The Paper Club

The Paper Club

I host a weekly after school club at my kid’s school, which I started in Portland about five years ago at The Portland Village School. It has been a fun little gig that started with my children as participants, and then helpers, and now, well, they’ve graduated (in other words, they don’t want to help their mom anymore)! I’ve got a steady group of about ten children here in Colorado, with a bit of variation each month. We meet in the school art room on Friday afternoons (the only day without conflicting sports, dance or gymnastics)!
We change themes monthly. This year we started with origami, moved on to book making, then pop-ups and now we are making paper. Origami and papermaking have been the most successful (in other words, the behavior in those two sessions has been pretty good because the kids are engaged). I take my hat off to the full-time teachers who can manage and engage a group of kids three times the size of the paper club all day long for five days a week!
I admit that I don’t take pictures often enough, so most of these are from the collage and pop-up sessions last year. These kids are so creative!
Below you can see my traveling papermaking set-up. It is simple due to portability. We use Arnold Grummer‘s tin can papermaking technique, making pulp in a blender and then pouring it through a screen, holding the shape with a tin can or a cookie cutter. Each week during this session we’ll try another technique: week one was blender paper; week two colored cotton shapes; week three decorative papers with inclusions and week four collage.
I find it challenging to reach all of the kids in a group sometimes, or to have the energy or time to meet the needs of the kid who could take things to the next level. But hopefully I address most of those issues, and I’m so thankful to see the response and delight in the children’s faces each day.
Do you teach paper art to children? What have you found to be successful?


  1. Hi Helen,
    Amber and Wendy from EFEC tell me their boys really enjoy the paper class. I’m the Marketing Manager at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, we would love to have you here for a family workshop some time. Would you have any interest? I follow your posts but I don’t think I actually have your email, let’s connect and chat about it when you have some time.

  2. Papermaking was an important part of my teaching experience (retired after 35 years and continued residencies for another 10 years). I developed a buddy pulp painting experience for very special arts festivals where kids poured pulp around their hands onto large sheets of paper. The sheets were sponge pressed and wet vacuumned to expedite drying. During my 40 plus years I’ve worked with all ages and abilities. In working with visually impaired we used different water temperatures to make the process more meaningful. At times I had kids create mini deckles with strips of cardboard. In May I will provide papermaking experiences at a shelter for battered women and children.

    • Hi Dennis, I love the buddy system, the sensory applications you incorporate and the work you have done and are doing with people who really need the outlet (not that we all don’t!).

      • Thanks for the kind words. I will incorporate dried flowers in the papers made at the shelter for battered women. I’ll send you some images of their works but will not photograph clients.

  3. Marel Kalyn says:

    Your after school program with kids sure brings back memories of my days with TAG, and Gifted Education plus MARKLYNE Papermaker in Residency Program I patterned after Artist in Schools Program (which I also did in Lane County). Coincidentally, I got the use of a slide scanner this month, so am scanning slides from ARTQUAKE and all the above I did with kids, so will try to post a few on fb or send you some. Am on way out door, but briefly, one thing the kids loved was overcouching-first couching a full sheet, then laying various ribbons, or other papers, tissue papers that bled, then topping it off with a piece with one or more windows formed either by holding a stencil or cookie cutter on the screen while dipping the screen in the pulp, or using tape on screen to achieve the window in top layer. I used cookie cutters often to make various shaped windows that the objects could be seen through. So hard to explain in words-photo will show you better. Also they loved the papercasting I did with the Brown Bag Cookie Molds and Rycraft Swedish Cookie Molds, and I also went to candy supply houses, and bought all kinds of plastic candy molds to use for casting paper. Also molds for plaster casting to make a small frameable. The small cookie mold casts were also used later to embellish the book covers of the books we made. Plus many more things I did with them – pockets, packets, and miniature folios. I definitely miss being able to do it. You’re right, they are creative! Bye!

  4. Sara Bowen says:

    I know what you mean about exhausting! I teach paper arts to kids too but in my own studio, which is great although it’s a pain having to clear up my own work weekly to fit them in. I agree: origami has always worked well, as has paper making but I’ve also had great success with marbling and making simple books. We’ve made pamphlets, oriental bindings and even Coptic bound books with older kids. We made “wagon train” books i.e. an accordion fold book with a folded-up bottom edge which enabled the kids to draw and cut out characters (often animals or dinosaurs) to slip into the books, changing positions to make a narrative. We also made stained glass paper: grated wax crayons sprinkled between two layers of freezer paper and ironed to melt the wax.
    Anyway, it sounds as if you’re having fun and the output is great!

  5. i teach emotionally disturbed kids in a special education program in new york state. one very successful program i co-designed was within the adirondack curriculum project, called blue line books. this teamed my class (8 students) with the middle school art teacher’s hand picked group of 20 kids. i trained my students to make paper in our classroom. we then hosted the other students in a day long workshop that began with adventure based counseling style bonding exercises, class discussion of what the blue line is (the imaginary line around the adirondack forest preserve), and continued with making paper (blue threads were a part of their cattail and daylily and abaca papers), then sharing lunch as a group, and then book making in the afternoon. the students were able to come into my classroom individually to retrieve their papers and i assisted them in building books. the resulting extra was a bonding that occurred between “regular” and “special ed” students, that outlasted the project. by empowering my students to teach the others, their peers perceived them in a different way and bridges were built.

    • Velma, I loved reading about the bonding between different groups! This is so critical and necessary. Hats off to your successful program, in more ways than one!