Combat Paper: Art Therapy for Veterans

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter, and it’s a favorite thing of mine to browse (and back) the projects on their site. It’s such a great and supportive community and it’s amazing to see what big things people are dreaming up to share with the world.

One such project that I found and was blown away by: the Combat Paper Program (and not just because it centers on hobbies close to my heart — paper making, bookbinding and printing). Hosted by the Printmaking Center of New Jersey (in Branchburg, NJ), it’s a veterans-only program, through which vets can meet to make paper and art. The program focuses on ripping up old combat fatigues (their own or donated uniforms), turning them into pulp and making paper from them.

Through the Combat Paper program, veterans get the opportunity to meet and talk with other vets — those who have been where they have, who understand, who will listen without judgement. It’s group and art therapy, rolled into one.

A piece of art created by a Combat Paper participant. Image by Printmaking Center of New Jersey.

“Deconstructing a uniform while talking with other veterans breaks the cycle of isolation.  We deconstruct our past by cutting up our military uniforms, reclaim our experiences by making paper from these uniforms, and communicate our experiences by printing images and writing our words onto Combat Paper. The telling of our stories transforms us and gives us confidence to bridge the gap that keeps us separate and apart from the rest of American society.”
– Combat Paper’s site

This project is a powerful reminder of the healing power that art can have. To literally pull apart the fabric of their experiences being at war, to pull apart the sweat and tears and remake them into something of their own — it’s an act that is a hauntingly perfect analogy for this thing we call Art.

You can read more about Combat Paper in this news article from NJ.com. Though the Kickstarter fundraiser has ended, you still donate to Combat Paper by visiting that link, and scrolling to the bottom, then clicking on the donate button in the bottom right corner on the sidebar.

Do you use art as therapy? Writing as therapy? How much is your art a reflection of your own experiences?