Substitute school teacher Emily Rolen said she was looking for a life purpose during the “stay safe, stay home” order issued earlier this spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m a seamstress by trade and a recent college graduate with a bachelor of science degree in fine arts,” Rolen shared with the Sun during Saturday’s farmers market in downtown Waxahachie. “I wanted to create something beautiful with a purpose.”

Part of her degree studies at the University of North Texas involved working with various fibers.

“This is where I learned how to weave baskets,” she said.

Looking back to her college studies, she decided to weave some baskets. However, instead of using conventional straw, she first looked at newspapers.

“Those turned out to be too flimsy,” said Rolen, who then rounded up discarded magazines from around the house. “They turned out to be just right. Rigid enough to hold shape yet flexible enough to weave.”   

To make a basket, Rolen tears out each page and rolls it around a pencil to form a long tube shape. She then takes the tubes and begins shaping her baskets.

“Each basket takes between four to five hours,” Rolen said.

“I ask before tearing the pages out to make sure that everyone in the house is through with it,” she said with a smile. Asked if anyone in the family had wondered where a magazine was and if, in turn, she’d pointed to a basket, she said with a laugh, “Oh, no. I always make sure that no one has a use for it. Sometimes my mother will want recipes from one so I make sure she has it before I start taking it apart.”

Rolen is a 2013 graduate of Waxahachie High School and, when school is in session, works as a substitute teacher. She hopes someday to be a fulltime teacher.

“This craft is an art that gives me purpose in making beautiful things for people to look at,” she said.

Rolen shares a booth at the farmers market with her mother, Debbie Rolen of Rolen’s Honey Bees.

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