April 15, 2024

Instructor Q&A: Papermaking as Therapeutic Art and Social Action

Gretchen M. Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ATCP and Drew Luan Matott, MFA will be co-presenting Papermaking as Therapeutic Art and Social Action at the Lewis & Clark Community Counseling Center on Saturday, May 18, 2024, from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. 

This hands-on workshop is relevant for mental health practitioners, social workers, and others working in support services who are interested in learning the art of papermaking as a form of social action, therapeutic art, and personal voice.

In our discussion with Gretchen and Drew, we learned how they became involved in this work, what lead them to develop the Peace Paper Project, and what to expect from their upcoming workshop. 

What led you into this work, particularly papermaking as a form of therapeutic practice and social action?

Gretchen: As an art therapist and artist, learning new material applications and media processes has always been inspiring and inviting to incorporate into my professional and personal work.

As a trauma practitioner, incorporating artistic expression as a form of intervention has been valuable to my work with survivors to create safety, a visual voice beyond verbal language, support managing traumatic stress, and a space for growth & transformation.

Socially informed work through advocacy, fostering empowerment, and raising awareness has also been critical to my practice. The processes involved in papermaking incorporate all of these important practices that I value personally, professionally, and artistically.

You both are involved in the Peace Paper Project. What are a few of the impacts you have seen from that initiative?

Drew: In 2009, Gretchen and I set out to merge the papermaking processes and art therapy. At first, we worked together exploring ways to incorporate art therapy into the Combat Paper Project, which was a socially engaged art project that encouraged veterans to broadcast their anti-war voice through pulping their military uniforms.

Within a year, we realized that there was a lot of potential to use papermaking with a variety of populations, not just war veterans, and in 2011 we established the Peace Paper Project.

Peace Paper Project is an international organization of hand papermakers, art therapists, activists and fine artists. Using traditional and contemporary papermaking processes, the project helps communities address issues that are unique to their needs and concerns. These programs are often facilitated in direct collaboration with art therapists, which allows individuals the ability to use papermaking as art therapy.

Peace Paper Project programs have helped draw attention to community issues using papermaking as a form of socially engaged art practice, and have been used to address issues or war & terrorism, sexual violence, gun violence, migration, substance abuse, and environmental issues around the world.

We have found that by working directly with community organizers to design a Peace Paper Project program, the workshops have the ability to have a profound and long lasting impact.


You both recently co-edited a book titled ‘The Art and Art Therapy of Papermaking: Material, Methods, and Applications’. Are there other artists or practitioners that are inspiring you at the moment?

Drew: Gretchen and I are continually inspired by the creative work of everyday people, who step up to the challenge to address serious and often debilitating issues. Seldom famous or known, but their drive and actions to do good in the world make them the most inspirational of all.


What can attendees expect from your upcoming workshop, and what do you hope they take away from it?

Gretchen: Drew and I have designed a workshop that will allow participants the opportunity to understand how papermaking can be used as a form of therapeutic art and socially engaged practice.

During the workshop, attendees will not only learn about history, theory, and current applications, but they will actively use the processes to create their own paper. It is our intention, and our experience, that participants will walk away from the workshop informed, inspired, and equipped to make paper in their communities and/or with clients, students, and groups.