An ornate yet simple sheet of paper was the start.

With precision folds and imaginative design, it became so much more. Artist Sonja Lehman could turn it into a small box to hold whatever treasures you desired. Or she could create a unique book to display photographs and mementos. A few more folds creates a pocket

Lehman loves the versatility paper offers. She wants to share that love with the entire community.

“Coming up with a concept, figuring out the design process, how to structure it — I enjoy all of that,” she said. “Some projects, I can take it and put my own design into it, to build it into something bigger. I get a lot of reward in that, because there are a lot of surprises in that.”

Lehman brings her whimsical paper art to the Greenwood Public Library, where, throughout the month of September, she’ll serve as the Maker in Residence. Guests can come to the library’s creative space, The Studio, to watch her work and ask her questions about paper art.

People will be able to see samples of her work and sign up for classes to make their own hidden boxes, photo albums and treasure boxes.

“Sonja is known for her intricate paper making and paper arts. It feels impossible that some of the beautiful things she creates are made of just paper,” said Emily Ellis, assistant director of the Greenwood library. “I know that sounds silly, but structured boxes, elaborate booklets, lanterns — all just from paper.

“We have programs planned for kids, teens, and adults, and I think they’ll definitely be challenged with the projects, but I have no doubt, that with Sonja’s teaching background, they will walk away with amazing and surprising designs.

The Maker in Residence program is a new offering of the Greenwood Public Library, started in early 2023 to take advantage of The Studio on the library’s second floor.

The Studio opened in 2019 as the Greenwood Public Library’s designated maker space. The renovated room houses a wide variety of equipment available to the community, such as a Glowforge and Cricut. Nearly 30 art and STEAM-based kits are also available to use within the studio space.

“‘Making’ can be expensive and intimidating when you’re trying something new. In The Studio, the library has invested in the equipment and resources so that obstacle is out of the way,” Ellis said.

Library staff have envisioned The Studio as a place where the public could interact with local artists. In April, they welcomed their first artist as Maker in Residence, Dianna Porter, an award-winning fine artist, illustrator and teacher from Greenwood.

We really appreciated her flexibility as we learned how best to serve patrons with the Maker in Residence program,” Ellis said. “Her watercolor classes were so popular that we had to open an additional adult class. There was also a steady stream of curious patrons that would stop by to watch her work and ask questions during her open ‘office’ hours.”

Porter has a studio across from Lehman, which is where she learned about the Maker in Residence program. She applied and went through the interview process before being selected.

“I like doing workshops with people. It’s fun to share these new forms and new processes,” she said. “I enjoy working with people, so I wanted to be part of it.”

Lehman, a Chicago native, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University Bloomington, then worked toward a master’s degree in painting and drawing from the University of Georgia in 1986 and a master’s degree in library sciences from Indiana University in 1989.

She worked as a museum librarian at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for five years before relocating to Greenwood when she joined the Indiana University library faculty as the director of Herron Art Library, where she has been ever since.

Through her role at the Herron Art Library, Lehman has helped develop the artists’ books collection. The artistry behind those books appealed to her.

She started seeking out workshops where she could work with other paper artists and expand her own skills. Lehman took a sabbatical from her role at the Herron Art Library to earn a certificate in the book arts, and has been exploring the style ever since.

“I’ve been able to keep that up for the past few years, to take classes and learn different processes from different book artists,” she said. “I really enjoy it.”

One of the more recent skills she’s learned is making paper keepsake boxes. Under the instruction of Nancy Akerly, a Wisconsin-based artist specializing in paper arts, she created intricate boxes made of chipboard and covered with paper.

Adding designs and embellishments allowed her to style the containers to her own style.

During her residency, Lehman plans to lead adults in a similar project.

She also has envisioned programs aimed at younger artists, as well. For children ages 8 to 13, she is offering a class creating a three-tier folder with hidden boxes. Using thin papers, she will show them the Chinese folk tradition known as zhen xian bao.

“This is a different, more contemporary take on it,” she said. “It’s this one sheet of paper folded up and closed with velcro.”

A workshop for teens is focused on reverse piano hinge photo albums. Artists ages 14 to 18 can use paper to make unique albums folded together, and then place their own photos inside it.

“They’re learning different structures of artists’ books,” she said. “I’ll also probably have some of my artists’ books from my collection and some others out as examples for people to see.”

Lehman’s residency kicks off with an opening reception, where she plans to answer questions from the audience and her ideas for the coming month. A series of open studio days — where people can see Lehman’s artistry in action — are also scheduled.

For her, the Maker in Residence program is an opportunity to see her own enjoyment of the arts spread to people of all kinds.

“I really enjoy seeing people work on their own projects, learn a new process and then complete their project — and the excitement they get from doing it,” she said.


Studio Maker in Residence

What: A program bringing local artists and creators in to work and interact with the public inside The Studio at the Greenwood Public Library.

Who: The next resident will be Sonja Lehman, a Greenwood paper artist with skills in papermaking, luminaria, journals, and treasure boxes.

When: September

Special events

Sept. 5: 5-7 p.m., opening reception with light refreshments, activities, and a short Q&A.

Sept. 7: 5-7 p.m., open hours where community members can stop by to watch Lehman work and ask questions.

Sept. 9: 11 a.m., kids workshop making three-tier folder with hidden boxes, for youths 8-13 years old.

Sept. 14: 5-7 p.m., open hours.

Sept. 16: 11 a.m., teen workshop making reverse piano hinge photo album. Please bring six photos or images (3.5 inches-by-3.5 inches) to glue onto the pages of your album. For youths 14-18 years old.

Sept. 19: 1-3 p.m., open hours.

Sept. 21: 5-7 p.m., open hours.

Sept. 23: 1 p.m., adult workshop making footed treasure/wish boxes. For those 18 and older, registration required.

Sept. 26: 1-3 p.m., open hours.

Sept. 28: 5-7 p.m., closing reception

For more details, go Interested artists and creators can also apply to be a resident on the website.