Cushman Documents The Art Of Life

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Jennifer Cushman is a woman comfortable with her world, in the process of getting comfortable as an artist.

Cushman has merged her 23 years of experience as Greg's wife, nine years as their son Ty's mother and 18 years as a journalist, into pages of art in family albums and then some.

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"I fell in love with scrapbooking as my personal art form," Cushman said.

Heading there she left her career as a journalist to become a mother, took a home-party-scrapbooking class, a box of photos and chance meeting with Mary Engelbreit on a press junket to seal the deal.

Cushman's mother handed her a box of unmarked family photos.

"I thought I am not going to give my son a box. I am going to give him a story," Cushman said.

She took a class and bought an album, paper, pens and supplies.

That was the year 2000.

Four years later she was on a riverboat cruise during a New Orleans press junket for American Style Magazine rubbing elbows with executive editor of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion Magazine, Barbara Elliot Martin.

Cushman pitched an article on paper crafts to Engelbreit and convinced her that there was an advertising market to support it.

A week later Cushman picked up the phone in her Pine home -- Martin gave her 72 hours to find an artist with a project, write about the project and get it to the magazine.

"I was just scrapbooking for fun at this point. I was not a designer," Cushman said.

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Donna Smylie who owned Memory Lane scrapbook store in the Valley (she now owns the 7 Gypsies line of altered art supplies) came through.

The next three months was a whirlwind as Cushman learned the industry.

"The column hums now," she said.

Getting real

Cushman's passion now is her "get real" series.

To her, scrapbooking is not about the paper and embellishments.

Scrapbooks are about telling stories.

"Scrapbooks are like my family's newspaper," she said.

"Basically it is moms who are the memory keepers of the families," she said.

Too often just the big events are scrapped and the mom is behind the camera taking the photos so she is not in the scrapbook.

That is fine, but what about the little moments, like a child being silly during the holidays or the final day of a beloved family dog?

Cushman made a beautiful touching homage to their dog Bailey.

"If you are having a crappy day, take a picture and scrap that. That's life," Cushman said.

Spontaneously asked to craft an art project on stage beside Carol Duvall (of HGTV) at the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) tradeshow was a recent step in her evolution.

"If you are a crafter, you know who Carol is. It was like being next to Emeril if you were a chef," Cushman said.

"I went to CHA with a limited sense of myself, that I wanted to sell a book," Cushman mused.

Several things happened: her Art Unscripted Live show with Duvall will eventually be shown on www.pagesage.com.

She made a contact with a producer at Lifetime Television.

"I told her I'm an artist," Cushman said, adding softy what she did not say to the producer, "a baby artist."

The end result is that a video of Cushman's Mother's Day Box class will be posted on the craft section of Lifetime's Web site, www.mylifetime.com.

The publisher who Cushman pitched her book to is interested.

Its pages will showcase not only Cushman's work, but that of other altered and mixed media artists she respects.

"I want it to be cool. Really great. I want to showcase a bunch of people, new people who haven't been showcased before," Cushman said.

Scrapbooking is starting to be as important to Cushman as her writing.

When she had big plans to change the world as a New York Times journalist she could not have imagined the sheer delight of being a stay-at-home mom in a cabin in the woods.

As the sign above her fireplace says, "If you are lucky enough to live in the mountains, you're lucky enough."

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