Journaling. Yes, I know. It's a silly word suggesting uninvited autobiography and (shudder) meaningful collage art. Worst of all, it sounds like a craze.
Well, it is a craze, sort of. But relax those other assumptions, because 21st-century journaling is a genuinely visionary, expressive, and even therapeutic activity for a lot of people, a multimedia update on classic chronicles of experience and insight. Lucky for you, as you rack your brain this holiday season, journaling is not only a fine medium for personal reflection on art, travel, family, or any subject fit for learning, it's also a great source of gift ideas.
Throw a glue stick and you're bound to hit a journaling class or related hobbyist group. Starting materials are easy enough to find at craft stores, stationery suppliers, and thrift shops; experienced journalers also hit yard sales, rummage through old boxes, and know their way around cameras, scanners, and color copiers.
A beginner's kit could include a blank journal, pens, watercolors, and a supply of found objects: textured paper, old maps, stamps, stickers, orphaned photos and cards, patterned cloth, and beads. Journals come in a variety of prices, bindings, and types of paper. The nonfussy approach includes good-looking, clothbound journals made by Fish & Webster or Chameleon ($15 at Blu Canary Stationery, 2321 Second Ave., 206-443-3328), as well as the house brand at Papyrus (starting at $12.95; at 1210 Fourth Ave., 206-464-1505, and all area malls).
Fancier options include WritersStore.com's handsome, embossed 120-page journals, bound in durable bonded leather with stitched borders ($20-$25). Labyrinth makes a gorgeous, handcrafted leather journal that can be refilled with blank book inserts ($48 from www.isabella-catalog.net); Oberon makes a similar product ($63 at Papyrus). For your lacto-ovo-refusing loved one, a few beautiful alternatives to leather can be found at www.kschweizer.com, among them a 12- by 12-inch Asian silk album ($40) and the Awagami accordion journal ($18), a Japanese import made since 1825.
Scrapbooks might prove a roomier alternative for people inclined to work with a lot of three-dimensional materials (shells, tile chunks, coins). They can be found at Dakota Art Store (6110 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-523-4830), Seattle Art Supply (2108 Western Ave., 206-625-0711), or Daniel Smith (4150 First Ave. S., 206-223-9599) for about $15 and up, though you'll want to include some acid-free paper, too. While you're in the store, shop for gel pens, markers, oil pastels, exotic papers, and all kinds of decora- tive stuff.
Helpful supplementary products include Charlene Geiss' Inner Outings: The Book of Exploration (New World Library, $24.95), which comes with a set of 33 cards suggesting writing and drawing techniques to stimulate a journaler's imagination. The somewhat similar Journal Cards, created by journal coach Sue Meyn, is a deck of 55 words, images, and concepts that increase focus and jump- start journaling sessions ($20 at www.writers store.com).
Another nice accessory could be the latest issue of Personal Journaling ($8, details at www.writersdigest.com), though there are loads of books on the subject, too, including Shifra Stein's Unlocking the Power Within: Journaling for Personal and Professional Growth ($12.95 at Amazon.com).
Reach deep. Go high. Cross another one off your list.