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City Shaper: Janna Willoughby-Lohr

Janna Willoughby-Lohr is the founder of Papercraft Miracles in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Each week, we're featuring some of the women who are part of Western New York's resurgence. This week’s City Shaper turned her passion for making paper into a career.

Janna Willoughby-Lohr owns Papercraft Miracles and grew up in Buffalo. She lives above her business in Black Rock.

Papercraft Miracles specializes in sustainable weddings and events. Willoughby-Lohr makes everything from invitations to paper flower arrangements by hand. She learned how to make paper in college.

"There's two kinds of people," says Willoughby-Lohr. "People who put their hands in, like, a whole bunch of goopy stuff, and think it's disgusting, and people who put their hands in it, and they're like, oh I love it. And, that's me."

"Because you're creating something," said 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.

"Some people just hate the way it feels," replied Willoughby-Lohr. "They don't like their hands being all wet and goopy. I love it. I love making paper."

College is also when she came up with the idea for her business. For a while, it was a side gig.

But in June of 2018, Willoughby-Lohr moved her office from a small upstairs bedroom to a space on the first floor of the building she owns on Niagara Street.

"When we bought this building, it was 2013, and aside from a couple of restaurants on this strip, there was nothing happening over here, and just being here, and kind of watching it all kind of come to fruition in front of us," she said. "And we have rental spaces too, so we have two other commercial tenants, so there's other businesses here because we're here, and that's just great. And we're just excited. There's new art galleries opening over here, and some new cafes over on Amherst Street, so it's really cool to be here and see it come back to life."

Willoughby-Lohr makes her paper in the basement and uses a lot of dried flowers. She makes sparkles with bits of rock.

"Typically, in the papermaking world, most papermakers make paper that looks like it came out of the ground, and we usually make paper that looks like it came from outer space," says Willoughby-Lohr.

Papercraft Miracles gets a lot of repurposed materials from other companies that would otherwise just throw them away. Willoughby-Lohr also uses things that are tough to recycle.

"Like shredded paper because if you take regular shredded paper and throw it in a recycling bin when it's not in a bag, it can clog up all their machinery, so we actually take shredded paper from offices, and we take old fliers from churches, and we do egg cartons, and fabric scraps from other artists that we know, and tailors, and stuff like that, and we take all that, and we turn it into new paper," says Willoughby-Lohr.

Right now, she's getting ready for Valentine's Day by making dozens of paper roses. And, she was just able to get her stationary into Earthlove, an eco-friendly subscription box.

In order for you to reach your goals, Willoughby-Lohr says, “Make sure you love what you do because if you don't, it's not worth doing. Life is too short."

Willoughby-Lohr also runs workshops at the Book Arts Center.

If you know someone who would be a great City Shaper, send Kelly an email to nominate them.

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