About Paperworks Studio


Paperworks Studio (PWS), a division of The Utopia Foundation, is a unique, mission-based, market-driven social enterprise that places people with disabilities and disadvantages together with artists, engineers and designers to create unique, handmade recycled paper products (predominately greeting cards) for commercial sale.

Despite living with disabilities or other disadvantages, Paperworks Studio artists want to be part of the workforce and enjoy the rewards of their success. We give these talented individuals the opportunity to work within a supportive environment where they may demonstrate their talents, learn new life skills, build their self-esteem, and maximize their potential for independence and self-sufficiency.


The spirit of love, partnership and shared vision of Paperworks Studio represents the very best in collaborative community arts.

While everyone may have different abilities, the entire process requires the diverse abilities represented by all participants. All are equally important, all are stakeholders, and all involved learn a valuable and rare lesson – that a community is only as rich and as strong as the collaborative, collective visions and dreams of its members.


Our handmade cards are created by a unique papermaking technique based on Egyptian, Chinese and Turkish principles. Using recycled materials – blue jeans, old flowers, discarded sweaters, coffee beans, etc. – artists create items that take on a new life instead of becoming waste. Each recycled material is tested and perfected to create textural and unique cards and invitations.

From concept, to design and assembly, to packaging and shipping, our artists are involved in the entire creative process. Exercising their physical and creative abilities, at least 20 pairs of hands touch a card through the production process.

Our artisans take immense pride in their work and put an incredible amount of love, impact and inspiration into every card they make.



Paperworks Studio (PWS) started in 1991 as a work-skills training program at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD) Adult Work Center. From 2003-2005, the studio operated as an independent, stand-alone non-profit and employed as many as 32 individuals. On December 15, 2005, it closed due to reorganization.

In early 2008, Paperworks Studio partnered with Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. During this time, the studio produced many new handmade recycled paper products, implemented new operations and employed as many as 48 people. Product sales increased during this time, but a difference in focus between the two organizations led PWS to once again close its doors on February 28, 2014.

In April 2014, TBAISD assembled a task force to investigate whether PWS should re-open or remain closed permanently. Leveraging the strengths of its handmade paper product line and its unique model for training and workforce development, Paperworks caught the attention of the Utopia Foundation, which purchased the studio in October 2014, and made it a division of its 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.




New Model: Sales, Sustainability, Growth, Expansion

Under Utopia’s guidance, Paperworks Studio has a renewed business path that’s focused on becoming a long-term, self-sustaining program that provides continuous job opportunities by creating “Love-Inspired Paper That Changes Lives.”

Operating under the premise that “Sales = Jobs,” Paperworks Studio’s primary focus is on leveraging the strength of its product line, namely, producing unique, handmade recycled paper products.

In March of 2015, Paperworks hired a production staff of 12 individuals with disabilities, and to date the studio employs 17 artisans. New sales and marketing efforts (online and retail) are underway as well as product diversification and growth. Its first-ever retail location, in downtown Traverse City, has proven to be extremely well-received and is a great source of revenue and visibility.

Though Paperworks still relies on public and private donations and grants, its goal is to eventually become self-sustaining and profitable.


Shop Paperworks Studio
Handmade Cards + Handmade Paper