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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Combat Paper Project comes to UMass Boston

Drew Cameron demonstrates the process of making paper from military uniforms

Between Oct. 22 and 25, the Combat Paper Project was held on the first floor Campus Center Terrace. This event was hosted by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences and funded by a grant from University of Massachusetts Boston President Robert Caret’s Creative Economy Fund.

Combat Paper is a San Francisco-based project that transforms military uniforms into paper. The paper is then used as a medium for soldiers and veterans to artistically express their military experiences. 

The reconstruction of paper from uniforms is not done behind-the-scenes. Instead, Combat Paper encourages partakers to turn pulp into paper themselves. This hands-on, participatory experience can be as much of a cathartic outlet as utilizing the paper for personal expression.

Drew Cameron, veteran, founder, and director of Combat Paper, describes the paper-making process.

“First we take the uniform and deconstruct it, removing any buttons, zippers, or any other non-fibrous material. Once it’s broken down and cut into small squares, it’s added to water and beaten to pulp with a machine called the Holland Beater, which uses pressure, water, and time to break [the uniforms] down into the pulp that makes the paper. There are remnants of many different uniforms – the Navy, the Coast Guard – which captures the message we’re trying to send.”

By holding the workshops at UMass Boston, Combat Paper encourages civilians to participate as well. As their website describes, “The work also generates a much-needed conversation between veterans and civilians regarding our collective responsibilities and shared understanding in war.”

Nathan Lewis, a veteran and artist working with Combat Paper, said, “There’s tons of veterans here, and there’s been a lot of engaging and talking with students.”

On Saturday, Oct. 26, Combat Paper continued the discussion by displaying the art created during workshops at the Made in Fort Point Gallery, Boston. There were also readings from both Nathan Lewis as well as other military veterans between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.