Colorado-based Artist Promotes Sustainability With Recycled Journals

Photo provided by Grace Pakola

Grace Pakola has been making art since before she knew how to walk. At least, that’s what her mom tells her. Still, the Colorado-based artist doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t making something. Now, she is pursuing her passion as a career by selling handmade journals through her online store.

“Out of all the things that I could do, I know I enjoy making things the most,” Grace says. “In high school, I kind of decided that I would never be okay with having a desk job, and I wanted to be an artist so I just chose to work toward that.”

Grace is currently working toward her associate’s art degree with the intention of attending art school in the future. In her free time, she hand makes paper out of recycled scraps and turns the pages into beautiful journals complete with covers made from resin designs, a product that was inspired after Grace saw a video tutorial on how to recycle old paper.

Eager to try this out for herself, Grace collected a bunch of paper scraps from a Colorado teacher, chopped it up and let it soak for 24 hours in water. After she turned the mixture into paper, she  knew she wanted to turn it into something that was functional, so she bound her first journal. 

Initially, the binding process alone took seven hours, but after a bit of creative thinking, Grace has now gotten the process down to five hours of work time and 72 hours of drying time per journal. This past September, she shared her first journals and launched her ecommerce website shortly after, due to popular demand.

“It’s honestly mind blowing the amount of interaction I’ve gotten due to just the paper making process alone,” Grace says.

Since the first launch, Grace has gained 436.3 thousand followers on TikTok. As a result, she has created a community of art lovers who are looking to add a bit of personalization to their purchase while still promoting sustainability. In the future, Grace hopes her brand can support environmentalism even further.

“I’m trying to find a group of people that go around and plant trees, so I can put 10% of my profits into actually helping living trees rather than just trying to help them by way of recycling paper,” she says. “ The covers are reusable because [customers] could create their own paper and refill the journal or order new paper. They could use this for multiple years rather than buying journals over and over, so it helps them cause their own small impact.”

This level of perfectionism speaks to the quality of the journals as well, and Grace hopes her customers can see that.

“I hand make everything with great care and everything has thought behind it,” she says. “Even on each page, I’m constantly checking to make sure that I’m giving the best pieces to people. Everything has love in it.”

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As a senior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University and a passionate feminist, I created Freely Femme as a way to use my love for storytelling to highlight some of the most inspirational women in my personal life and beyond.

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