Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Volunteers Rock!

I work for an adult basic education program, and volunteers are very important to our work. We have volunteers who work directly with students one-on-one or in groups; we also have a special volunteer who does all kinds of mundane clerical tasks. Every year, those in charge of our volunteer program organize an event to thank the volunteers for all they do. A special day is planned, and the staff works very hard to come up with a theme, decorate, and find/buy inexpensive gifts.

For this year's theme, we had to incorporate butterflies. They've been a symbol for us this year, as we've gone through a major change. After 50+ years, it was time for a name change and a new logo. I enjoyed being a part of the committee that worked on choosing the logo and new colors. The timing was perfect, as we wanted to celebrate the remarkable ways our program has improved. Just a few short years ago, we were at the bottom of the state "report card" for programs of our size (we're the fourth largest in the state). Thanks to the gifted leadership of a new director, lots of hard work from clerical staff and teachers, and plenty of innovative thinking, we've moved to the very top. That's an incredible turnaround, and we are quite proud! (I think it's so funny that the only area we missed being #1 is in the area of student retention. State Corrections beat us on that one!)

Anyway, I was asked for advice about a way to incorporate butterflies into this year's gift. The volunteer coordinator had scoured the internet and Pinterest, looking for interesting ideas, and she showed those to me. I was especially drawn to a couple of examples that used collage. We talked about trying to mass produce something original for each person, but that was overwhelming. Then we had the idea to have one original "something" which could be reproduced via color copier as a card. I timidly volunteered to take a stab at creating a piece of art, and she took me up on it. Yikes! I get myself into all kinds of pickles this way! I was nervous, but excited to get started.

The inspiration was a poem she had chosen that would be printed inside the cards. I won't include it here since I don't know the author, but it's about the migration of monarch butterflies and their difficult journey. Two important words in the poem are "believe" and "achieve".

I decided to use a quality piece of watercolor paper for this, and began as I love to do by creating a messy background. I used paint, gesso & spray ink, and included a few pieces of cheesecloth for texture. The butterfly I drew the way I learned  in grade school: fold a piece of paper in half, draw & open. Easy peasy. I traced the shape onto another piece of watercolor paper which I cut out. I pulled out an assortment of papers and created a collage, adding some ink & paint over that. The words in the center are too small to see here, but they are words that came to my mind when I thought of volunteering. I cut them out of an old dictionary and glued them down.

Once the butterfly was finished, I glued it to the background. I made antennae out of some copper wire I had, running it through a paper crimper for texture. I stamped the words believe & achieve, and added a few fun touches. Voila! All done!

I'm going to be excited to see this up when it's time for display, and I'm happy to have had an opportunity to do something I love to make a positive contribution at work.

Till next time,