Paper and book artist Drew Matott and soldier-turned-artist Drew Cameron found something very creative and healing to do with retired soldiers’ uniforms – turn them into paper for art! The men formed a nonprofit, The Combat Paper Project, that travels the country conducting workshops where veterans learn how to make paper from their old uniforms, which is then used for various forms of paper art. Through the nonprofit, hundreds of veterans from wars and conflicts ranging from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan have transformed old uniforms into meaningful works of art.
The process is therapeutic and the result is a unique form of art that helps to convey personal military service stories. While some of the artwork might portray what a soldier witnessed, others convey their own intense emotional experiences as a result of what they witnessed.
Veterans who don’t want to destroy old uniforms can substitute other items of clothing they wore during war, but most want to cut up the uniforms. The clothing is cut up and put into a machine that beats and pulverizes it into a pulp. The transformative process of papermaking and the cathartic process of adding drawings, words, and other images, combine to help participants reclaim their uniforms as art and as vehicles for telling their stories.
As said on the Combat Paper Project’s Web site:
From Uniform to Pulp
From Battlefield to Workshop
From Warrior to Artist
Drew Cameron had studied Japanese paper art with his father when he was young. After returning from Iraq where he was an artillery soldier, he happened to take Drew Matott’s $10 paper workshop at a local community college. He went on to enroll in Matott’s Green Door Studio and a beautiful partnership blossomed. The Combat Paper Project has toured the U.S., as well as traveled to Canada and the U.K. giving workshops, exhibitions, artist talks, and demos. Read more about the Project and see more examples of the work here at www.combatpaper.org. You can also connect with them on Facebook.
What type of artwork has been most healing for you? What has helped you to tell YOUR personal story? Share your responses in the Reply section.