Exclusive Interview with Heidi Swapp
Jill Davis, founder of Scrapbook.com, recently sat down with Heidi Swapp, designer of Heidi Swapp products, to talk about her product line, where she finds her inspiration, and whether or not she runs into the same creative obstacles that other scrapbookers do, like journaler's block and burn-out.
Continue reading to see what Heidi had to say about her likes and dislikes, her designs, and how she creates some of your FAVORITE products.
Jill: Heidi, it’s great to be with you today. Our readers and customers are big fans of you and your products. One of the things they comment on is how prolific you are. Where do you find your motivation and/or inspiration for the products you create?
Heidi: Usually the ideas for products come to me while I’m scrapbooking. It is really important to me that I am scrapbooking all the time.I’ll wish I had something like this or something like that. I combine that with looking through magazines and window shopping. I am not a big buyer; the things I see just go into some creative memory bank in my head and when I get working the ideas form practical applications.
Jill: So when you are out and about, are you looking in cities, in actual retail windows or are you looking through magazines.In other words, if you were walking down the mall is your scrapbooking mind working?
Heidi: Always working; and it’s frustrating because I can’t cross-shop. I can’t be looking for a blouse I need and see scrapbook ideas. I have to go with the intention of looking only for scrapbook ideas and if I need to go looking for clothes I have to go with the intention of only looking for clothes. I have to choose my focus.
You’ll know I’m just learning and absorbing ideas if there are no bags in my hands. I try to go to cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston. I can usually find really fun boutiques with what’s really new and different. I probably subscribe to every magazine on the planet. I love to look at what is new, and I love to see what is coming up. And when I am out and about it kind of tips me off as far as the trends and colors coming out.
Jill: That is a wonderful way to do it. As you look through these magazines, do you have a favorite product that you like to use, yours or someone else’s, one that you use on almost everything?
Heidi: I can’t really say I have an absolute favorite. As I look through my catalogs everything feels like my favorite. I have a new product coming out this summer that I am so in love with. I can’t tell you what that is just yet. I think one of my most favorite things is sandpaper. I just love it. I love mine in particular. The factory decided to put my logo on it and a backing which makes it more rigid. I actually think it makes it easier to work with and I love it.
Jill: So you can rip it better?
Heidi: Yes; it doesn’t fall apart as easily. I think it helps to control it better and that’s why I love it. I do not know how I go through so much sandpaper.
Jill: So did the sandpaper idea just evolve?
Heidi: It wasn’t even something I really planned. We needed sandpaper in a kit and I chose the grit. They sourced the grit and it came back with my logo on the back of it. We were laughing about it. It seems so narcissistic or something to have the logos everywhere, but it ended up making it so personal and I loved it so much and I feel like it made such a huge difference when we put the sandpaper into the matchbooks that you can buy. They’re probably one of our top sellers.
Jill: It is fantastic to know that a piece of sandpaper brings such joy. How do you make and find time to scrapbook in your busy life since you need to do it in order to find out what you need to create?
Heidi: I scrapbook on a daily basis.
Jill: So is it part of your job?
Heidi: Yeah, it is just part of what I do. I am not one who can sit still.
Jill: Yeah, I know that about you.
Heidi: So, even if we’re just watching TV I have to be playing.And when I play, it turns in scrapbooking, or a card, or elements that keep me going. I think I make the choice to scrapbook. I think you choose what your priorities are. But I can’t be creative until my house is clean. It bothers me to know there is a big mess downstairs or there’s laundry I should do. I can’t focus on scrapbooking.
Jill: I always thought that came from our mothers saying "you can’t play until your work is done?"
Heidi: I think it does. So, the only real area I allow to get completely out of control is my scrapbook room.
Jill: Isn’t that a great feeling? I was scrapbooking in my office the other day and I said to my family, “You guys need to come in here and see how I really scrapbook.” It was a mess and it felt so great.
Heidi: Oh man…I get so messy and then I try to clean it up and two seconds later it’s so messy again.I just have to give up.
Jill: That’s just how it is!
Heidi: I truly love to scrapbook. I truly get a thrill from it and I’m never sick of it, nor do I get bored with it.
Jill: You said you go to New York, San Francisco, and Boston to window shop and find inspiration. Can you tell us more about that?
Heidi: I think I always look for inspiration outside the scrapbooking industry, whether it’s home décor or fashion or anything but not within the scrapbooking industry.
Jill: That keeps it fresh doesn’t it?
Heidi: It keeps it moving in the right direction. I think every designer in the industry would tell you that.
Jill: So do you ever get in a slump or stuck on a project?
Heidi: Oh yeah, totally.Especially when I’m forced. I hate it when I have to do something.
Jill: I’m guessing that deadlines are not your favorite?
Heidi: Deadlines are necessary and they do work for me, but if I’m supposed to be working on something and nothing is coming, I have to switch to what I’m not supposed to be doing.
Jill: So you have to change your state of focus?
Heidi: Yeah. Then the ideas will usually come and that will help me finish the project I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t like to be told what to do.
Jill: Oh really?
Heidi: I want to do whatever I want.
Jill: What’s been the hardest thing about working in the scrapbooking industry?
Heidi: I think the hardest thing is having my name on stuff.
Jill: Lots of stuff. Why?
Heidi: Because I have to take responsibility for it. There are good things to take responsibility for and there are hard things to take responsibility for; things that don’t go well or go right. I think a lot of scrapbookers have known who I am for a long time. I’m not just an entity, I’m a real person. I want people to know I have real struggles and real issues and that my kids make the biggest messes and I am stuck cleaning up the same normal stuff. I’m just now getting to the point where I have to decide whether or not its necessary to bring on more people and more scrapbook designers in order for me to keep up and really grow the brand. It’s very hard for me to trust the process and it’s hard for me to convey my vision to others. It’s a definite challenge.
Jill: Will you be able to have things come across your desk and approve, or not approve, or give suggestions to change?
Jill: And that means there is a lot of growth?
Heidi: Yeah, a lot growth.
Jill: Both with the industry and within yourself. What’s the easiest thing about working in the scrapbooking industry?
Heidi: The easiest thing is to design products I love.
Jill: You know that’s a real gift because not everybody can do that.
Heidi: It just comes so easy; there are always ideas.It takes a very short amount of time. I’m not the illustrator type of artist, so my designs are very simple. I like alphabets or simple images that I feel can be used over and over. I don’t like something that is so limited that you would only want to use it once.
Jill: So you want your tools, or whatever your products are, not to just stay on a shelf?
Heidi: Right, and I want scrapbookers to be able use them on a baby page, a love page, or on any page. I like items you can use over and over; that’s why the designs are very simple and it’s very easy for me to crank out the products. If all I had to do was design products, my life would be so easy! It’s the ads and catalogs and texts that are more difficult.
Jill: And the interviews?
Heidi: And the interviews… it’s really hard talking about how I design.
Jill: Because you have to formulate what you do and to put things into words.Sometimes the things you do are so normal to you, you don’t realize they are really quite phenomenal to others.
Heidi: I love to teach; it’s coming up with the project that is hard. I agonize over the project but it’s really easy to present.
Jill: Who do you admire as a scrapbooker right now?
Heidi: There are a lot of scrapbookers I admire. I really admire Ali Edwards. It’s really easy to say that because I think everyone feels that way. I appreciate how real she is. However, I think my personal hero, the person I admire the most in the industry as a scrapbooker, as a motivator, as a woman, and as a business woman is StacyJulian. I think she is a great scrapbooker and I love what she writes.
Jill: And what Stacy’s sharing with everyone at Big Picture Scrapbooking. Those are two great women. You said you read magazines and look at things to get inspiration and ideas. Do you also read idea books?
Jill: Can you say why?
Heidi: Because I don’t like to be influenced in that way. I skim through magazines, but don’t study them. I like to know what people are being drawn to.I like to look at styles and colors. I want to be fresh. If a design is going to come from it, I want it to come naturally. I do look at photograph books because I like to look at different ways to approach photography.I don’t consider myself a fabulous photographer, so I really enjoy finding inspiration in those kinds of books.
Jill: Do you have any neat storage ideas you can share?
Heidi: My neat storage idea is this huge destruction area that I live in. I should not say I’m unorganized because I know where everything is, but it doesn’t look pretty. I think if you came into my room and looked at my stuff it would be interesting to look around because there is just so much of it. I’m a mess. (laughter)
Jill: You’re a put-together mess.
Heidi: I kind of group things so all my rub-ons are in one box and all my flowers are in another. I keep a lot of things in the packaging. All the packaging that HeidiSwapp (company) does is clam-shell, so you can open and close it again.
Jill: I see.
Heidi: It helps me to remember what set it came from.
Jill: Then you know how you many you do have or don’t have. I like that idea.
Heidi: I keep stuff together.I use a little bit of Cropper Hopper for my photos. I have all my Chipboard Alphabets, all my Masks, and all my Silhouettes in Cropper Hopper and then I label them on the top and they just sit on my shelf.
Jill: That’s organized.I bet it looks really pretty. What time of the day are you the most creative?
Heidi: Well that depends on if I’m pregnant or not. (laughter) I’m pregnant right now.
Jill: And you look beautiful, I might add.
Heidi: Oh you are so sweet. I don’t know what’s going to happen when the baby comes. I’m panicked. But it used to be I wouldn’t be in bed before 2:30am or 3:00am ever. I love the night. Truly at about 11:00 pm I’m the most creative, because I’m alone. I like to watch movies over and over again so I don’t have to pay attention.
Jill: It’s pure entertainment.
Heidi: I try to be the most productive while my kids are in school. Coming into summer there’s a panic.
Jill: That’s a really justifiable panic.
Heidi: It’ll be a challenge.
Jill: It’ll be interesting to see what comes from your creativity when you’re shorter on time to complete your projects.
Heidi: Probably nothing!
Jill: Have you ever been burned out?
Heidi: I don’t think I have ever been as burned out as I am now while I’m pregnant. I’m just tired. I think I get burned out occasionally but then something fun comes along.
Jill: So to get recharged do you still look to creativity or do you go get a pedicure or take a walk in nature? What do you do?
Heidi: I love to run. I really miss running. When I run I think really clearly and get really good ideas. So I run with my cell phone because I have to unload the ideas so I can move on to the next ones. As I run I call and say, to anyone who will listen, “Okay write this down.” (laughter)
Jill: That’s smart. I actually call my voicemail and talk to myself.
Heidi: Oh that’s a good idea.I think recharging comes for me when the laundry is all done or my house is clean. Even cleaning out the refrigerator or pantry makes me feel like I don’t have to worry about it anymore and I can really concentrate.So I find when I get burned out or aggravated it’s because other things are infringing on my creativity. I think it goes back to women’s, or mom’s paradox. My first responsibility is to be a mother and I feel guilty and horrible when there’s no dinner or there’s no food or there’s no clean clothes. So when I feel good about my role as a mother I can then move into my role as a businessperson. I think I recharge when I feel I’ve met my matronly obligations.
Jill: That’s neat that you put motherhood first. Your trademark color is pink. Is that your favorite color?
Heidi: It’s kind of funny, because my original thought was just black and white polka dots; that’s all I was going for. But pink has had a place in everybody’s inspiration in the last couple years.My mother-in-law just gave me a big canvas for my wall that says “Pink is not just a color, it’s an attitude,” which is kind of fun. But right now the color I really love is orange.I cannot do anything without orange. It’s so fun. It’s a really good color but I think for my branding I’ve been successful with pink, so I’m going to stick with it.
Jill: If you could pick a color or a color scheme for your favorite room in your home what would it be?
Heidi: I really like brown. Brown and earth tones are really comfortable to me and not too committal, my bedroom is brown and crème.
Jill: So that’s a comfortable place for you to be?
Heidi: Yes, I don’t like loud colors. I don’t like to commit to big colors. Although my living room is painted pink!
Jill: What other products besides your own do you like right now?
Heidi: I love Scenic Route paper. Their designs can be used over and over for lots of different things.I think she really knows what she’s doing.
Jill: Haven’t you used Scenic Route lately in something you have taught?
Jill: Okay. That leads me to this question. What can you tell us about Bazzill’s Creative Escape?
Heidi: I’m excited about it. You know how I said I like to divert my attention to something I don’t have to do? That’s what Creative Escape is for me. It’s the opportunity to plan a big party, but there’s no obligation. I’m not very organized or detail oriented so it’s wonderful that so many people on the team are. We just come up with so many fun ideas; it’s just going to be a big party.I finally saw all the projects and they are all finalized. We told the teachers what we wanted them to do and what we wanted to have brought to the table so there is such a huge variety. All the people who are involved I respect tremendously, and the manufacturers have been so enthusiastic and supportive.
Jill: So the people that get to attend are in for a really big treat I’m sure?
Heidi: It will be a big treat and we want to do it annually.I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a delight and a lot of work. Holy cow.
Jill: What’s the most exciting experience you’ve had as a scrapbooker?
Heidi: I think my most favorite experience I’ve had is teaching the “she” class I developed. The “she” class is a concept that takes a long time to describe and talk about. The “She” book that inspired all this was written by ColbyYobda. My favorite quote is “she designed a life she loved”. If you really think about that for a while I think it’s a beautiful thing. I have the opportunity to remind women that they have the power to design the life they love. We can show our love for life through our scrapbooking and leave valuable messages. We can leave a tremendous legacy for ourselves, and our loved ones. Choosing the kind of person we want to be and the kind of life we want to have is the perfect way to start a lifetime of pursuit. It’s so amazing to teach this concept and to have people understand it.
Jill: You’re going to be passing on a good message about a good way to live; the right way to live. Well Heidi, it has been great. Thank you.
Heidi: You are absolutely welcome.
Jill: We appreciate your kindness and what you do for the industry. Have a great day.