NEW YORK — When a friend asked me to make a new piece of paper for a wedding invitation, I knew I was onto something special.
And so I made it.
“It’s kind of like a little Christmas miracle,” says Mylène, who now has her own boutique and sells handmade papermaking clothing at a downtown New York storefront.
“You’re making a piece that you know you’re going to love and it’s really handmade.”
I love the gift of handmade paper, she says.
She says her customers often tell her she looks like a “real paper-making lady” — a nod to the papermaking tradition she grew up with.
But for many in New York, papermaking is something that only a few people are really allowed to do.
The custom, which started with European colonists, has become a tradition for the city’s papermakers.
Many in New Jersey, for instance, are allowed to make paper for the state, but only for weddings.
And while New York City is the biggest city in the U.S. with a growing population, its papermakers can’t make it to the city because of a lack of jobs and the lack of proper permits.
For years, New York’s paper makers have tried to find a way to break the cycle.
They’ve turned to crowdfunding, but it’s often too late.
In 2015, New Yorkers for a Paperworker, a nonprofit organization that helps papermakers find jobs, announced that it had raised $100,000 to open a new office in New Brunswick, N.J. The group is also working with the city to open another one in the heart of the city.
But while New Yorkers have rallied around the effort, it’s been tough to bring in enough new papermakers to fill the void.
The papermakers are frustrated by the lack on the part of the government to help them, says Mylan B. Buhler, who heads the nonprofit group.
They’ve also seen a shortage of skilled labor in the area, which is why the group is asking New Jersey for a waiver from the state of New York to open an office there.
But the papermakers aren’t alone.
Many New Yorkers are also frustrated by a lack on their part to provide support and training to help the paperworkers.
“I have no clue how much it costs to keep the jobs,” says Jennifer F. Farr, an art history major at the University of Massachusetts.
“The first day of classes, the teacher would bring us the paper, and we were just waiting for somebody else to show up,” she says, adding that she sometimes works more than one job in a day. “
After several years, Farr says she was offered a position in New England as a teacher.”
The first day of classes, the teacher would bring us the paper, and we were just waiting for somebody else to show up,” she says, adding that she sometimes works more than one job in a day.
After several years, Farr says she was offered a position in New England as a teacher.
But after a few months, she couldn’t find another job, and the teacher said, ‘We have to hire more people to do the same thing.’
So we decided to do something about it.
“So we just got together with our friends in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Connecticut and we started organizing events,” she said.
“We created the Paperwork Collective, a group of people who are all from New York who all work together.
And we are getting our first printing of paperworks.”
I’m trying to do as much as I can to get my work into the hands of as many people as possible, says Farr.
“And if I’m not getting that, then I’m still trying.”
In the last six months, the group has printed more than 3,000 handmade paperworks, including a wedding invitations, a Christmas card and an engagement ring.
The first one they printed was for a friend’s family.
“There are people out there who have never heard of us,” says FARR.
“But I think they have heard of the importance of making this happen.”
But even the group’s successes are not enough.
“It is very hard to find people who have the time to learn how to make these things,” she adds.
“They are all doing things for the same reasons — they just have no interest in going to the actual job and the actual materials and the people who do that.”
Farr and other organizers say they are also struggling to find the resources they need to do more, like teaching classes or training new workers.
They are also hoping for the federal government to provide grants to help their organization expand, which they say would give them the opportunity to hire new workers and build their business.
“We are working on getting a loan, which would give us the opportunity,” she notes.
“There are so many people who want to work in paper