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Cadillac woman turns passion for recycling into full-time job

The inside of a vintage journal made by DNA Designs. The book combines original pages of the book with fresh notebook paper, creating a reading and writing experience in one.
Draya Raby
/
WCMU
The inside of a vintage journal made by DNA Designs. The book combines original pages of the book with fresh notebook paper, creating a reading and writing experience in one.

The Cadillac Farmers Market is a favorite event for many Wexford County residents. Local farmers can sell their harvest twice a week, and booths of handmade goods fill the market pavilion.

Not far from the farmers market is the popular After 26 Depot cafe, and outside on Tuesdays and Fridays a handful of booths are set up for a Makers Market.

This market is separate from the farmers market and partners with the After 26 depot to donate booth fees to the After 26 nonprofit- a program that gives adults with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments an opportunity to work.

One consistent booth in the Makers Market is DNA Designs, a “reimagined journals” business created by Alison Scholten.

“I do pride myself on all my books being used, saving money from a landfill, game boards as well, vintage readers digest, pretty much anything I can make into a journal, I have,” says Scholten.

The journals that she creates are inspired by something she bought years ago. A product that turns a multitude of vintage items into notebooks.

Scholten says she is glad to have been able to turn these journals into her full-time job. According to her it combines two of her passions- journaling and recycling.

Not only do these notebooks and journals give a new life and function to used books, gameboards, card decks and more, but it also encourages kids to read and write without pressure.

According to Scholten, kids and teens enjoy these mixed-media notebooks because they take the pressure off reading and writing. She thinks being able to doodle or write your own story in between the book chapters feeds the kids’ creativity.

Scholten says there was a family that bought notebooks her first year at the market and returned last year too, telling Scholten “I’m so glad you’re here I would have never heard the end of it.”

According to Scholten, the family told her the kids were asking about the notebooks the whole drive to the market that day.

Scholten has been selling her journals at the Makers Market for three years. In the fall, she travels to Travere City for markets and sells in local “band boosters.”

According to her, selling the journals was unsuccessful because people can't understand it that way.

“People have to touch it and look at it to understand and appreciate it,” says Scholten.

The books contain a mix of original story pages and 100 lined pages. Scholten also has a love for pockets and adds one into every book, even the smallest ones.

Scholten estimates she’s made around 4,000 journals total. She says she recently purchased her second binding machine and is on her fourth paper cutting machine.

Throughout her journey of turning DNA Designs into a full-time job, Scholten has made mistakes and says she is always disappointed when she ruins a book somehow.

The personality and age that her journals typically have is purposeful. While searching thrift stores, antique stores and even estate sales she keeps an eye out for signs of life- writing in the margins, messages on sticky notes and schmutz in cookbooks.

“A clean cookbook is not a good cookbook,” says Scholten. “When I see wear and tear in a book, I know it's a good book.”

Draya Raby is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at the Cadillac News.
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