Combat Paper Project

Jun 09, 2011

This week on the Kindle Project Blog we are grateful to receive a submission from one of our grantees, Combat Paper Project; an organization that is dedicated to playing a creative role in helping returning veterans begin to unravel and face the trauma that they may have been exposed to while in the field. Combat Paper Project develops workshops all over the country bringing together veterans and non-veterans to dialog, learn and create paper art from used military uniforms as a part of a healing process.

I am, personally, deeply touched by this project and know the importance for making space and welcoming vets back into ANY society. I have my own close experience of knowing the grief and hardship it takes to integrate back into life and the major journey that many vets face when returning from combat.

I have traveled this road alongside my father. He was a green beret drafted to Vietnam in 1968.  I have watched him struggle. I’ve listened to his stories. I know his regrets. I know his heart and I know its wounds. My father being a vet has impacted my life and my story immensely. I have felt anger, pain, and have experienced the collective pain as well.  I am lucky to have a father when many children of veterans are robbed of this relationship for numerous reasons. I have hated the accepted infrastructure that still believes that war is a way to solve any conflict. In my observation it only causes more problems. Until we choose a new way, I am in complete support of the healing journey we all must face to find peace.

I am thankful to Combat Paper Project for introducing a space for creativity to help give voice and transform the story that veterans may carry. It can be a heavy load.
– Cate Coslor, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Kindle Project

 Reflections by Combat Paper Project

As we move into the summer this year, many of us plan for upcoming travels and adventures. Some of us are anticipating the long overdue break from work or planning a big move to begin a new career or our university studies. The summer can bring so much renewal and excitement for what is just over the next pass. It feels like a chance to restart, but there are also the complexities of political affairs, of workplace stability, family disruption and conflicts abound that still murmur in the background of our daily lives. It feels possible with the practice we have had over the past decade to compartmentalize the distress and uncertainty that these contemporary issues can arouse. We strive to turn off the background and seek happiness in our lives in spite of the magnitude of issues that weigh down our ability to be at peace, to be happy. We can certainly work to discover this place within ourselves, and often it is here that our greatest change occurs. We can also discover a contemplative peace through the activation of a group, where our own involvement is needed.

Combat Paper Project is designed to unite communities–veteran and non-veteran–through dialogue and paper/printmaking methods with the goal of connecting people with expressive tools to help unpack the complex associations and diverse emotions that are carried through the experience of military service. Whether it begins with an individual, a small group, a gallery exhibition or a college classroom, the exchange that takes place is humbling, moving, and inspiring; the narrative spans generations, perspectives, regions, ideologies, beliefs,  and assumptions. Everyone’s story has a place.

We facilitate informal studio gatherings to structured formats around the country from college campuses to art centers, galleries, and outdoor public spaces, transforming military uniforms that were once worn in military service into handmade paper. The art that we create is a deconstruction of the societal narrative, the collective story, meanwhile, empowering the individual voice. It is here that we believe a compassionate response is born. In the past four years we have conducted fifty workshops in nineteen states, collaborating with hundreds of veterans including those from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. Some have served in combat, some in support, and some on multiple tours. The lineage of these fibers is carried in every batch of paper made thereafter. As more uniforms are liberated, the narrative of the paper becomes more diverse, carrying the many layers of story interwoven in the fibers of our paper.

Through these collaborations, the communities that are fielding the changes that conflict brings home may also find an understanding, and a way of participating. When we use the artistic practice with others to face the overwhelming tragedies of our time with patience and reverence, our own words and intentions become clear. We inform our perceptions of militarism, warfare and society. We learn that providing an environment that is welcoming, creative and respectful is more productive and honest. We can face the conflicts as an individual, but are reinforced when we are part of a greater whole. The progress within each other is becoming a change within our community, one uniform at a time.

– Combat Papermakers