.' "

Cynthia Ritzman, from Ontario, Calif., was in a painting group with some friends, and "one member of the group started stamping. I thought, 'Why do I need another hobby?' But we saw the fun she was having and we all gave in and started stamping. Now that's all we do."

It's like the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Stamp," jokes Trina Lopez. "You never know where you'll go, but you know you'll have fun."

That's the thing that Ritzman loves most. "You get to have a fun, relaxing time together. If you're not friends to start, you will be soon. You will find people to share your life."

It can be "completely addicting," warns Sharon Maxwell, of Marshall, Minn., with a grin. "Maybe we need a Stampers Anonymous." On the other hand, she says, "I love it. It's a great way to spend time with your best friends, doing something you can all enjoy."

The theme does say it all, adds her friend, Carol Jones, Oreana, Ill. "It's so rewarding to see someone's eyes light up because of something they've made. You both feed good. It's inspiring. It's creative. And it's just plain fun."