Fanshawe's school of design creates sustainable seed paper poppies

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: HANNAH THEODORE
Poppies designed by students at Fanshawe College on display in Siskind Gallery.

Fanshawe’s school of design students implanted poppy seeds in their hand-crafted poppy petals. These sustainable poppies honour veterans while also being environmentally friendly.

“The Poppy Project came about because they [Fanshawe’s school of design] teach a course in sustainable design,” said fashion marketing and management professor Wendy Sperry. “The idea was that there’s single use plastics being used and what could we make as an alternative for that and so, a very important single-use plastic could be the poppy, the Remembrance Day Poppy. So, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could make one out of paper infused with poppy seeds? And so, once Nov. 11 is over, you can lay it on the ground in your garden and it blooms in the spring. The blooming of the poppy will then become a symbol of hope.”

Sperry described the experimental testing for the Poppy Project as being extremely rigorous.

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“It took six months. I worked with a couple of students this summer, Hannah Choi and Mayor Fletcher, and we spent all summer working on the formula that would work the best and we tested them in the greenhouse and finally found one that worked!,” added Sperry.

Furthermore, Sperry explained that psyllium powder is the secret ingredient in making the paper sturdier and flexible.

“So there’s actually two types of poppies that you can make with the seed paper and then cut them out and then construct poppies, or you can free-form them. This is an educational initiative, we have presented this template with the school board and now 30 schools across the district are doing it right now.”

Sperry noted the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), and Montessori are using the Poppy Project as a learning project. For the younger students, the poppies are free-form, while older students are tasked with the challenge of using poppy kits.

“We’ve wanted it to be an educational initiative, so are also partnering with Royal Canadian Legion, as well as Fanshawe’s Military-Connected Campus Initiative. We also wanted to have a bit of history of the poppy and the connection it has to John McCrae’s poem in Flanders Field. We wanted kids to learn a little bit about that as well and also see a sustainable alternative.”

Sperry said the formation of organizing 500 kits as one of the greatest challenges during this project.

“So one of our graduates, Omar Hitchman, is a graphic design graduate from Fanshawe. He designed the packaging and we put together these kits that teachers could have so that they could make the poppies in the classroom. Therefore, the students and staff had everything they needed. We provided the ingredients, the paper, the seeds, and the pins. Getting all the pins was a bit of a problem,” said Sperry.

In addition to the hard work of her design students, Sperry is incredibly thankful for the funding. Fanshawe received $5,000 in funding through the London Community Foundation.

“We got a number of donations from the business community, including the Ontario Seed Company, which donated poppy seeds and Sterling Marketing Product donated our stamps that we use for packaging. As well, Loblaws Superstore donated the psyllium powder, and the Royal Legion donated pens,” added Sperry.

The sustainable seed paper poppies were seen on display in the Siskind Gallery during the week of Nov. 1-5. The gallery also held 20 poppies created artistically by design foundation, fine art, and fashion design students of Fanshawe.