March 20, 2024

The Healing Capabilities of Papermaking and Therapeutic Art

Upcoming CCE workshop co-presenter Drew Matott, MFA shares his experience of how a healing project with his family unfolded into a career path and passion.

Drew Matott first experienced making paper and books during his time as an undergraduate at Columbia College Chicago. That experience was so impactful that it led him directly to the work he continues to do around the world today.

“I learned that paper could be made out of old clothing, and I began to experiment,” he shared. “I was acutely aware that the material I was transforming into paper had an inherent content and story within it”.

When Drew was a child, his father was killed in an automobile accident. Along with his mother and siblings, Drew often sorted through old letters, photos, poems, and drawings as a way to commune with their father. One spring break, Drew was going through a box of old things and “as soon as I touched [my father’s] paint encrusted jeans and shirts, I immediately thought what would it be like to transform this into paper ?”

Drew’s mother was reluctant at first, but then suggested that once Drew made paper from his father’s old clothing, he could print some of his father’s poems and photographs onto the pages and give them away to members of the family.

Drew and his family cut up his father’s clothing and began the first step of the papermaking process. “As we tore and snipped, we shared memories of my father and talked about what life has been like growing up without him. It was a very meaningful experience for us and helped bring us closer together.”

When Drew returned to school, he used the paper made from his father’s clothing to create a series of books featuring his father’s writing and images. He made enough copies for his mother, siblings, and his father’s siblings.

While traveling to distribute the books to his family members, Drew realized that there was something more to papermaking and the book arts than just creating works of art for an exhibition in a gallery or museum. “I realized that the processes of making paper and books could have a profound impact on individuals, families, and communities”.

Alongside art therapist Gretchen M. Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ATCP, Drew 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.

Drew Luan Matott, MFA is a Master Papermaker with expertise using traditional papermaking as a form of global social engagement and community activism. He received his MFA in book and paper arts from Columbia College-Chicago and his BFA in printmaking from Buffalo State College. Drew has taught and exhibited internationally and completed numerous artist residencies. Drew lives in Hamburg, Germany where he divides his time between teaching for the Volkshochschule, completing studio work, and designing new papermaking endeavors for Peace Paper Project. In 2019 he was the recipient of the American Art Therapy Association’s Rudolph Arnheim Award, designated for a non-member of the Association whose contributions have significantly impacted the art therapy profession. Learn more about Drew’s work

Gretchen M. Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ATCP is a Registered Board Certified Art Therapist and Advanced Certified Trauma Practitioner in Northeast Ohio, United States. Over the last 20 years, her art therapy work has included serving youth and adults impacted by trauma and loss. Gretchen is an art therapy educator, regional, national, and international speaker, author, supervisor, and community organizer. Since 2011, Gretchen has served as a co-director of the Peace Paper Project. In collaboration with Drew Matott, she has helped develop Peace Paper Project coursework and workshops, including consultation to art therapists and art therapy students seeking to learn more about the therapeutic qualities of papermaking as a form of trauma intervention and recovery. Learn more about Gretchen’s work