"I guess her response is 'dignified' if you live in the same trailer park as she does."
Mortified and hurt, Contes stopped scrapbooking.
"I, seriously, was like the Lindsay Lohan of scrapbooking," Contes said. "I didn't just sign a million-dollar movie contract. I'm not on a billboard on the side of the road. I'm just a scrapbooker."
Many longtime devotees of scrapbooking credit the Christensen family of Utah with putting a spotlight on the craft in 1980 at the World Conference of Records, where they shared albums that captured their family history, the pages displayed in sheet protectors inside loose-leaf binders. The family wrote a how-to book and opened a scrapbooking store selling stamps, and archival and acid-free paper. The concept took off, especially among the Christensens' fellow Mormons, who were particularly interested in preserving their genealogy.
In 1987, Rhonda Anderson of St. Cloud, Minn., co-founded Creative Memories, a company that aimed to take scrapbooking to people of all backgrounds. Creative Memories now has 90,000 consultants who sell the company's products in stores, online and in classes they teach in 12 countries. The company earned $300 million in 2005, and slightly less in 2006 because many people shifted to computer programs to create digital albums, a niche the company is now expanding.
"The traditional family album is alive and well," Anderson said. "But scrapbooking is really changing -- it's not just keeping track of your baby or your family photos in a paper album."
Before Contes stumbled upon scrapbooking, the fashion addict couldn't figure out what to do with her life. She had dropped out of jewelry-making school and given up on a career in interior design.
After getting married three years ago, Contes decided to put together a wedding album, and began researching online. She found traditional scrapbook layouts -- albums featuring pink ribbon sashes, buttons, heart jewels, fabric flowers, and tags with the words "love" and "yours forever" in cursive fonts.
Then she came across a community of avant-garde scrapbookers in their 20s and 30s who had learned to express their loneliness, narcissism and rage on their pages. That's when Contes realized she had found her calling. She took on the screen name "labelwhore," playing off her obsession with fashion.
Many of the people she encountered online were caught in a quarter-life crisis, pondering decisions about whether to have children, questioning whether they were ready to let go of their youth, or wondering why they had not yet found the perfect career or ideal man.
Contes met one young woman who scrapped about her miscarriage. The woman printed a photo of herself for the page, adding stickers, stamps and Coldplay lyrics: "Come on, my star is fading and I swerve out of control. I know I'm dead on the surface but I'm screaming underneath."
Another woman created a page in which she took a picture of herself wearing a different outfit every day for three weeks. In each photo, she held a sign with a word. After laying out the page, the words formed the sentence: "I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up or if growing up is indeed something I want to do."
Some called their style "life art," setting themselves apart from traditional scrappers.
"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."
It was a way to combine her love of art, writing, design and photography. Her dining room became her design studio, the table her easel. She would happily drop $100 on glue guns, embossing powder and transparent paper. She filled baskets with fabric: plaid, leaf-printed, psychedelic-swirled.
Her Internet friends encouraged her. They formed a sort of indie-scrapper club, calling themselves "Effer Dares." Their blog, also called Effer Dares, took off, and hundreds of scrapbookers became fans.
Effer Dares posted daily prompts on the group's blog, challenging readers to focus on a theme, such as: Create a page that is a "letter to your former self."
The friends decided to put their ideas into a book. They called it "We Dare You: Scrapbook Challenges About Real Life." It was published in 2007.