Keep the Family Close with a Wall of Fame

For the advanced craft minded families that have ventured into scrap booking; a gathering of my loving family is not so much a meeting of the minds, as it is a meeting of the scrap albums.

This is a where bragging rights go to those with the most complete, most precious, most elegant scrap albums — and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you overdo each page with layers of fancy frills, such as cut out clouds, overblown calligraphy and stick-on gold stars. That’s my sister’s domain and she is a pro — literally, because she teaches classes in scrap albums. But here, simple will work just as well. A dynamite scrap album can come in a variety of styles.

All this starts with a photograph, of course, and a variety of styles are acceptable here, too. Some prefer the studio shot. Services like can help you there, offering a variety of help capturing family members with enduring shots. Others prefer the more casual shot. In recent years even the “selfie” has made it into pages of our scrap albums.

wall-of-fameWall of Fame

My siblings and I also grew up with a so-called “Wall of Fame” in my mother’s home, which was a carefully arranged wall dedicated to framed family portraits, most of them photographs, of course. How they spoke to us, our ancestors through the years with all the different photographic styles, period costumes and dated hairdos, all of that bringing us back through the generations.

The faces all revealed something of their personalities, as well: the stern grandfather (my father’s father) on one side of the wall wearing a soldier’s uniform from the days of World War I, the affable, kindly father (my mother’s father) presiding over his clan in a different photograph. Though his white collar looked stiff and his three-piece suit was completely buttoned up, his friendly eyes and gentle smile betrayed his generous nature.

He was a gentleman, a civil engineer with a prestigious job with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and had he lived longer, he would have been another lap for his four grandchildren.

As it was, I was left with the impression from my mother’s sweet stories: He took her to see baseball games, a sport she never understood, but she doted on his efforts to included her in his life, anyway.

Side by side were photographs of my father’s mother and her sister, two women who could not have been more dissimilar, my optimistic grandmother living modestly her entire life, while her sister married a very wealthy, older man from Pittsburgh, who died when she was young, leaving her rich and bitter.

The rich sibling/poor sibling drama played itself on my mother’s side of the family, as well. She had two sisters, who were once great beauties at the tail end of the Victorian age. They were tall, had elegant good looks, and posed for photographs like models for Greek statures. My mother was the youngest and idolized them until the years turned this around, as they were both childless women who drank themselves to death living side by side, one rich, one poor, but both of them unrepentant alcoholics.

My Wall of Fame has a wide, narrow photograph of my father with ten or so friends and two camp counselors from the overnight camp in Vermont he went to as a child. The colorization is an almost murky brown, which identifies the photo immediately as an antique. It would fit right in on the wall of a local historical society, the kids awkwardly spread out, but standing in a line, looking like a Who’s Who of the criminal underworld until you look closely to discover it is a line up of kids in overalls and T-shirts.

Each photo in this Wall of Fame is infinitely precious and triggers deep concern about how to make decent replicas so my three children can each enjoy these photographs forevermore. But the immediate problem is how to hang up 35 photographs on one wall without a computer’s organizational capacities to help me figure out how to space them out.

Secrete To DIY?

My mother, bless her heart, knew the answer to this design dilemma, which I will gladly pass on to you.

The secret is to trust your eye. My mother taught studio art and once imparted to me the simple advise that you can trust your eye more than you think. To demonstrate, she had me put a point at what I guessed was the center of a rectangular piece of paper. This is then folded twice to reveal the fact that most people are very close to the center without measuring a thing.

Trust your eye and you can hang 35 pictures of different sizes and fill each empty space with a photo that allows for continuity and balance.

Play some games with the concept. Take pictures of close relatives and put them side by side as a small drama by themselves. Surround these with a playful selection. Find another two photos that should go side by side. Create another landscape with pictures that would look appealing in that area.

The process if far more forgiving that it might seem. I have actually moved my Wall of Fame more times than I care to admit and each move means it has to fit a different room and a different wall and with a deep breath, I begin with trepidation hanging one photo after another before I begin to realize that it his hard to really make a horrific mistake. If you do, you can pull some of the hooks out and rearrange various areas. But you can generally find “an organic flow” to the design if you hang a few photos, then stand back and look for possibilities of design.

The photos always have a homemade appeal that draws people in, whether they are family or not. We are blessed with some talented artistic types in our family, who can snap a great photograph (although in my case this is always a matter of take-a-lot-of-photos until I get lucky).


That said, there is a ton of professional help options are available to lend their expertise to special occasion photographs or for family portraits at any time. There is help online for scrap album fans and methods of reproducing old photographs to ensure anyone who wants one can do so. I don’t know anyone who would turn down the chance to surround themselves with photos of family members.


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