Sunday, June 7, 2015

Haystack and Combat Paper...A GREAT combination!

If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, you know that I attended a week long workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine.  It occurred the week before the normally scheduled workshops begin for the summer, aka "Pre-Session". Our group wasn't the only one there...the other group was the volunteers who do the maintenance at the facility to keep it in tip top shape for all us crazy artisans.  So I'd like to take a quick minute and say THANK YOU to the Haystack staff and all the volunteers!  Y'all do an amazing job! 
From 24 May through 30 May, a group of 21 Veterans who are also artists congregated at Haystack for an amazing week of fellowship, creativity, and inspiration.  This workshop was hosted by a group called Combat Paper NJ (headed up by the talented Dave Keefe), which is a sub-group of the original Combat Paper Project organization headed by Drew Cameron out of CA. 

Combat Paper is still a relatively new movement/project/organization, having just been established in 2007.  But what IS combat paper you may be asking yourself?  Well, it's paper made from old military uniforms!  This is a brief quote from the Combat Paper Facebook page that sums up what Combat Paper is
"Through papermaking workshops, veterans use their uniforms worn in service to create works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Participants use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniforms as art and express their experiences with the military."
 The old and retired from service uniforms are cut up into small pieces that are roughly the size of a postage stamp.  These pieces of cloth must be free of seams and anything else "holding" it into it's prior form.  Once 1 pound of material has been cut and processed, it is ready to be placed in the "beater" (seen above.  The green motor with the yellow surround).  This device then macerates the uniforms, breaking them down from these small square pieces of fabric into individual fibers.  The uniform is mixed with water and 100% organic fibers (since the uniforms are essentially plastic, i.e. polyester, organic material is required for the paper making process to work).  All these components are then processed through the beater to make a lovely pulpy slurry which is then poured into the black tubs.  Screens are used to "pull paper" sheets from the slurry.  These sheets are then pressed flat onto a polyester sheet and left to dry.  Roughly 24 hours later, a fresh piece of paper is dry and ready for some art.  If you do things the conventional way.  But by now, y'all should
know I don't do things the normal way. :)  Dave helped me pull a sheet of paper and he pressed it flat for me...but that was where the conventional method stopped and my crazy sculptor brain picked up.  I had brought some wire with me because I wanted to create an armature and sculpt with the paper pulp (which did NOT work.. ha).  I took the wire and coiled it into different sizes.  I then ripped up this wet pulpy barely paper sheet and wrapped it around the coils.  An abstract sculpture if you will.  I had fun with a medium I was unaccustomed to and was able to create some really different items.  I also created some fun and funky jewelry with the copper wire I had.  I made my own components and links for the charm bracelet, then made a spiral to house the combat paper for the earrings.  The charm bracelet has pieces of uniform as well as pieces of combat paper strung on the chain, effectively creating the charm bracelet.  However, my first creation had a little more to it then that.
  I still created the coil...but was inspired by two similar but equally different ideas.  The first being geological core samples, showing the history of a place or event through time.  The second, being an image I remember seeing of broken pottery shards held together in a metal mesh wall ... I wish for the life of me I could remember where I saw the photo so I could share it... but alas..I cannot.  In my metal coil/spring, is the "core" of combat paper.  In the very bottom is the finished product - the paper.  In the middle is dried paper pulp.  Above that, the small square cut outs of the uniform.  And at the very top, are larger sections of uniform that are uncut and may still have some of the seams sewn in. Very monochromatic, but very telling of the process itself I do believe.

The week culminated in an art show and poetry reading at the Haystack Community Center.  There was plenty of time to create, but also plenty of time to just chill and relax.  While it may have been a workshop, it was also very much an art retreat, and I loved absolutely EVERY minute of it!  It was a time to meet new folks with similar goals, even if our art was created from a wide variety of mediums.  A time to recharge and enjoy the beauty that is Haystack.  AND, I personally used it as an opportunity to scope out the facility to see if I would be willing/able to participate in a ceramics based workshop.  and GUESS WHAT!!  I CAN!!!  There IS a handicap accessible cabin that is next to the chow hall.  The ceramics workshop is just down a small and not very steep set of steps.  Perfectly do-able!!!!    And with that, I shall end this post with some pictures of me thoroughly enjoying the sun and having my toes in the water. :)  TTFN my friends.

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