Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Q & A with Janna Willoughby-Lohr of Papercraft Miracles

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a multifaceted artist I have the pleasure of knowing personally and professionally, Janna Willoughby-Lohr. Instead of focusing on her numerous talents, I chose to focus on her main passion, paper. 

Being both a supporter of her work, and a loyal customer, our conversation turned into a Q & A.  Janna can create whatever your heart desires. I own and have gifted several journals created by Janna and my son had his first art publication in her teacup book series. 

Janna is unstoppable, dedicated, knows her work and continues to educate herself in all aspects of the art of paper. Look no further for paper, journal, bookbinding and photo album needs because Papercraft Miracles is beyond impeccable.

Below is our Q & A, along with links to where you can find Janna, her work and events she will be appearing and teaching: 

Sue:  How did you come up with the name Papercraft Miracles? What does that signify? 

Janna:  I was in college and working on my thesis when I came up with the name, Papercraft Miracles.  I wanted a name to encapsulate what I make and why I do it.  I chose Papercraft since I knew I was planning to make all sorts of paper-related things, not just books, and I didn't want to be limited by the name.  I chose Miracles because, lofty as it may be, that is my goal with my work, to change people's attitudes when they experience my art. 

To me, a miracle could be something as small as making someone smile who hasn't in a while or bigger, to change the way they think about life and their place in it.  I hope my work will cause people to open their eyes and hearts in a way they have not before. Change comes first through observation, my goal is to wake people up, to open their eyes.

Sue:  Do you have any formal education in bookbinding and creating various types of papers and crafts associated with Papercraft Miracles? Do you just create what speaks to you or do you follow a set pattern? 

Janna:  I have always been drawn to book arts, even before I knew they were a thing. My mother was a poet as well as a rubber-stamp and collage/mixed-media artist and she was addicted to reading, so I'm sure I picked up a lot of the aesthetic from her work. I have been writing poems since I was five or so and started keeping journals and making collages shortly after that, and have continued with that my whole life. 

When I went to Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, (initially for creative writing) I was immediately drawn to create, not just write. The art department offered several classes on book arts including bookbinding, paper-making, printmaking and artist's books and I signed up for any class I could get into! When I first laid my eyes on an artist's book, where the form, design, materials, text, and illustrations all work together to create one bigger idea or concept, I knew I'd found my calling as an artist.

Sue:  How long have you been creating paper, books, and related materials? 

Janna:  I started officially learning the craft in 2000 and continued taking courses throughout college until 2004 when I graduated. I have been making paper and books commercially and honing my craft ever since.

Sue:  If you had to choose one favorite thing about your business and craft, what would that be? 

Janna:  Hmmmm . . . my favorite thing about my business is that I get to make special things for my clients that they treasure for a long time and I get to make a living doing it. My favorite things about the art itself are tactile aspects, how everything feels. How different papers are smooth or rough, and how fabrics or leather are soft or embroidered, how it feels to open and close my books or running my fingers through paper pulp. 

It is a Zen art form that requires you to leave the past in the past and let the future come later and just be in the moment making art. And I love that. 

Sue:  Are your products Eco-friendly and if so, please elaborate. 

Janna:  Most of my products are Eco-friendly! For my books, I typically use handmade papers or cotton fabrics for the covers and most of my interior pages are made with some kind of recycled paper. My handmade paper is made using different materials and recycled office paper is one of them. I also make paper by cooking parts of plants that I grow in my garden. 

When the blooming season is over, I trim leaves and stems of certain plants and turn them into paper, and collect the spent flowers to put into the paper as inclusions and I use some plants to make natural dyes for the paper. I not only use things from nature to make my art, I grow plants and flowers to do so, which helps the bees, the birds and us too! 

Sue:  What kind of business exactly do you do? 

Janna:  I create handmade paper, books, invitations and paper crafts for special occasions or everyday use. 

Sue:  Do you teach others how to create books and/or related artwork through tutorials and courses? 

Janna:  Yes! I teach several different workshops at The Western New York Book Arts Center including a monthly Open Bookbinding Studio where other book artists or those interested in learning more, can come and get help and expertise from me in completing a project they are working on and/or use the tools and equipment there. I also teach workshops in schools. I am currently teaching a 9-week session at the Journey's End Refugee School as part of Western New York Book Arts Center Printing Partners program. I do birthday parties too! 

Sue:  What initially sparked you to begin bookbinding? 

Janna:  I made my first book as part of a school project about pandas in 5th grade. My mom had some special handmade bamboo paper that we used for the cover, we typed the text using her Smith Corona electric typewriter, and then we stitched it all together. I still have it, believe it or not. After that, I always had a journal and I loved to collage on my journals and when bookbinding courses became available to me, I jumped at the chance. 

Sue:  What products do you offer? 

Janna:  I mainly sell handmade journals, notebooks, sketchbooks, photo albums, and pop-up books as well as artist's books and gifts/trinkets. In addition, I do book design and layout, graphic design and consulting. 

Sue:  If you had to create one thing that you never have before, what would that be?

Janna:  I would love to create a gigantic pop-up book! They are usually my toughest challenges, getting them to hang right and be evenly spaced, so a great big one would be a fun challenge. 

While I was in college, I knew I wanted to be an artist but I also knew that I did not want to be a starving artist. I was frustrated with the lack of business/marketing classes available to art majors and vice versa, so I decided to create my own major to suit my goals in life. 

I met with the Integrative Studies board and they helped me to refine my goals. The major I created was called Entrepreneurial Creative Business Arts where I learned to be an artist and an entrepreneur at once. Having many lofty goals at a young age was great but it has taken me several tries to really get things in order to do Papercraft Miracles full time. 

I'm glad I waited until now to really throw my all into my business because I learned so many useful skills in the 12 years since I graduated college, not just artistic skills and business/marketing skills, but I've learned a lot about working with people, which is ultimately what success in any business is about. 

Running my own business from home allows me to stay home with our little boy, a dream I never thought would be possible. I owe so much to my amazing husband as well. He is my number one supporter.

After years of knowing Janna, it was interesting to find out things I did not know. It was tough to put a conversation into 10 questions, but this was fun and enlightening. 

I believe you will, as I have, fall head over heels with the pure excitement, positive energy, wonderment, intelligence and devotion to art and life itself that is indeed, Janna Willoughby-Lohr.

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