Art can come in many forms and at the Van Buren Intermediate School District is a Paper Production program that creates beautiful pieces of art into cards. The program is run by Sarah Rolback and Jennifer Watson.
The unique characteristic about this program, in which stunning handmade paper is made, is that it is for special education students. The program runs from September to June first. Students who go through the Paper Production program use a number of materials, including recycled paper, to produce the one of a kind paper. The students have added flowers, coffee grounds, glitter, ribbon and many other materials to the paper to add texture color and design. Sarah says that she has several different requests, and they try to do them all. One example is that the students mixed in blueberries for a blueberry farmer. The students then go on to learn a variety of techniques to create custom cards such as: rubber stamping, dry embossing, heat embossing, etc., that can then be sold. The largest order the students have made was somewhere around 3000 cards.
The wonderful part about making a variety of different cards, from birthday to weddings and anywhere in between, is that it showcases each one of the students’ skills and talents. For example, one student may love to do stamps on the cards, while another may really like to do dry emboss. The samples of cards that I was able to look through were absolutely gorgeous. Each design was different and the cards were very unique. Every card looked better than anything in a store to purchase. The cards were really an amazing way to showcase the art by the students. The main focus is that the paper is ALL done by the students and is handmade. “There is a job for everyone, and there are many jobs to do in paper making” said Jennifer Watson. Students who go through the program don’t just learn how to make paper. In CTE this rarely is the case, students learn many other skills including soft skills, and employability skills.
This year the Paper Production program received the entrepreneurship award from the Center for Exceptional Children. Sarah and Jennifer were able to take three students to the event. They were the only group who were allowed to sell anything at the event. One student who has a speech impairment was one of the best sellers at the event. “It was an amazing opportunity for them and it was exciting to see the students be acknowledged” says Jennifer.
One main area of the Paper Production program is the collaborations. In the very beginning the students hung the paper on windows to dry. This was never easy as with larger sheets the more likely they would wrinkle. The Construction Trade program at the Van Buren Technology Center was able to build two drying boxes. Because of these boxes students no longer had to dry paper on windows which could lead to wrinkling. The Welding program also helped out the Paper Production program by making steel tables with edges where the process of making paper is now done. Also the Paper Production program is partnered with One Bead at a Time. This program is located on the other side of the state in the Detroit area, where autistic students create bracelets and key chains with beads. The Paper Production program makes the business cards that go along with the gifts. On the back of the business cards is information on both programs.
The program recycles, recycles, recycles and recycles some more. They are always asking for scraps from businesses, and anything anyone is willing to donate they will use. Even after the mixing is done, what is left is put into buckets and re-mixed into another batch. Sarah mentioned that if she likes the water, that is usually drained from mixing the paper and discarded, she will save that too!
In the next year the program hopes to create their own website with the product description of the cards. This will help to spread the word of the beautiful creations that the students are making. If you would like to find out more about the program and information about ordering, you can go to the Van Buren Intermediate School Districts Website at www.vbisd.org.