Issue: Spring/Summer 2013
Faculty Innovation - Art
Abby Buckingham '14
Associate Professor of Art
Professor Jillian Sokso is a dynamite printmaker and teacher. She has pushed my art in new directions and made me think about art in new, wonderful ways. Professor Sokso’s recent experience teaching papermaking in Africa has inspired me to think about my own artistic practice, challenging me to use my art to positively impact the world.
The journey to Sierra Leone began in Houghton last summer, when Professor Sokso and former student, Renee Roberts ’12, made paper from locally harvested plant fibers and cotton fibers from locally collected clothing.
This past February, the duo took their craft overseas to Makeni, Sierra Leone, in conjunction with Women of Hope International, where they taught papermaking to women with minor disabilities. Given the lack of technology and tools common in the college printmaking studio back in Houghton, they improvised and taught the women to beat the fibers by hand using giant mortar and pestles over an open fire. Crafts produced using the hand-made paper would be sold to help the women earn a living.
For Professor Sokso, this experience was a unique way to combine her art and Christian calling. “It’s such an authentic extension of my practice; it’s already what I do. I’m already a printmaker. And I’m already an artist. And I’m already a teacher.” The trip was so much more than simply making paper. “The goal was to alleviate poverty, in every sense of the word: spiritual poverty and people’s disconnection with their environment, with God, and with each other.”