UA chapter of Student Veterans of America turns retired military uniforms into artwork
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Natasha Crawford and Ricardo Pereyda, both Army veterans, transform old uniforms into canvases on Nov. 12.
Ricardo Pereyda scooped up shreds of navy blue wool from what was once his grandfather’s U.S. Air Force uniform and placed them into an old Army uniform pocket, mixing them with shreds of his own retired Army uniform.
Pereyda, a senior studying public management and policy and president of the UA chapter of Student Veterans of America, was one of three veterans who attended the first day of a Combat Paper Project workshop on Monday.
Drew Cameron, an Army veteran, started the project in 2007 after learning about the history of traditional Western-hand paper. The project had its beginnings in San Francisco, but Cameron now spends his time going to various communities, helping them make paper out of the uniforms.
The idea of turning retired military uniforms into paper to create artwork was inspired by conversations with friends, Cameron said.
During the first workshop, participants cut their old uniforms to shreds while they shared their military experiences and listened to Led Zeppelin, Pereyda said. Cameron, who has already altered each of his old uniforms, guided the veterans through the process.
“Why not take a fiber that carries this really personal symbolic meaning as well as this sort of collective narrative in this country and use that?” Cameron said. “It helps to tell the story again.”
Pereyda said he intends to give his grandmother a journal made with paper from both uniforms as a memory of both his and his grandfather’s military service. His grandmother will then be able to write down all her memories of her husband, who passed away in 2007, in the journal, which makes Pereyda feel like he’s bringing his grandfather back in a small way, he added.
Water, pressure and time is all it takes to turn cloth into paper, Cameron said, showing Benjamin Schutt, a UA alumnus and former Marine, how a small machine works to turn shreds of clothing in water into paper pulp.
Natasha Crawford, a senior studying nutritional sciences who served in the Army from 2000 to 2009, had two duffel bags full of military uniforms sitting in the back of her closet, not sure what to do with them.
“You don’t just throw away your uniform,” Crawford said. “I had a lot of memories — emotional, I guess you could say — ties to them so I actually love this idea that I can transform it into something else even more meaningful now for me.”
Crawford said she is going to make a photo album with her paper, using photos from her time in the military and of her family members who have been — and still are — serving in the military. She also wants to write poems on some of the pages about her experiences over those nine years.
The UA chapter of Student Veterans of America is hosting the Combat Paper Project workshop all week. The artwork will be displayed at the Student Union Memorial Center’s Kachina Lounge on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. The weeklong event is the chapter’s way of celebrating Veterans Day and is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
“It’s something that I’ll be able to hand on to my children and hopefully their children,” Pereyda said. “As opposed to having a crusty uniform hanging up in the closet.”