Paper Bridges, like it's partner project, Combat Paper, aims to help others tell their story and, through papermaking, create art to help them reconcile their personal experiences while stirring an interest in community wellness. Based in Michigan City, IN, and Cleveland, OH, Paper Bridges provides workshops, exhibitions and ongoing opportunities for groups and individuals to nurture their creativity and embrace troubling personal experiences.
Through papermaking workshops, participants who've experienced a significant loss, survived a traumatic event, or endured personal conflict, sit around a large table and proceed to cut up and shred an item with a sentimental connection. Paper Bridges allows them to sacrifice something with personal emotional attachment, perhaps unshakable, haunting memories, into a positive substance: peace paper, upon which they can create and continue to confront and transform these feelings. What's more, it's a way to get some of those sentimental items out of that bedroom no one is permitted to enter or boxes/Rubbermaid containers stored in the attic.
Participants can include, but are not limited to:
Families of lost loved ones, pets
Victims of violent crimes
Survivors of a traumatic accident
Children impacted by grief and loss
Victims of domestic abuse
While receiving a brief history of papermaking, individual participants shred and beat fabric of sentimental nature (grandma's robe, a military uniform, daddy's t-shirt, a dress worn during the event, etc.) and transform it to peace paper. During this time, memories are being triggered and voluntary conversations begin. It's absolutely cathartic! It basically helps us bridge the gap of emotions triggered from painful experiences to a more peaceful place.
The shredded fabric is then beaten by a Hollander beater into pulp before participants use deckles and molds of various sizes to form the pulp into paper. It's a simple but personal process, especially when one knows from where the pulp came.
Once the peace paper is molded and dried, participants have an option to attend a simple book-binding class where they can convert their new paper into a journal or scrap-book to which they can attach photos and other mementos. Another option is for participants to bring a photo of a lost loved one (or any other image) and have it burned onto a silkscreen which they can then embed onto their personal peace paper using a pulp ink printing process. The final result is personal, very personal, art that helps participants bridge painful memories to a place of peace, harmony, and kinship. Oftentimes, participants use their peace paper to write poetry, type a letter to their loved one or for painting. The creative options are endless.
After completing the workshops, through ongoing participation in the papermaking process, newly "trained" papermakers can then progress (perhaps by working with paper mills and art studios in their community) from creating works specific to their experiences to expressing a broader vision on conflict, loss and society. Paper Bridges has witnessed works that reflect both the sorrow of the past and hope for the future.
Paper Bridges is made possible thanks to a multifaceted collaboration of artists, art collectors, academic institutions, military veterans, trauma counselors, and many other service-oriented professionals. Let us tell you how easy it is to set up a workshop in your area.