Peace Paper Project Heals Veterans Through Art

Image courtesy artist

On Thursday, August 2 from 4-8pm, get inspired by the artwork of Meiro Koizumi and share stories of honor or service. During this free veteran workshop, use traditional papermaking techniques to transform unserviceable military uniforms into handmade paper. Like the material of each uniform, this process means something unique to each veteran participant. To participate in the workshop, you can RSVP here.

We sat down with Drew Matott from the Peace Paper Project and chatted about the organization and the process of transforming unserviceable military uniforms into handmade paper.

PAMM: Tell us about Peace Paper Project and how it got started.
Matott: Peace Paper Project is an international organization of hand papermakers, art therapists, social advocates, and fine artists. It was founded in 2011 by art therapist Gretchen Miller, myself, and creative writer Margaret Mahan, as a direct response to requests from the art therapy community to develop a papermaking program that could serve a variety of healing populations. Since then, Peace Paper Project has had over 30,000 workshop participants and established 40 collaborating studios that use papermaking as a form of social action and art therapy.

Drew Matott (left). Image courtesy artist

Can you walk us through the process of transforming unserviceable military uniforms into handmade paper?
The uniform is cut into small postage size pieces, loaded into a hollander beater, and transformed into pulp. After the pulp is put into a vat of water and formed into sheets of paper using a mold and deckle. The mold and deckle is dipped into the vat and the pulp is captured and then transferred to a felt material. After the sheets are couched, they are pressed and hung to dry.

How did the idea of transforming unserviceable military uniforms into handmade paper come to be?
Transforming military uniforms came to be as a result of a collaboration between myself and Army Veteran Drew Cameron. Back in 2006, we were collaborating on a number of papermaking projects, based out of the Green Door Studio in Burlington, VT. I suggested that Drew Cameron pulp military uniforms to make the paper for a book of veteran poetry. Cameron pulped his own uniform and the next thing we knew veterans from all over the U.S. started showing up to our studio to make paper from their uniforms. Today, there are many organizations that make paper from military uniforms—Combat Paper, Frontline Paper, and Veteran Paper, to name a few.

Image courtesy artist

What are you looking forward to the most about Peace Papers Workshop for Veterans at PAMM?
I am excited to share the processes in conjunction with the current exhibition of veteran art. The veteran voice is often ignored and so I am looking forward to using hand papermaking as a way to help veterans and their communities express themselves.

About Drew Matott
Drew Matott divides his time between teaching at colleges, doing art residencies, completing studio work, designing new papermaking endeavors and directing Peace Paper Project. He has taught photography and contemporary printmaking at North Country Community College, and papermaking courses at the Community College of Vermont, Edgewood College, Ursuline College, Massachusetts College of Art, and San Francisco Center for the Book. Since 2009, he has taught and exhibited internationally and completed numerous artist residencies.

Internationally, Matott has used papermaking and the book arts as a form of social engagement, advocacy, therapy, and community building in India, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Spain, Kosovo, Ukraine, and Poland.

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