A storytelling inspiration that has become important to me and how I think about my work recently is the Combat Paper Project (specifically the NJ subgroup). They invite veterans to create paper from their uniforms and tell their stories through art on the created paper. The group uses storytelling in a multilayered way, not only telling stories on paper in a traditional sense but also building community and telling a story through the process in which the final art is created.
Here’s how they describe themselves, from their website:
Our specialty is the transformative process of making handmade paper from military uniforms—Combat Paper. Through public workshops, this handmade paper creates a platform for veterans and non-veterans to come together and share stories, providing a “new language,” and much needed discourse between veterans and society. In casual drop-in sessions, on college campuses, in community centers, at pop-up street corner workshops, and at VA and military hospitals, CPNJ artists teach the art of papermaking and printmaking to veterans of all service eras.
Because the paper is made from military uniforms, it itself is embedded with numerous stories. Workshops consist of writing and drawing with a large amount of sharing out. I was surprised when I attending a workshop how similar some of my experiences were to a veteran of the Vietnam era. The creation of pieces on the paper allow participants an opportunity to tell their own stories without the pressure of saying anything out loud, and the tying together or pieces into exhibitions begin to tell a collective story of military service.
This is a good video+article about Combat Paper and its impact: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/combat-paper-ptsd-treatment/