Artists Drew Matott and Drew Cameron started The Combat Paper Project in 2007 as a way to help veterans returning from war process their experiences by turning their old uniforms into meaningful art. Combat Paper volunteers with veterans to show them how to cut up their uniforms, beat them to a pulp, and turn them into beautiful paper which they then cover with stories and images.
The two Drews met in 2004 when Cameron returned from a deployment to Iraq and took one of Matott’s papermaking workshops in Burlington, Vt. Cameron continued his involvement in papermaking, and eventually hit upon the idea of making paper out of his old uniform. The experience was so powerful for him that he decided to offer it to others. Matott and Cameron began traveling the country, offering papermaking workshops for soldiers. Since then, Combat Paper has started paper mills in San Francisco, Nevada, New York and New Jersey.
In November, Combat Paper NJ received a $125,000 grant from the Wounded Warrior Project and a $135,000 grant from Impact 100 Garden State. Combat Paper NJ will use the money to expand its classes and develop mobile paper-making facilities to reach more veterans throughout the state. David Keefe, an Iraq War veteran and the director of Combat Paper NJ told Ralph J. Bellantoni of the Courier News, “We deconstruct, reclaim and communicate. It’s the perfect marriage of concept and medium. It transforms the material, the artist and the viewer.”