by Debbie Hodge

If you love working with an “explosion” of elements and getting an artsy look, the free form cluster is a page foundation that lends itself to this kind of creativity and variation.

Small bits of patterned paper layered behind unaligned photos create an energetic cluster.


There are several layout configurations of combined elements that scrapbookers use again and again when making scrapbook pages (for example, blocked, clustered, and shaped). These foundations are used again and again because they work well for housing the most frequently encountered combinations of elements (1 to 5 photos with title and journaling) and they consistently yield well-designed pages. The free-form cluster is one of these.


Celeste Smith‘s photo and title work are arranged in “shaped cluster” (i.e., one that resembles a familiar rectangular shape). The brushwork and floral embellishments beneath this grouping transform that predictable shape with soft and organic lines that make this page more delicate and interesting.

L Stands for Loved by Celeste Smith | Supplies: Design House Digital Digital Scrapbooking Day Blog Hop Kit, font: Another Typewriter.

The center photo on Krista Sahlin’s page of kids playing on the trampoline jumps up and out of the cluster, supporting the subject well. The layered papers and series of word stickers have the same sharp corners as the photos: corners jut out all over like sharp elbows. A big loopy title along with a button, a flower and a ribbon swirl balance those edges with just enough curve.

Jump by Krista Sahlin | Supplies: J is for Jump by Emily Merritt and Valorie Wibbens

The cluster on Emily Pitts’ “Free Flowers” is a grouping of rectangular blocks (the photo, the journaling, and the four parts of the title) along with a couple of circles. While the two layouts we just looked at relied on layering to build a cluster, Emily used almost no layering here, instead combining the elements to create a free-form shape that tells her story. Journaling brackets each side of her title, which results in the title becoming a part of the journaling.

Free Flowers by Emily Pitts | Supplies: Patterned Paper: Studio Calico, My Minds Eye, Alphabets: Sassafras Lass, Pink Paislee, Stamp: Studio Calico, Embossing Powder: American Crafts, Ink: Tsukeniko, Sticker Tag: My Minds Eye, Mist: Maya Road, Pen: EK Success

Sara Gleason has “clustered clusters” on “Four,” a page about her daughter at age four that features four of her daughter’s favorite interests. Four circular “interest” circles combine with a square photo and rectangular block of journaling to create a free-form cluster that has a circular flow that keeps the viewer involved in the page — circling around for another look.

Four by Sara Gleason | Supplies: Let's Play by Kate Hadfield and Kaye Winiecki; Bottom of The Toy Box by Jacque Larsen; Jenna Desai and Karah Fredricks; Farm Fresh by Jacque Larsen and Shabby Miss Jenn; Park Play, Dreamsickle, Keepin' Tabs by Jacque Larsen; In My Backpack, Happy Planet, Doggie Days, My Kinda Dog, Safari Malarky by Kate Hadfield; felty friends 3, stripey line, flamingo mango by Kaye Winiecki; Black & White Painted Alpha by Designs by Lili; Splatz Mats, Free Spirit Alpha by CD Muckosky; fonts: 2Peas Favorite Things, 2Peas Sunshine

Emily Pitts placed handwritten journaling, clouds and a sunburst  around woven strips that jut out in unexpected places. The result is an original free-form shape with both curves and corners.

Twenty Eleven by Emily Pitts | Supplies: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics, Patterned Paper: Simple Stories, Basic Grey, Studio Calico, Sassafras, Alphabet: American Crafts, KaiserCrafts, Chipboard: Studio Calico, Fabric Yo Yo: Basi Grey

“Target Practice” is a cluster of three photos backed up by several layers of patterned paper. It’s a “heavier” cluster than those we’ve already looked at and takes up much of the canvas space. This design is just a few unaligned edges and extended blocks away from a regularly-shaped rectangular cluster.

Target Practice by Debbie Hodge | Lemonade Stand by Robyn Meierotto; Flair Box 3 by Paula Kesselring; Lost World, Storytime, Gearhead by ViVa Artistry; Baker's Twine Asst, Vintage Charm Chipboard Stickers, Farm Fresh, Paper Alpha Yellow, Flossy Stitches by Katie Pertiet; Artplay Chevron Crazy Life by Anna Aspnes; Brad Bonanza by Pattie Knox; Uncharted by Krystal Hartley; Typeset Alpha by Sahlin Studio; Beffle Medium, Typendoski fonts.


Kelly  Purkey‘s cluster covers a diagonal swath of her canvas and houses title, journaling, 12 small photos, and 7 pieces of memorabilia from a Las Vegas trip. The memorabilia create the foundation, and the photos are arrange in four clusters.

Vegas by Kelly Purkey | Supplies: Patterned paper - Studio Calico, Sassafras, My Mind's Eye. Rub-ons - 7 Gypsies. Stamp - Studio Calico. Buttons - Crate Paper. Punch – Fiskars. Other - Stapler