Transforming clothing into paper: master papermaker will help you capture a memory

Drew Matott has, what he calls, the “paper bug.”

In college, he learned that he could create art from pieces of clothing, and he hasn’t stopped doing so since.

“I started cutting up all of my clothes,” he said.

Matott can now claim the title of master papermaker and travels all over the world teaching people how to transform clothing into art. His organization, Peace Paper Project, was founded in 2011 and has since worked with over 30,000 people.

Transforming clothing into paper: master papermaker will help you capture a memory

The Peace Paper Project is made up of papermakers, art therapists, social activists and fine artists, and their focus is bigger than the end result. The goal is to use the process of hand papermaking as a form of therapy for survivors of trauma and loss.

For veterans, that could mean using a piece of their uniform to create paper. For Syrian refugees, that could mean using a piece of the clothing they were wearing when they fled their country. Matott has worked with both.

Transforming clothing into paper: master papermaker will help you capture a memory

“It’s about using paper not just as something that we print on and put up in the gallery, but actually as a vehicle to engage in conversation and dialogue surrounding the themes of healing and social engagement,” said Matott.

Paola Ixta, a sophomore at WSU Tri-Cities, planned to use one of her father’s t-shirts that he would wear while working the fields.

“My parents came to the U.S. to give their children the opportunity to go to school and to better themselves,” she said. “To me, this will represent the work they put in every day.”

For Matott, his first significant, personal experience with this craft was turning his late father’s clothing into a visual memory. He found a pair of his father’s jeans, and he and his family cut them up and turned into paper.

“Then I printed some of his poems and his photographs and architectural drawings on the paper, made a bunch of books and shared them with my family,” he said. “That was a really meaningful project in my early days of making paper.”

The Peace Paper Project has headquarters in New York and Germany, but Matott spends about four months of the year touring the U.S., raising money to fund the organization’s international projects. So far, PPP has launched and oversees papermaking projects in Australia, Iran, India, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland, Germany and the U.K.

In his years hosting workshops, Matott said he noticed a positive pattern during many of them.

“People often bring in clothing that has a real heavy or dark memory in it, and they come into the workshops holding the material very close to them,” he said. “And then by the end of the workshop, which starts pretty quiet, we’re playing upbeat music and people are dancing and enjoying themselves.”

This week, Matott is holding workshops through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Student Union Building on WSU Tri-Cities’ campus through Thursday. The workshops are free, open to the public and drop-ins are welcome.

Matott will also give a free, public lecture on his organization and their work with refugee communities from 3:10 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the East Auditorium.

Matott will work with specific WSU Tri-Cities student groups on papermaking during the following time slots:
-Student leaders: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday
-Members of the DREAMers club: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesday