11: Paper + Hope

11: Paper + Hope

In light of the senseless shootings this week, in Oregon, Connecticut, and no doubt other places around the world, I thought I’d type about a few projects that artists working with paper are doing, which give me hope!

At a papermaking conference about six years ago, I listened to the moving story of Drew Cameron, who spoke eloquently about his experience in the US military from 2000-2006. Drew is a co-founder of the Combat Paper Project, which utilizes art making workshops to assist veterans in reconciling and sharing their personal experiences as well as broadening the traditional narrative surrounding service and the military culture.

From uniform to pulp, Battlefield to workshop, Warrior to artist

Through papermaking workshops veterans use their uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Veterans use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to embrace their experiences in the military.

Broken Toy Soldiers

Combat Paper was featured on PBS about a year ago.
The Peace Paper Project, run by Drew Matott and Margaret Mahan works to empower healing arts communities by introducing collaborative art processes that foster positive forward thinking, enhanced communication, and peaceful reconciliation. Through hand papermaking, writing, book and printmaking activities, they work together to transform significant articles of clothing into works of art that broadcast personal stories, mutual understanding and healing.

Damaged Skyline by Drew Matott, 18×12, monoprint on handmade paper, 2011, Printed in response to London Riots of Summer 2011.

I had the pleasure of meeting Margaret Mahan in October. She’s a feisty young woman standing barely five feet tall and is incredibly committed to her work. She leads women in Panty Pulping workshops, where thoughts run deep.

Margaret Mahan pulping panties

From the website:
“When I first cut my underwear into bits, it was my way of gaining control, of creating, and of using my hands to share my voice. All I could think about for weeks was my friends who were violated, of their faces and the faces of victims I may never know. I felt pushed by this collective energy to create paper, and the shocking choice of panties as my fiber felt the most fitting. I made strong, elegant sheets of paper to represent the strong, elegant women I am blessed to know. Peace Paper continues this ritual as a way of broadcasting the powerful voices of all women”.
When I worked at Oblation Papers in Press in the late 1990’s in Portland, I met Geraldine Foote, who came in to have her Peace Leaves printed on a variety of papers. Drawing upon what nature teaches, the poems she prints are meant to inspire, remind us of our shared humanity, and to help us to live lovingly in a changing world.

Three Slow Symphonies, by Geraldine Foote

I was deeply saddened to hear that one of the victims in the Clackamas mall shooting in Oregon this week was a participant in my Mother Tree Project (I’m not going to go into detail about the project here, but please feel free to click on the link or watch this short video documentary about the project).

Mother Tree at The Portland Building

Although I did not meet Cindy or know her (she crocheted a root for Mother Tree with a group of women), her root now transcends our world here on earth and she remains connected. When I think about all of the crocheted strands that form the roots of Mother Tree, and all of the stories buried in them, I feel that we (the living, the dead, the young, the old, the mothers, the fathers, the daughters, the sons) are all bonded together.

Ears, Nose, Toes, by Geraldine Foote

I know there are many other moving paper projects out there. Do you have one to share? If so, please leave me a comment below.
About the 25 Days of Paper: I’m going to be a crazy blogger in December, featuring cool paper products, projects, blogs, books, or papers each day. Join in the fun by reading along! I’ll also post links on my FaceBook page. Enjoy the season!


  1. Linda K. Fendley says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this paper “hope” blessings. As we are not feeling very festive this day, your posting was just right. Thank you!

  2. anne says:

    This was just right for this gloomy day, and it brought me a sense of peace. Thank you!

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