Author: Shawn Gillis
Categories: Academics|Art|Impact

Jillian Sokso, chair of the art department at Houghton College, has introduced the process of sustainable paper production. 

To produce the paper, pounds of organic fibers, such as swamp grass, lilies, common reed, and old cotton, denim, or linen clothes are collected and then ground into a pulp to produce organic paper.   Sokso and her students are excited about the recent addition of the paper producing machinery at the college and the many benefits it offers. 

Some of the fibers are invasive species to Allegany County, such as the common reed.  Cutting them down for paper helps to control unwelcomed growth.  “This project benefits everyone,” says Sokso. Students enrolled in photography, drawing and painting classes will use the paper in the classroom.  Sokso herself has also utilized some of the paper in her own artwork.

Since its beginnings over the summer, word of the renewable paper process has spread.  Women of Hope International has asked Sokso to bring her paper knowledge to Sierra Leone to benefit disabled women.

Next spring, Sokso and a former student, Joyce Taylor ‘12, are traveling to Sierra Leone for two-and-a-half weeks.  Taylor will be selling artwork on the organic paper as fundraising for the opportunity. 

In Sierra Leone, through Women of Hope International, disabled women are provided the means to produce crafts and sell their creations to earn a living.  Sokso and Taylor will be partnering with WOHI to teach the paper production process.  The women will be able to produce paper by hand with local vegetation.

Taylor says: “I knew I wanted to use paper to teach and heal, and Jillian’s inquiry about joining the trip was an answer to a prayer I had not even prayed yet.   I desire to bless other women with the gift of paper, and I trust that God will provide me the funding to go on this trip, as I am already anxious to begin teaching.”

Sokso never predicted the impact that the paper would have on the local community and communities around the world.  She continues to ask herself, “Where else will it go?”

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