One of the most poignant lessons Megan Skeels has learned from motherhood is that children are collectors.
“We go to the beach and they pick up seashells. We go on a walk and they find a feather, and these little things remind them of those special days and they just can’t be put into a scrapbook,” says the Fort Worth mother of three.
She tried saving her children’s keepsakes in boxes until doing so presented an unsightly storage dilemma.
“I had a bunch of my children’s things in mismatched boxes,” she says. “I thought, ‘I could do better than this!’ ”
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So she boxed up her small scrapbooking business. Skeels began Chronicles more than 20 years ago when a friend in college suggested she scrapbook memories from her many accomplishments as a 10-time All-American on the University of Arkansas cross country and track teams — and later, as a qualifier for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012.
Friends soon noticed her knack for crafting beautiful books that give more meaning to the memories on the page. She expanded her scrapbooking work to her sister’s family, first for baby books. Not long after, friends were asking her to design their scrapbooks, too.
“It’s always been a word-of-mouth business that’s grown and grown into the much bigger business it is today,” says Skeels.
Chronicles started by offering the Keepsake Album as a DIY, fill-in-the-page starter kit for parents wanting to document their children’s lives by years or decades. Since then, she has added new items and more than a few clients. Now the Keepsake Album can be personalized or boxed as part of the Keepsake Combo, which offers a birchwood box that can easily be put on display or stored away.
“I wanted it to have a really clean, almost Euro-modern feel, so it’s natural wood and pretty enough to stack on your shelves but versatile enough to slide under the bed,” she says.
She made a few, shared them with clients, and before she knew it, the demand for the boxed product spread. Skeels decided to distinguish this new business venture from Chronicles, changing the name to Twigs by Megan. Twigs felt like a fitting name, says Skeels, and not only because the boxes are made of natural wood.
“Twigs reminds me of our children because they’re so little, but growing all the time,” she says.
To Skeels, what’s best about the boxes is the fun, inventive way they help children learn about their own stories and add to those stories over the years. One of the newest stories she has started boxing up is for her youngest child, Mason, who’s not quite a year old. Her other children, daughter Scarlett, 6, and son Mack, 9, are old enough to appreciate how their stories have evolved within their boxes.
“Day after day, I collect pictures and mementos from Max playing his favorite sport, baseball, in the back yard, or Scarlett, whose favorite thing to do right now is make mud pies in our back yard,” Skeels says. “This is not like a rushed review of digital pics in their senior year of high school. They’re always aware of their stories, and it lets them know they’re important and to be celebrated.”
Digital albums can’t convey quite the same sense of celebration, she explains, adding that a digital collection is important to have, but it doesn’t give children the opportunity to touch and feel their stories. Watching her own children’s fascination with “the old-fashioned” way of collecting their stories — paper, color and other tactile design elements — makes the process feel more special.
Lifting the lid on a Keepsake Box lets them rediscover old keepsakes as the props to their stories, such as their lost baby teeth or the first Christmas ornament they crafted.
As her children watch her customize clients’ albums and boxes, they’ve become more interested in the stories of others and more encouraging of her work. Her oldest, Mack, “knows it’s an outlet for me and he even gets excited for the client,” she says. “They love the idea of Mommy doing a book for them, so they’re impacted in a positive way when they see me making books for clients.”
Another source of encouragement has been the mothers for whom she designs. Skeels’ husband is always teasing her about making other mothers cry, but she says the tears are of joy and relief. More frequently than expected, mothers will become emotional during consultations because they’re so grateful for her help. Skeels can relate.
“We all procrastinate on a project because we’re all just too busy, and the guilt bottles up until everything becomes organized and complete,” she says.
The album is designed to make assembly easy on busy parents with artwork that is already designed, perfected and placed. A pair of scissors and some double-sided tape are all that is needed to showcase her children’s life stories, in months or years or decades.