MORGANTON – Imagination came to the rescue when North Carolina School for the Deaf was in need of decorations for the 1999 prom. Sam Moss, the school employee who decided to help, proved creativity can branch out in many directions.
“We just started with a simple idea to design a bridge with real water and mulch,” Moss said about his first prom. “That was the first landscaping job I did.”
Moss built a bridge and a pond and spread mulch outside the prom venue to give students a beautiful backdrop for photos. Since then, he has built more sets, transforming the auditorium into the Taj Mahal, Venice, Spain and other beautiful places — all with cardboard and tape. Moss visited the Packing Corporation of America plant in Morganton. The company produces cardboard cartons.
“I went to them and said ‘hey do you have cardboard boxes you aren’t using anymore?’” he said. Gathering the cardboard, paper tape and ingenuity, he got to work. “I don’t use measuring. I don’t do anything. I just use common sense and make sure it can go through the door,” he said.
Moss does not rely on anything but his own imagination and skilled hands to create the cardboard designs.
While building last year’s “A Moment in Time”-themed clock tower for NCSD’s prom, he realized it wouldn’t fit through the door. Quickly, he took it apart and was able to reassemble it inside the auditorium.
Moss joined the staff of NCSD in 1992. He had grown up in Wilson, attending the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf. He went on to attend the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. There he met his wife, Theresa Brissette-Moss, and they majored in graphic design. The two now teach at NCSD where Moss has been able to hone his creative skills. He taught for two years before becoming a general instructor.
Now, Moss runs the press room and prints school publications, fliers and the yearbook. Moss’s work in the school helps save money on outsourcing design and print materials. For Moss, the projects are a creative outlet.
“I don’t like to be contained in a box. I like to be unlimited,” he said. Most recently, Moss designed a jukebox to be used at next year’s NCSD prom. The jukebox looks so realistic, it was borrowed by this year’s Relay for Life organizers to be used during events. Moss took the jukebox one step further. Although made completely out of cardboard and tape, Moss added lights and even a speaker. “They (students) feel the vibrations,” he said of the music.
Moss incorporates his designs into teaching, with students helping paint the projects as he builds them.
“They get it, but sometimes they don’t,” he said. “Quality is what we are reaching for. Sometimes they mess up and I have to tell them to do it again.”
Moss said he averages three weeks of work to create his designs.
When the theme was an African safari one year, Moss went online and examined photos of animals and the environment found on a safari.
Combining what he saw with his own vision, he sketched out what he wanted to do before drawing it on paper.
“I know what I’m doing,” he said. “I outline it on thick paper then use a band saw to make curves.” Moss has become an expert in making cardboard designs. He knows the best paint to use on the cardboard is flat paint. He says while cutting the cardboard, it is important to cut with the grain, or the way the sheet was created.
Moss’s family is impressed with his ability to create spectacular pieces from cardboard.
“When he was 15, I had a Volkswagen and the clutch went out. He took it apart and put it together,” Sam’s dad, Si Moss said. “I’m so proud of him and the whole school.”
Moss does not create the one-of-kind pieces for accolades.
“I am a jack-of-all-trades,” he said. “It’s just because I like to prove the deaf can do things.”
For more on North Carolina School for the Deaf, go to www.ncsd.net.