- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

DUNNELLON, Fla. (AP) - Lis Robson keeps her left forearm wrapped and her boots laced. A touch of air “feels like an acid burn,” she said. “Since 1998 I feel like I am constantly standing in a bucket of fire ants.”

But the condition, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, does not stop the busy 78-year-old Dunnellon resident. Among other things, she creates handmade paper and paper doll kits called Bed Buddies for the Ronald McDonald House in Gainesville, about 25 kits a month for the last six years.

The vari-cultured paper dolls come pocketed with Robson’s handmade cards and include an assortment of outfits that fit onto the dolls via tabs.

“I’ve never seen anything like those paper dolls,” said Dorie Faulkner, volunteer coordinator at the Gainesville charity, “or siblings entertained so long with anything else.”

“I remember playing with paper dolls when I was a little girl,” said Sherry Houston, executive director of the charity. “They are an extension of (Robson’s) love, very transportable, and beautiful, a great diversion when the siblings are in the hospital,” especially when some make multiple visits a week. “It’s a way for the siblings to get recognized.”

Robson’s paper-making started in 1998 after she broke her arm.

“It was obvious I wasn’t going to have full use of my hands and I was feeling really sorry for myself. But a lady named Clarice was doing a demonstration at the Master Gardener Spring Festival to promote her paper-making classes. I signed up to take it but when I got in her class there were things I was trying to do (release the paper) by the method that she was teaching and I just couldn’t. I almost panicked,” Robson said. “She was watching me like she was going to come over and help me do it. But if I need someone to do it for me it’s not a hobby I can do at home. So I figured out how I could (release the paper) by doing it backwards. Clarice clapped and explained to the class that I’d found a way to do the task with my bad hand.”

Encouraged, Robson made her first birthday card with imbedded-seed paper for her 3-year-old granddaughter in Canada. On her next visit, she discovered the child had planted the card.

“We didn’t expect we would see a little pan of flowers when we got there. She was so excited with her spray bottle. As soon as I saw her excitement I was hooked,” Robson said.

Robson’s improvising continued. After finishing the course she wondered if she wanted to spend the money for a fancy press.

“I was determined. For two years I would put my stack of wet paper between two slabs of wood, take them around back at my house and drive over them with my van,” she said.

The pressure compared to that of the hydraulic press she eventually purchased.

“I was loving it. But the paper was stacking up,” she noted.

That led to her finding outlets for her cards, such as the Grumbles House in Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs State Park and Crones Cradle Conserve.

“I can make paper from any plant material. Sometimes I add paper pulp to help it stay together. I have samples of bamboo, eucalyptus, cotton, pampas grass, cotton fabric, wood shavings, cork, papyrus, corn silk, corn husks, and mushrooms,” she said. “My favorite is the tissue patterns out of sewing patterns, I love working with that, it leaves little words on my paper.”

The cards contain seeds, and she especially likes adding grass seed to children’s cards so they will see quick results.

Robson, a Master Gardener for the last 26 years, also has been the administrator assistant for the organization’s training program in Ocala for the last 12 years.

“During that time she has broken both ankles and has had multiple surgeries,” said Jo Leyte-Vidal, the program administrator. “She never complained, never not appeared for work, and has always been there as my backup. She is the timekeeper, the one who does the setup. When she observed that I could not stand for long periods of time in class she secured a stool for my use.”

Robson volunteers additional hours in the propagation department at the UF/IFAS Agriculture Center, for all plant sales, the Spring Festival, the speakers committee, and Sprouts (future Master Gardeners), and also maintains her own herb garden at home.

Although way too busy to teach paper-making classes, Robson said, “I try to share it at shows when I go, especially with young people because it is a dying art. It is nice if it can be kept alive.”

See samples of Robson’s work at her blog, https://papercreater.blogspot.com.

And don’t expect to ever find Robson huddled on the sidelines.

As she said when she first signed up for the paper-making class, “I can sit in a corner and cry or I can move on.”

___

Information from: The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, https://www.gainesvillesun.com

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